Vol. 7(5), pp. 280-289, May, 2015
Article Number: 738027653221
Copyright © 2015
Author(s) retain the copyright of this article
International Journal of Biodiversity
Property rights regimes, resource utilisation and
biodiversity conservation in Eastern and Southern
Vincent R. Nyirenda
Department of Zoology and Aquatic Sciences, School of Natural Resources, Copperbelt University, Kitwe, Zambia.
Received 28 January, 2015; Accepted 16 April, 2015
Natural resources degradation threatens persistence of biological resources in many parts of Eastern
and Southern African regions. In these regions, property rights regimes intractably influence resource
utilisation and biodiversity conservation. Hitherto, the underlying causes of varied performances of
property rights regimes are rarely collated. Consequently, resource policies are often flawed, resulting
in pervasive systems failure and biodiversity losses. In this study, this particular information gap is
interrogated by systematically reviewing various property rights regimes, their influence on resource
utilisation and biodiversity conservation from wealthy of available literature. The results unravelled that
the performance of various property rights regimes are influenced by levels of social capital,
encompassing stakeholders’ participation, trust, commitment and social networking at the base
regardless of whether the property rights areby full hegemony or sanctioned by higher authorities.This
er, it is concluded that bottom-up self-institutional regulation and top-down state controlplay
complimentary if not invasive role to each other. These approaches stimulate sustainable resource
utilisation and biodiversity conservation, where legal actors are given full resource property rights to
access, own, utilise and exclude intruders to avoid the ‘tragedy of the commons’.
Keywords:Collaborative governance, environmental subsidiarity, sustainable development, natural resource
Resource property rights are a suite of entitlements or
bundle of rights to the bearers, especially over scarce
resources (Demsetz, 1998; Klein and Robinson, 2011).
Entitlements could relate to the income or utility that can
be derived from resources which are sanctioned, or at
least condoned, by society and protected by a higher
authority (De Alessi, 1983; Bromley, 1992). The bearers
may include the state, private actors and local
communities. Appropriate rights are therefore imperative
especially as human populations are ever growing in the
resource dominated areas (Wittemyer et al., 2008), with
increasing demands and claims over resources (Giller et
al., 2008). Property rights are also theoretical constructs
in economics for determining how are source is used and
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owned by individuals, associations or government
Leeetal., 1996; Ostrom, 2008). As an economic good,
Guerin (2003) has described the attributes of property
rights as entitlements to use the goods, earn income from
the goods, transfer the goods to others and enforce.
Therein are a boundary rules that determine who has the
rights to access, control, use and ownership (Denison
and Klingler-Vidra, 2012). Thus, these rules define the
distribution of the property rights. Over-utilisation and loss
of biological resources arise from incompletely defined
and enforced property rights (Libecap, 2009) and are
dismal (Barbier, 1991; Sinclairetal., 2006; Lindseyetal.,
2014). According to Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
(2005), anthropogenic activities are among the major
causes of biodiversity losses, especially in human-
dominated ecosystems such as African savannas.
The property rights can be held under either of four
different regimes: open access, public, common and
private property regimes (Swanson and Barbier,
1992).Sources of the property rights of access,
withdrawal, management, exclusion and transfer are
varied. The property rights may be conveyed as de jure
or de facto rights. De jure right are given lawful
recognition by formal and legal instrumentalities.
According to Schlager and Ostrom (1992), de facto rights
are less secure than de jure rights. De facto rights
originate from cooperative resource users who define,
monitor and enforce certain rights but may not be
recognised by the state. Thus, property rights institutions
range from formal arrangements, including constitutional
provisions, statutes and judicial rulings, to informal
conventions and customs regarding the allocations and
uses of property (Andelson, 1991). These property
regimes regulate the actual functioning of the tenure in
local settings and at multi-level scales (Berkes, 2006).
