The tragedy of the park: an agent-based model on endogenous and exogenous institutions for the management of a forest
Many scholars of common pool resources discovered that institutions may solve the tragedy of the commons. I will address a particular situation of management of natural resources: that of a protected area. In this situation interests differ. Local rural inhabitants care about the quality of their environment, but also need to exploit the resources for livelihood reasons. An external entity, being the State or a donor, or an NGO, or all of them together, decides that there is the need of nature Conservation in that area. Because of some evidence of failure of strictly top-down conservationist approach, the external entity decides to apply the concept of participatory conservation: the local inhabitants become stakeholders in the management of the area and they become collectively responsible for conservation, having in turn the right to exploit the resources up to so me degree. I argue that project designers try to find a solution to nature conservation through the creation of a situation of a commons: creating a community that has rights and duties towards a particular natural area that is endowed with some resources. Many scholars rely mostly on institutions which are endogenously created within the users’ community in order to avoid the “tragedy”. However, what happens if institutions are imposed? In participatory conservation initiatives the community has collective rights over the resources, and in this sense the issue of endogenous rules for the commons management is relevant. However, the level to which the community should exploit the resource is usually i mposed by the external project designers. Using agent-based simulations we develop a theoretical model in order to look at the consequences of an imposed institution on the state of a forest and on the profit of the users, taking into account the possibilities of violating the imposed rules, and that of facing enforcement. We compare the consequences of this imposed institution with those deriving from an endogenously created institution. We will also analyze the interaction between the different kinds of institutions and the individual perceptions of each agent. Many results of the model confirm quantitative and qualitative findings of the literature: the presence of institutions and enforcement improve the management of the resource with respect to an open access situation, with different degree of success depending on the kind of institution in place. The two main counterintuitive findings are the following. First, an exogenous institution imposed by external agents may crowd out agents’ intrinsic environmental motivations. Second, when an imposed exogenous institution is in place, the most effective rule is one allowing sufficient degree of access to the resources for the agents, provided that an adequate rule enforcement is implemented.
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