Review of Managing Common Property in an Age of Globalisation - African Book Publishing Record

Managing Common Property in an Age of Globalisation
edited by Godfrey Chikowore et al.

2003: (pp: 218) 210 x 145 mm
ISBN: 1779220103

The African Book Publishing Record, No. 117
Reviewer: James Cobbe, Florida State University


This collection consists of ten substantive papers, all by authors associated with the University of Zimbabwe and the usual front and end matter. It deals with an important topic which is likely to continue to be of considerable interest, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the past, the typical policy response to the problem of the commons, or common property resources, has been either privatization (viz. the enclosure movement in Britain, arguably one of the precursors of the industrial revolution), or central government control and regulation (viz. controls over hunting and logging and protection for specified species). The underlying issue is the mismatch between incentives and costs at the individual level; typically, with common property individuals are able to appropriate benefits from an individual action in excess of the costs they bear as an individual, because costs are felt by many others in addition to those taking the individual action, which results in exploitation of the resource in excess of what would be optimal and what was eloquently dubbed the 'Tragedy of the Commons'.

However, in recent decades academics and policy-makers have rediscovered the reality that at the local level it is often possible for the community to manage common property at least as satisfactorily and in some dimensions typically much better, than either bureaucracies or individual owners. This is, of course, evidenced historically by the survival of so much common property into the modern era.

Zimbabwe has been in the forefront of attempts to modernize and re-introduce local-level management of common property, perhaps most controversially in CAMPFIRE, the Communal Area Management Programme for Indigenous Resources, but also in a number of well-publicized NGO schemes aimed at wildlife conservation. This frontline report on the problems and successes of common property management in Zimbabwe should, therefore, be of enduring interest, even if in the short run more attention has focused on difficulties with private property in that country.

Chapters deal with the legal framework, water reform, forest reserves, small-scale mining and pollution, a critique of CAMPFIRE, fisheries and modifications to CAMPFIRE,physical planning and trans-boundary resources, GIS, indigenous knowledge and intellectual property rights, communal farmers, and the SADC dimension. In addition, there is a foreword, a well-written introduction that sets a framework for the individual chapters and a conclusion. There is no index or bibliography, although each chapter has a list of references.

The quality of writing and research is, unsurprisingly, somewhat uneven, but Managing Common Property in an Age of Globalisation: Zimbabwean Experiences is nevertheless an important book which should be acquired by all libraries with a serious interest in the environment and development.


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