However, most natural resources are not exclusively
private or public, but are governed by a mixture of private
and public institutions, which often contradict (Bromley,
Further, the actors in the administration of property rights
would vary from authorised users, claimants, proprietors
to owners (Schlager and Ostrom, 1992), and potentially
forming institutions of sustainability (Hagedon,
2008;Bromquist,2009).The formation of regimes depends
on the transaction costs defining, monitoring and
enforcing property rights conferred by the parent
institutions (Denison and Klingler-Vidra, 2012).Therefore,
the distribution of the property rights would be skewed to
actors‟ affordability. For instance, needs of poor people
and small scale users are more likely to be met within
common property regimes rather than private property
regimes (Rohde et al., 2006; Lawry et al., 2014).
Protection of given property rights are provided by the
force of etiquette, social custom and formal legally
enacted laws supported by the state, developed under
rules of first possession (Lueck, 1998).
Property rights can either enforce or negate „tragedy of
the commons‟ postulated by Hardin (1968). Ostrom
(2008) defines the commons as lands which rural
communities possess and use collectively in accordance
with community-derived norms. Further, commons maybe
defined by the fact of their communal ownership, that
they are acknowledged as being the shared property of a
definable group of persons, undivided shares whether or
not recognised in statutory law but governed by
communal norms (Wily, 2011). Tragedy of the commons
theory suggests that it occurs when individuals, acting
independently and rationally according to each one‟s self-
interest, behave contrary to the whole group‟s long-term
best interests by depleting some common resources
(Hardin, 1968).Typically, tragedy of the commons arises
when it is difficult and costly to exclude potential users
from common-pool resources that yield finite flows of
benefits as a result of which those resources will be
exhausted by rational, utility-maximising individuals rather
than conserved for the benefit of all (Rankin et el., 2007).
Tragedy of the commons refers to a particular type of
uncontrollable communal property management system
where individuals try to gain as much as possible in the
short term without taking longer term needs of the
community into perspective (Fabricius et al., 2001).
Consequently, tragedy of the commons has occurred for
instance in fisheries areas with about 80% of stock being
fished at beyond their maximum sustained yield (FAO,
2009), wildlife overharvested to levels well below their
carrying capacities (Lindsey et al., 2014) and forests
degraded at extremely high rates (Alajarvi, 1996;
Abdallah and Monela, 2007;ILUA, 2010; Henry et al.,
2011; Chidumayo, 2012). On the contrary, appropriate
property rights increase the incentives of households and
individuals to invest, and provide them with better access
to resources, their productivity and use (Deininger, 2003).
Hitherto, the impacts of property rights regimes in
natural resources have either been underplayed or
misconstrued by policy and decision makers, despite the
long debates on issues relating to the subject. This
review, therefore, evaluates property rights regimes in the
context of their impacts, drivers and suggested solutions
to numerous challenges in their implementation. The
typology and effectiveness of the particular property
rights regimes are discussed from multiple perspectives,
giving examples from across the Eastern and Southern
TYPES OF PROPERTY RIGHTS, FUNCTIONAL
CONDITIONALITIES AND THEIR EXAMPLES FROM
EASTERN AND SOUTHERN AFRICAN REGION
Open access regime
Open access property is a metaphor of the tragedy of the
commons (Blewett,1995).Typically, open access property
regime entails that the property is not owned by resource
users, and no one can exclude anyone else from using it
282 Int. J. Biodivers. Conserv.
(Denison and Klingler-Vidra, 2012). Therefore, it lacks
resource governance and individuals exploit there
sources as hastily as possible, thereby rapidly degrading
the resource (Repetto, 1988; Libby, 1994). When
effective enforcement is infeasible, users „„who would
willingly reduce their own appropriation if others did are
unwillingly to make a sacrifice for the benefit of a large
number of free riders…‟‟ (Ostrom, 1999). This scenario
creates crisis to the resource management system and
gives rise to system‟s collapse (Folke et al., 2010). If,
however, the government or the subsidiary authorities
start to control the use of resources on that property then
it ceases to be an open access property and is converted
to state property (Guerin, 2003).
