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CID Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Fellow Working Paper No. 28

Managing the Remaining Commons: Challenges to Sustainability in the Brazilian Northeast

Luiz Antonio Ferraro Júnior and Marcel Burztyn

December, 2008

A publication of CID's Sustainability Science Program

Abstract

Common grazing fields tend to disappear in the world. In Brazil, the fundos de pasto (FP) are one of the most important remaining areas to be used under this use regime as common grazing and extraction areas. Threats to the sustainability of FPaffect not only this commons regime but the caatinga (scrub forest) biome itself. The main threat to the biome in FP is overgrazing in common fields. Even so, this is not a typical case of the “tragedy of commons”. Despite the competition among users and the presence of free riders, these are not the most serious causes of degradation. There are well-defined and diversified property regimes in these communities, strong community bonds, diversity of internal arrangements and cooperation. The roots of degradation lie in the impacts of the market and in the scarcity of land caused by illicit appropriations by outsiders, parameters usually neglected in common-pool resources studies. The inclusion of these factors in the analysis stresses the importance of political organization and public action for the sustainability of common pool resources.

Keywords: fundos de pasto; common pool resources; overgrazing; sustainability; social capital, public action

JEL codes: D71, D74, R14, Q01, Q15, Q24

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