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The tragedy of bird scaring

Listed author(s):
  • Ainsley, Matthew
  • Kosoy, Nicolas
Registered author(s):

    This paper examines crop raids by birds in semi-arid Kenya, highlighting the importance of bird scaring as a barrier to the greater adoption of drought-resilient, High Value Traditional Crops (HVTCs) in the region. Using survey data from Tharaka-Nithi County, we find 100% of millet and sorghum farmers in the study area scare birds from their plot, devoting 43–66% of all labour time to this activity when these crops are grown in monocrop plots and 24–47% of labour time in plots where millet and sorghum are grown in combination with other crops. This labour allocation is in stark contrast to farmers of all other crops who dedicate almost no time to bird scaring. Individually scaring birds from their plot, farmers achieve a ‘momentary Pareto optimal’, perpetuating a ‘ripple effect’ whereby the negative cost of birds are continuously shifted from one farmer to the next. We systematically examine this cost-shifting behaviour as an externality, theoretically applying environmental and resource economics (ERE) policy prescriptions for externality internalisation. ERE, however, with its focus on self-interest, rational actors and technological interventions, falls short to present effective solutions to this so-called externality. Farmers in the region can address crop raids by birds through collective, coordinated action. At this scale, the negative cost of pests is deliberately distributed across all receptors, leading to long-term, community-wide social wellbeing improvements.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

    Volume (Year): 116 (2015)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 122-131

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:116:y:2015:i:c:p:122-131
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2015.04.021
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    1. Robert G. Chambers & Giannis Karagiannis & Vangelis Tzouvelekas, 2010. "Another Look at Pesticide Productivity and Pest Damage," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1401-1419.
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    3. Yann de Mey & Matty Demont & Mandiaye Diagne, 2012. "Estimating Bird Damage to Rice in Africa: Evidence from the Senegal River Valley," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(1), pages 175-200, February.
    4. Elisabeth Gsottbauer & Jeroen Bergh, 2011. "Environmental Policy Theory Given Bounded Rationality and Other-regarding Preferences," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 49(2), pages 263-304, June.
    5. Kapp, K William, 1969. "On the Nature and Significance of Social Costs," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 22(2), pages 334-347.
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    7. Bulte, Erwin & Rondeau, Daniel, 2007. "Compensation for wildlife damages: Habitat conversion, species preservation and local welfare," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 311-322, November.
    8. Baumol,William J. & Oates,Wallace E., 1988. "The Theory of Environmental Policy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521322249, March.
    9. Pretty, Jules & Ward, Hugh, 2001. "Social Capital and the Environment," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 209-227, February.
    10. Temper, Leah & Martinez-Alier, Joan, 2013. "The god of the mountain and Godavarman: Net Present Value, indigenous territorial rights and sacredness in a bauxite mining conflict in India," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 79-87.
    11. Rollins, Kimberly & Briggs, Hugh III, 1996. "Moral Hazard, Externalities, and Compensation for Crop Damages from Wildlife," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 368-386, November.
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