There are several examples of open access regimes
that have occurred in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Examples of open access resources in Eastern and
Southern Africa include fisheries, forests and other non-
renewable energy sources such as coal (Leal, 1998). For
instance, Lake Kariba of Zambia and Zimbabwe was
overfished because it did not have imposed rules like the
“fish ban” (Submanian, 1996). In South Africa, the
communal small farm areas of Leliefontein of
Namaqualand experienced persistently higher stocking
rates of livestock which led to a depletion of palatable
perennials and loss of vegetative cover due to open
access regimes (Todd et al., 1999). In Zambia, bush
meat poaching can be considered as „prima facie‟
evidence of market failure in sustainable resource
utilisation as individuals receive benefits yet share the
damage to the commons (Lindsey et al., 2014).Another
example is overgrazing by mass introduced livestock on
the Kafue flats in Zambia, depleting wildlife forage (Haller
and Chabwela, 2009).
Public property regimes
Public property regime allows for cooperative ownership,
where access of the resources is controlled by the
authorities like the government (Guerin, 2003). Examples
are state owned and managed national parks in many of
states or expansive state farms for internationally
marketed tobacco, tea and sugar (Adams et al., 1999). In
some cases, the public property rights are enjoyed by
responsible states at the expense of impoverished rural
communities who receive limited benefit streams (Knox,
1996).Management effectiveness of state owned and
managed protected areas is strongly linked to community
involvement and benefit streams (Coad et al., 2010;
Leverington et al., 2010). In the recent decades, several
synergetic novel initiatives that include contractual parks
and trans frontier conservation areas have been
experimented upon to marshal multi-level support to
property regime functions under collective property,
owned by a group of individuals, whose access and use
are biodiversity conservation and appear to be promising
Common property regimes
Common property regimes are controlled by the joint
owners (Ostrom, 2008). Due to difficult in excluding or
limiting users, common-pool resources are prone to
degradation (Ostrom, 1999).Therefore, tragedy of the
commons occurs when unconstrained consumption of
common-pool resources takes place (Dodds, 2005). The
common property regimes differ from open access
regimes in so far as there would be well defined
ownership, access, use, controls through legitimate
resource management institutions. However, the use
rights of individuals can be delimited and regulated so
that over exploitation of the resource does not result. For
instance, grazing schemes in Zimbabwe‟s communal
lands demonstrated that when access to grazing was
unrestricted, exploitation of communal grazing land by
privately held livestock inevitably resulted in „tragedy of
the commons‟ (Barnes, 1978).Unconstrained use of
common-pool resources by local communities and
commercial users is a major conservation concern and
continues to be a major cause of decline of biodiversity
despite the key role the traditional leadership plays in
enforcing management rules and local resource regimes
(Wilson et al., 2006; Marks, 2009).
In Eastern and Southern Africa, several examples of
natural common-pool resources abound and include
fishing grounds, forests, populations of animal and plant
species, wetlands and grazing lands for livestock, wood
supply, medicines and farm land (Adams, 2004).Some
southern African societies developed relatively effective
indigenous institutions for the management of entire
landscapes and their component ecosystems, when this
was in their economic interest but these have not been
resilient to emerging changes (Magole et al., 2010).
Colonial legacy, later inherited by post-colonial govern-
ments, buttressed governance systems that ignored
indigenous knowledge and commons practice (Haller and
Chabwela, 2009; Magole, 2009; Mhlanga, 2009). In some
cases, indigenous management regimes were replaced
by sectorial or fragmented systems that focused on
technical, anti-political rationales (Bϋscher, 2010).
In the case of wildlife resources, since many native
communities were evicted by colonial governments from
their ancestral lands when protected areas were
proclaimed, local communities generally developed
antipathical view of wildlife (Mwima, 2001; Child, 2004;
Mbaiwa, 2007). Traditionally, conservation has focused
on the establishment of protected areas under central
government control and eviction of people residing in
these areas but it has negative impacts on local
livelihoods and sometimes results into increased
poaching pressure (BrockingtonandIgoe, 2006; Makagon
et al., 2014). To address such antipathy, government
agencies and non-government organizations (NGOs)
joined forces in the 1980s and 1990s to develop
community-based wildlife programmes aimed at providing
benefits to affected communities (Murphree, 1993).
