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The Influence of Community Management Agreements on Household Economic Strategies : Cattle Grazing and Fishing Agreements on the Lower Amazon Floodplain

Authors:

David G. McGrath ,

Núcleo de Altos Estudos (NAEA); Federal University of Pará, Brazil; Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazonia (IPAM), Brazil; Woods Hole Research Center, USA
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Oriana T. Almeida,

Núcleo de Altos Estudos (NAEA); Federal University of Pará, Brazil; Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazonia (IPAM), Brazil
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Frank D. Merry

Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazonia (IPAM), Brazil; Woods Hole Research Center, USA
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Abstract

While the organizational dynamics of collective management systems have received much attention, relatively little work has focused on how households adapt their economic strategies in response to collective management regulations that impose constraints on the range of options available to households. In this paper we investigate the evolving interaction between household management strategies and collective management regulations for one or both of two ecologically interdependent floodplain resources, lake fisheries and seasonally inundated grasslands. Smallholder management strategies involve varying combinations of three main activities each associated with one of three main floodplain habitats: annual cropping on river levees, cattle ranching on natural grasslands and fishing in lakes. These three activities play complementary roles in the household economy. Annual cropping is both subsistence and market oriented, with cash from crop sales often invested in purchase of cattle. Fishing, in addition to providing animal protein, generates income for household purchases while crops are growing. Cattle ranching is the main savings strategy for smalholders, providing funds for family emergencies and capital investments. Despite the fertility of soils and the higher productivity per hectare of fishing, cattle ranching has expanded steadily on the floodplain at the expense of farming and fishing. Over the last two decades, communities throughout the Amazon floodplain have developed and implemented collective agreements to regulate access to and use of local lake fisheries. Depending on the measures included, the impact of these agreements on household management strategies can range from negligible to highly significant, requiring major adjustments to compensate for reduced fishing income. Expansion of smallholder cattle ranching has taken advantage of unregulated access to community grasslands. Unregulated access to community grasslands has been a major factor in the growth of smallholder ranching, and many households have far more cattle than could be sustained on their own property. The result is a classic tragedy of the commons in which growing numbers of cattle are overgrazing grasslands and degrading the productive capacity of floodplain fisheries. Concerned with the impact of cattle on floodplain habitat and conflicts between cattle owners and farmers, many communities have developed collective agreements to regulate grazing on grasslands. As with fishing, the impact of these agreements on household economic strategies varies depending on the degree to which they limit the number of cattle families can graze on grasslands. In this paper, we investigate interactions between smallholders household economic strategies for two major common pool resources and their respective management regimes. The paper identifies conflict between collective and individual strategies for long-term security as the critical issue for floodplain resources and concludes proposing a more household-based approach to collective management.
How to Cite: McGrath, D.G., Almeida, O.T. & Merry, F.D., (2007). The Influence of Community Management Agreements on Household Economic Strategies : Cattle Grazing and Fishing Agreements on the Lower Amazon Floodplain. International Journal of the Commons. 1(1), pp.67–88. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/ijc.54
Published on 17 Oct 2007.
Peer Reviewed

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