Common Property or Open Access Resources? Contributions and Crisis
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This paper sets to show the contribution of common property resources (CPRs) to the welfare of communal area (CA) households and the crisis faced by CPRs as reflected by their shrinkage, productivity decline and management collapse. Using formal survey data for Svosve and Mhondoro-Ngezi CAs the results show that both the rich and poor households in the CAs depend on CPRs for their livelihood. The results also show that in the low agricultural potential region, the degree to which households arc dependent on CPRs seem to be lower than in a region of high agricultural potential. An analysis of the contribution of CPRs to household income shows that the poor households depend more on CPRs as a major source of household income when compared to rich households. In Svosve CA, the inclusion of CPRs income to annual income results in a 124 percent and 262 percent increase in total household income for the medium-rich and poor households respectively. In Mhondoro-ngczi the inclusion of CPR income to total annual household income results in a 78 percent in household income for the poor households. The analysis also shows that: (i). the degree of dependency on CPRs for household income seems to be higher in high agricultural potential regions (in this case Svosve CA) than in low potential regions (in this case Mhondoro-Ngezi CA), and (ii). the contribution of CPRs to total household income is higher in the high potential agricultural region than in the low potential agricultural regions across all wealth groups, (iii). the inclusion of CPR income to total household income does not result in any changes in income distribution in a high agricultural potential region and results in increased inequalities in a low agricultural potential region. Despite their valuable contributions to the communal economy CPRs are being depleted. Due to population increases and lack of well defined property rights regarding CPR utilization and management, the CPRs have turned into open access resources. The consequence is their depletion both in terms of area and of productivity. This in turn induces a further fall in their payoffs, to be followed by further neglect and degradation. An analysis of several indicators shows that there is a physical degradation of CPRs. The analysis shows that public or government intervention also contributes to the degradation of CPR through ineffective resettlement programmes, and through changes in the agricultural marketing and credit institutions which result in an increase the land under cultivation consequently leading to a decline in the land under CPRs. There is also a lack of management of CPRs which results in an open access to CPRs and hence environmental degradation.The paper concludes by identifying further areas of research in the form of hypotheses.