However, common property rights which were based on
traditional leadership were evinced and proclaimed by the
state as flawed systems which caused natural resource
degradation, legitimising state intervention in
management of the commons (Leach and Mearns, 1996).
Thereafter, local communities retained legacies as
hunters and gatherers (Child, 2004; Marks, 2009).
Exacerbated by extreme poverty and low literacy levels of
resource harvesting, in many cases biodiversity
conservation efforts involving local communities have
been deemed unsuccessful in favour of „fortress
conservation‟ that seeks to exclude local people from
resources in order to ensure their conservation (Bϋscher
and Dressler, 2007). The intervention was a zeal for
reform entailing mainly privatisation and nationalisation of
communal resources (Magole, 2003).
However, one of the deterministic strategies the
Eastern and Southern regions spearheaded was the
return of rights from the state to local communities
through the community based natural resource
management (CBNRM) programmes (e.g. ADMADE in
Zambia; CAMPFIRE in Zimbabwe, LIFE in Namibia and
TRANSFORM in South Africa) and various partnerships
(Hulme and Murphree, 2001; Fabricius and Koch, 2004;
Dressler et al., 2010). CBNRM was poised to address the
biodiversity conservation challenges through trans-
formative collective action and devolution of resource
user rights (Child, 2004). Unlike in open-access property
regimes, common property owners have greater ability to
manage conflicts through shared benefits and
enforcement (Klein and Robinson, 2011). However,
widespread central control of common-pool resources by
the state occurs due to perceived inertia among the local
actors (Rankin et el., 2007). One of the key challenges in
managing common-pool resources is society
complexities due to heterogeneity in actors‟ values and
norms about commonly owned property resource
management and inadequate supportive legislation. In
order to minimise the challenges in managing common
resources, membership rules have been applied to
exclude non-members from common resources (Lawry et
al., 2014). Subsequently, CBNRM models have either
been unsuccessful or successful. For instance, CBNRM
in Namibia has encouraged the recovery of wildlife and
generated significant incomes (NACSO, 2008) while in
Mozambique and Zambia both wildlife and associated
incomes have dwindled over time (Lindsey et al., in
press). The differences in the outcomes of common
property rights in Namibian verses Mozambican and
Zambian scenarios were due to unclear and weak
proprietary rights to the resource users coupled with
weak relational social capital among the resource actors
like communities and wildlife agencies.
In Malawi, CBNRM focuses on natural resources within
protected areas and allows the consumptive use of
resources by communities adjacent to national parks and
wildlife reserves but wildlife remains the property of the
state (Arntzen et al., 2003).Mesterton-Gibbons and
Milner-Gulland (1998) posited that Zimbabwean local
communities used cooperative game theory to determine
the conditions under which community self-monitoring
would ensure conservation occurs. These researchers in
Zimbabwe concluded that „„no self-monitoring agreement
can be sustainable without a payment to each individual
that exceeds the opportunity cost of monitoring even if no
one is poaching‟‟.
In Botswana, like in other states in the region,
assumption was made that once local communities fully
participate in natural resource management and derive
benefits, they can develop a sense of ownership and will
use their natural resources sustainably (Mbaiwa, 2007).
In all the above stated illustrations, the focus was bottom-
up programmes implementation. Users were usually local
residents that traditionally relied upon the common-pool
resource for subsistence and self-regulated consumption
by imposing their own enforcement of restrictions, or
partnering with local authorities to do so (Gibson and
Marks, 1995; Ostrom, 1999). Simultaneously, they
depended on the top-down regulations by the state for
their legitimacy (Child, 2004).
