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The impact of culture and ecology on cooperation in a common-pool resource experiment


  • Prediger, Sebastian
  • Vollan, Björn
  • Frölich, Markus


Context affects decision-making in many ways. In this paper we explore differences in cooperation behaviour between communal farmers in Namibia and South Africa, who share the same ethnic origin but have had different historical and ecological constraints. We report on a series of field experiments based on a common-pool resource model. Our experimental design is framed according to the grazing situation in semi-arid rangelands. Dependent on the behaviour in previous rounds, participants are facing different states of resource availability with varying need to cooperate, coordinate and to be patient. While only 4% of the grazing areas in South Africa remain in good quality, Namibians achieve a level of 42%. We analyse the different experimental states and find that Namibians behave in all states more cooperatively. We argue that the large difference between the two regions is due to a combination of different historical developments and ecological preconditions: Namibian resource users have a longer experience in cooperative resource management and intact traditional norms. Moreover, the real-life payoffs to cooperation are higher in Namibia stemming from ecological factors.

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  • Prediger, Sebastian & Vollan, Björn & Frölich, Markus, 2011. "The impact of culture and ecology on cooperation in a common-pool resource experiment," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(9), pages 1599-1608, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:70:y:2011:i:9:p:1599-1608

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    5. Velez, Maria Alejandra & Stranlund, John K. & Murphy, James J., 2009. "What motivates common pool resource users? Experimental evidence from the field," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 485-497, June.
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    8. Casari, Marco & Plott, Charles R., 2003. "Decentralized management of common property resources: experiments with a centuries-old institution," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 217-247, June.
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    11. Vollan, Bjørn, 2008. "Socio-ecological explanations for crowding-out effects from economic field experiments in southern Africa," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(4), pages 560-573, November.
    12. Ostrom, Elinor, 2006. "The value-added of laboratory experiments for the study of institutions and common-pool resources," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 149-163, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sebastian Prediger & Björn Vollan & Benedikt Herrmann, 2013. "Resource Scarcity, Spite and Cooperation," GIGA Working Paper Series 227, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    2. Kenta Tanaka & Keisaku Higashida & Arvin Vista & Anton Setyo Nugroho & Budi Muhamad Ruslan, 2016. "Do resource depletion experiences affect social cooperative preferences? Analysis using field experimental data on fishers in the Philippines and Indonesia," Discussion Paper Series 143, School of Economics, Kwansei Gakuin University, revised Jun 2016.
    3. Midler, Estelle & Pascual, Unai & Drucker, Adam G. & Narloch, Ulf & Soto, José Luis, 2015. "Unraveling the effects of payments for ecosystem services on motivations for collective action," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 394-405.
    4. Saldarriaga-Isaza, Adrián & Arango, Santiago & Villegas-Palacio, Clara, 2015. "A behavioral model of collective action in artisanal and small-scale gold mining," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 98-109.
    5. Vollan, Björn & Prediger, Sebastian & Frölich, Markus, 2013. "Co-managing common-pool resources: Do formal rules have to be adapted to traditional ecological norms?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 51-62.
    6. Therese Lindahl & Anne-Sophie Crépin & Caroline Schill, 2016. "Potential Disasters can Turn the Tragedy into Success," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 65(3), pages 657-676, November.
    7. Adam Douglas Henry & Bjoern Vollan, 2012. "Risk, Networks, and Ecological Explanations for the Emergence of Cooperation in Commons Governance," Rationality, Markets and Morals, Frankfurt School Verlag, Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, vol. 3(59), October.
    8. repec:now:jirere:101.00000084 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Narloch, Ulf & Pascual, Unai & Drucker, Adam G., 2012. "Collective Action Dynamics under External Rewards: Experimental Insights from Andean Farming Communities," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(10), pages 2096-2107.
    10. Siegwart Lindenberg, 2014. "Sustainable cooperation needs tinkering with both rules and social motivation," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 71-81, April.
    11. Blanco, Esther & Lopez, Maria Claudia & Villamayor-Tomas, Sergio, 2015. "Exogenous degradation in the commons: Field experimental evidence," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 430-439.
    12. Janssen, Marco A. & Bousquet, François & Cardenas, Juan-Camilo & Castillo, Daniel & Worrapimphong, Kobchai, 2013. "Breaking the elected rules in a field experiment on forestry resources," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 132-139.
    13. Brent, Daniel A. & Friesen, Lana & Gangadharan, Lata & Leibbrandt, Andreas, 2017. "Behavioral Insights from Field Experiments in Environmental Economics," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 10(2), pages 95-143, May.


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