commons resources prone to tragedy of the commons needing enclosures:


TTL 1 imagesimagesCAECSVF8 

Here is what happened during the long dry seasons in the far north of Zimbabwe, the people of the Chipuriro Tribal Trust land (TTL) kept themselves alive by feeding their goats and cows on the pods of the Mopani trees growing on its river banks. These clumps of trees were controlled by a committee of elders, who decide who should be allowed to use them and for how long. Anyone coming into the area who wants to feed his goats or cattle on the pods has to negotiate with the elders. Depending on the size of the pod crop, they would allow him in or tell him to move on. If anyone overexploits the pods or tries to browse his animals without negotiating with the elders first he will be driven off with sticks: if he does it repeatedly he may be killed. These Mopani forests and woods are a common: a resource owned by many families. Like all the commons of the Chipuriro people, they were controlled with fierce determination.

The last 3-4 decades, the Chipuriro Tribal Trust land people were battered by a combination of drought and raiders from nearby Dande tribes who came armed with automatic weapons. Many people came close to starvation, and the Zimbabwean government, the United Nations Development Programme and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization decided that something had to be done to help them.

The authorities knew nothing of how the Chipuriro TTL regulated access to their commons. What they saw, in the Mopani forests, and the grass and scrublands of the lowvelds , was a succession of unrelated people moving in, taking as much as they wanted, then moving out again. If they tried to explain how it worked, their concepts were lost in translation. It looked like a free-for-all, and the experts blamed the lack of regulation for the disappearance of the vegetation. This was, in fact, caused not by people but by drought.

Undoubtedly, the only way to stop the people from overusing their resources was to settle them down, get rid of most of their animals and encourage them to farm. Series of irrigation schemes where introduced which started growing grain. They spent US$150,000 per hectare in setting it up. Paradoxically,many people flocked in, not, on the whole, to farm, but to trade, to find paid labour or to seek protection from their enemies. With the first drought the irrigation scheme collapsed. The immigrants reverted to the only certain means of keeping themselves alive in the lowveld: herding animals.

Overwhelmed by their numbers, the elders could do nothing to keep them away from their grazing land. If they threatened to kill anyone for taking pods without permission, they were reported to the police. The pods and the surrounding grazing were swiftly exhausted and people started to starve. The commons had become a free-for-all. The authorities had achieved exactly what they set out to prevent.

The above justifies Garrett Hardin, in The Tragedy of the Commons theory. He argued that common property will always be destroyed, because the gain that individuals make by over-exploiting it will outweigh the loss they suffer as a result of its over-exploitation.  For authorities such as the World Bank and Western governments it provided a rational basis for the widespread privatization of land, roads, waters, air etc.


2 Responses to “commons resources prone to tragedy of the commons needing enclosures:”

  1. sdiederichs Says:

    So what is YOUR solution?

    • enmbangani Says:

      its easier said than done especial commons issues requiring political intervention. This is just one part of it and the moment we start to try to unpark the this case, it will bring us to the present day Zimbabwe with blacks trying to address the imbalance within the commons. it was a creation by its colonialist, 20% of the white population systematically took 80% of arable land, and gave 20% to 80% of the population. They called them TTL. This word means a lot to distribution creteria.

      Solutions to common land can not be without enclosure to avoid anarchy

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