Caughley and Sinclair (1994) and Mphale et al. (1999)
gave an account of a pilot range management project in
Lesotho, where the Government of Lesotho and the
United States Agency for International Development
(USAID) established a successful grazing association at
Sehlabathebe in the Drakensburg Mountains, and gave it
management control over a badly degraded watershed. A
popularly elected executive committee was responsible
for administering a grazing management plan which
provided for the seasonal rotation of livestock among
winter grazing areas near villages and summer grazing
areas in the surrounding mountains.
Livestock found grazing in violation of the plan were
subject to impoundment by range riders. Local sanctions
and rules helped to control „free riders‟, who could
otherwise degrade the rangeland further. Other similar
examples are found in such countries as Botswana,
South Africa and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa (Scoones
and Cousins, 1991; Rohde et al., 2006). Despite these
innovative collective actions, several other areas
remained exposed to „free riders‟ of the commons,
effectively giving rise to open access resource regimes
(Dore, 2001), including where local institutions existed
(Lindsey et al., 2014).Therefore, strong investments in
capacity development of local institutions and
governance structures are required (Fabricius and
Private property regimes
Private property regime is both excludable and rival,
while rights to access, use, exclusion and management,
appropriate stream of economic rents from use of and
284 Int. J. Biodivers. Conserv.
investments in the resource, and the rights to sell or
otherwise transfer the resource to others are controlled
by a private owner or a group of legal owners (Repetto,
1988; Guerin, 2003). To a considerable degree, Eastern
and Southern Africa have legalised and privatised the
use of wildlife, encouraging hunting, tourism and the sale
of meat, hides and horns for wildlife that remains res
nullius (without formal owner) or state-owned (Hill, 1994;
Lindsey et al., 2009). If certain conditions are met,
governments have delegated to the owners of private
land the full rights to control the use of wildlife on their
land (Jones and Murphree, 2004). With incentive to reap
the benefits, investment in the resource base will
optimise the benefits received, and will ensure the
resource is not depleted over time (Andelson, 1991).
For example, due to incentives to invest by the private
owners, management of wildlife was enhanced in
Zimbabwe, raising the average return on investment from
1.8 to 10.5%as compared to non-private wildlife entities
(Moyo,2000). In the Southern Africa, private rights
conferred on land owners such as game ranchers
resulted in drastically increased wildlife revenues,
expanded wildlife populations and enhanced habitats
(Child, 2009b). Establishment of de facto private rights to
wildlife reversed declining Namibian wildlife populations,
and resulted in an 80% increase in wildlife on freehold
land and a major boost to the national economy (Jones,
1999). In South Africa, game ranching developed rapidly
and contributed significantly, ecologically and to local and
national economies (Van der Waal and Dekker, 2000;
Child, 2009b). In Zambia, game ranching industry has
alsogrownrapidlysince1980s, contributing to biodiversity
conservation, job creation and economies (Lindsey et al.,
2013). However, implications of the contemporary global
pressure created by „land rush‟ (Cotula and Polack, 2012)
regarding resource property rights regimes needs to be
Further, in Savé Valley Conservancy in Zimbabwe
private actors partnered with the local communities to
enhance benefits to local economies through improved
conservancy financing and management (Lindsey et al.,
2009). Partnership was born out of realisation that wildlife
could not be effectively conserved in protected areas or
on private land without the support of neighbouring
communities (Kreuter and Simmons, 1994).Again,
another example comes from contractual parks as one
innovative conservation mechanism which has been
popular in South Africa since the 1980s (Reid and Turner,
2004; Grossman and Holden, 2009). This kind of
contractual parks are established on land owned
privately, either by individuals or community groups,
which are then managed by the national conservation
authorities and effectively become part of the national
protected areas estate. Management of contractual parks
is carried out in accordance with a joint management
agreement devised by a board comprising
representatives of both the landowners and the conserva-
Therefore, building relational social capital in such
arrangements is inevitable in fostering partnership.
