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Local organizations for natural resource management: lessons from theoretical and empirical literature


  • Rasmussen, Lise Nordvig
  • Meinzen-Dick, Ruth Suseela


The sustainability of natural resource management depends not only on appropriate technology and prices, but also upon the institutions involved in resource management at the local level. This discussion paper aims to identify factors which condition local organization for resource management. It draws upon a review of two major bodies of literature: empirical analyses of forestry, fisheries, grazing, and irrigation management, and game theory literature. The empirical literature on resource management highlights the physical and technical characteristics of the resource, the characteristics of the group of users, and the attributes of institutional arrangements as key factors affecting the management capacity of local organizations. Simplistic game theory has often been used to predict a "tragedy of the commons" for natural resources, but more refined versions provide insights into the role of communication, group size, time horizons, trust, and social norms in supporting collective action. The evidence on voluntary organization indicates that collective management is often a viable alternative to nationalization or privatization of natural resources. Although local organizations will not be able to solve every collective action problem, in many situations they could be at least as effective as other management agencies. Knowledge of the factors which condition local organization should be used to develop policies to support local organizations for natural resource management.

Suggested Citation

  • Rasmussen, Lise Nordvig & Meinzen-Dick, Ruth Suseela, 1995. "Local organizations for natural resource management: lessons from theoretical and empirical literature," EPTD discussion papers 11, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:eptddp:11

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    1. Haque, A.B.M. Mahfuzul & Visser, Leontine E. & Dey, Madan M., 1. "Institutional Arrangements in Seasonal Floodplain Management under Community-based Aquaculture in Bangladesh," Asian Journal of Agriculture and Development, Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), vol. 8(1).
    2. Knox, Anna & Meinzen-Dick, Ruth Suseela, 2000. "Collective action, property rights, and devolution of natural resource management: exchange of knowledge and implications for policy," CAPRi working papers 11, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    3. Kumar, D. Suresh, 2009. "Participation in Self-Help Group Activities and its Impacts: Evidence from South India," MPRA Paper 19943, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 31 Aug 2009.
    4. Pardey, Philip G. & Alston, Julian M. & Chan-Kang, Connie & Magalhães, Eduardo C. & Vosti, Stephen A., 2002. "Assessing and attributing the benefits from varietal improvement research: evidence from Embrapa, Brazil," EPTD discussion papers 95, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    5. Runge, C. Ford & Defrancesco, Edi, 2006. "Exclusion, Inclusion, and Enclosure: Historical Commons and Modern Intellectual Property," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 34(10), pages 1713-1727, October.
    6. Paul J. Block & Kenneth Strzepek & Mark W. Rosegrant & Xinshen Diao, 2008. "Impacts of considering climate variability on investment decisions in Ethiopia," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 39(2), pages 171-181, September.
    7. Markelova, Helen & Meinzen-Dick, Ruth & Hellin, Jon & Dohrn, Stephan, 2009. "Collective action for smallholder market access," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 1-7, February.
    8. Bryan, Elizabeth & Behrman, Julia A., 2013. "Community–based adaptation to climate change: A theoretical framework, overview of key issues and discussion of gender differentiated priorities and participation:," CAPRi working papers 109, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    9. TUDOR, Monica Mihaela & CHITEA, Mihai Alexandru, 2012. "The Irrigation System In Brăila − A Farmer Economic Focused Approach −," Annals of Spiru Haret University, Economic Series, Universitatea Spiru Haret, vol. 3(1), pages 89-97.
    10. Gruère, Guillaume P., 2006. "An analysis of trade related international regulations of genetically modified food and their effects on developing countries:," EPTD discussion papers 147, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    11. Alsop, Ruth, 1998. "Coalitions and the organization of multiple-stakeholder action: a case study of agricultural research and extension in Rajasthan, India," EPTD discussion papers 34, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    12. Devarajulu, Suresh Kumar, 2008. "An economic inquiry into collective action and household behaviour in watershed management," MPRA Paper 17867, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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    14. Pender, John L. & Scherr, Sara J., 1999. "Organizational development and natural resource management: evidence from central Honduras," EPTD discussion papers 49, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    15. Gebremedhin, Berhanu & Pender, John & Tesfay, Girmay, 2004. "Collective action for grazing land management in crop-livestock mixed systems in the highlands of northern Ethiopia," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 82(3), pages 273-290, December.
    16. Kumar, D. Suresh & Palanisami, K., 2009. "An Economic Inquiry into Collective Action and Household Behaviour in Watershed Management," Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics, Indian Society of Agricultural Economics, vol. 64(1).
    17. Sebastian Prediger, 2011. "How does income inequality affect cooperation and punishment in public good settings?," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201138, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    18. Gebremedhin, Berhanu & Swinton, Scott M., 2001. "Sustainable Management Of Private And Communal Lands In Northern Ethiopia," Staff Papers 11680, Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics.


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