RESOURCE PROPERTY RIGHTS VS. BIODIVERSITY
Resource property rights, resource use and biodiversity
conservation are intractably linked. Accelerated over-
harvesting of forest products and degradation of forests
occurred after national governments declared themselves
to be the owners of forested land (Ascher, 1995). Similar
problems of overexploitation have occurred with inshore
fisheries when national agencies presumed that they had
exclusive jurisdiction over all coastal waters (Finlayson
and McCay, 1998). The states usurp the rights from
users based on pessimism about the possibility of users
voluntarily cooperating to prevent overuse, leading to
widespread central control of common-pool resources
(Hardin, 1968). Consequently, the tragedy of the
commons arises when it is difficult and costly to exclude
potential users from common-pool resources that yield
finite flows of benefits. As a result, the resources will be
exhausted by rational, utility-maximising individuals rather
than conserved for the benefit of all (Guerin, 2003). Thus,
the problem of over exploitation is a result of the
resources being under public rather than private
government manages public resource property, the
neighbouring local communities should be involved in
beneficial partnerships with the state to ensure resource
protection(Child, 2009a).Such engagement with local
communities may follow the principle of environmental
subsidiarity, where local communities will have the right
to make choice of rational decisions over resource use
and management (Ribot et al., 2010).
RESOURCE PROPERTY RIGHTS VERSUS
Collaborative governance of natural resources is a multi-
actor based social processing a collective action
(Imperial, 2005). Such collective action can greatly
caution decimation of natural resources in transient
resource property rights governance especially where
state governance structures become inadequate to
counteract resource depletion (Gibson and Marks, 1995).
CBNRM was founded based on the common property
theory which was applied to discourage open resource
access though promotion of resource ownership, control
and use by local communities (Rihoy and Steiner, 1995)
and emphasised participatory approaches (Twyman,
2000). It was realised by practitioners and scholars that
local communities can only conserve and use these
natural resources in a sustainable manner when they
Table 1. Key conditions determining the likelihood for success of a particular property regime in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Type of property
Key conditions for success or failure
Absence of controls leads to systems failure. Implementation of effective
internal and external controls by way of local rules, norms and practice as well
as sound policies and effective management result in sustainably managed
Submanian, 1996; Todd et
al., 1999; Guerin, 2003; Folke
et al., 2010; Lindsey et al.,
Though exclusionary policies may appear enticing for policy makers and
resource managers, community involvement has shown to be promising. Local
integration in resource management and beneficiation enhances sustainable
resource management. Through local involvement, transactional costs for
resource management are lowered, thereby increasing success rates for
Child, 2009b; Grossman and
Like in other regimes such as public and private property regimes, relational
social capital plays a critical role in improving positive outcomes of resource
management. In addition, clear proprietary rights and associated benefits to
the resource users are crucial.
Wilson et al., 2006; Marks,
2009; Magole et al., 2010;
Lawry et al., 2014.
Increased incentives, including ownership and use rights of the resources
within a given jurisdiction and sound relational social capital environment
stimulate sustainable utilisation and biodiversity conservation.
Moyo, 2000; Grossman and
Holden, 2009; Child, 2009b;
Lindsey et al., 2013.
derive benefits from them (Swatuk, 2005). In order to
address these biodiversity conservation challenges,
various models of institutional arrangements have been
piloted in Eastern and Southern region (Lund and Treue,
2008; Child, 2009a) and their effectiveness are mostly yet
to be assessed.
RESOURCE PROPERTY RIGHTS
Sustainability of the property rights depends on
legitimisation of the rights by local and state authorities
(Mbote, 2005). Property rights play an important role in
the sustainable use of resources as they create wealth to
local communities and land owners, and enhance
protection of resources and convey rights (Lyons, 1998;
Anderson et al., 2013). The stronger the institutions and
the rights, the less danger there is likely to the
persistence of the common-pool resources (Schlager and
Ostrom, 1992). Property rights ought to empower actors
evenly within the existing institutional arrangements
responsible for resource management (Brockington et al.,
2008). Strong institutional functionalities, including use of
formal and informal rules to give incentives to the actors,
are essential for sustainable natural resource manage-
ment (Hagedorn, 2008; Bromquist, 2009).Securing of
property rights in resource management serves to
provide for incentives for sustainable natural resource
management and rural development (Demsetz, 1998).
Convincing participants to have beneficial behaviour to
the rest of the group requires that individuals trust that
the desired outcome is attainable and that free-riders will
not benefit (Rankin et el., 2007). If gains can provide the
economic incentive to landowners to manage natural
resources on a sustained-yield basis, species will be
saved (Hobley, 1996). However, there are several threats
to sustainability that need to be dealt with. For instance,
oppressive state control and rent seeking behaviour can
put the resource base at risk (Benjaminsen et al., 2013).
Further, essential research on attributes of property rights
would contribute to sustainability of biological resources
(Diekert, 2012; Nkhata et al., 2012). As the tragedy of the
commons is increasingly part of the conventional wisdom
in environmental studies, economics and ecology
(McEvoy, 1988; Leach and Mearns 1996), results and
lessons from the tragedy of commons could proof
relevant in the formulation of strategies and policies for
sustainable natural resource management.
KEY REASONS FOR FAILURE OF VIABLE
RESOURCE PROPERTY RIGHTS
There are several reasons for failure of what would be
otherwise viable resource property rights. Key conditions
for success or failure of a particular property regime in
Eastern and Southern Africa are given in Table 1. The
following are reasons considered to influence impacts of
property regimes on resource utilisation and biodiversity
conservation, and these can be dynamic and site
specific. According to Lawrence (2000), failure to provide
necessary conditions for a property rights regime to
propel resource conservation through ownership rights
results in degradation of the resource base. For instance,
individual land ownership having more secured formal
286 Int. J. Biodivers. Conserv.
property rights to land have resulted in more investment
and improved productivity per unit area (Feder and
Feeny, 1991). In different instance, fishermen who have
clearly defined private rights are able to increase
efficiency in the use of space and technology (Schlager,
1994) and generate a positive incentive for conservation
(Bodal, 2003). A property rights system which includes
the right to alienation is often considered the most
efficient as it can be defined as equivalent to private
property (Ostrom, 2003).Failures to implement alienation
rules and participatory collective action have often led to
degradation of the natural resources (Haller and Merten,
2008; Chabwela and Haller, 2010).
Previously, failure by governments to provide adequate
preliquisite developmental facilities to local communities
coerced local communities to become dependent on
revenue remittances by the states from resource
utilisation. Although CBNRM initially focussed on
conservation approach, the rural development became
more prominent over any other objective (Arntzenet al.,
2007).This mismatch in the implementation of set
objectives occurred even when certain local communities
received exclusive rights and responsibilities over natural
resource management from the state (Arntzen et al.,
2003). Thus, failure to directly link conservation and
development to cement promotion of environmental
conservation and rural economic development through
local community participation in natural resource
management and other derivatives such as tourism
development facilitated increased resource degradation
(Leach et al., 1999; Twyman, 2000; Mbaiwa, 2004).
The property rights are often simplified and frail to
articulate representation of a complex social-ecological
system. For example, common-pool resources theory
tends to concentrate on simple systems and common
resource generates a predictable, finite supply of one
type of resource unit (for example wildlife or tons of fish)
in each time period (Ostrom, 2008). Further, resource
users are assumed to be short-term, profit-maximising
actors who have complete information and are
homogeneous in terms of their assets, skills, cultural
views and discount rates on harvesting.
The other limiting factor to improved resource property
regimes is that transaction costs for establishing,
implementation and monitoring can be prohibitive. For
instance, Tanzania continues with one of the highest
rates of deforestation in Africa despite having forest laws
supporting participatory forest management, and local
communities entering into agreements with the Forest
Department to manage local forestland and forest
resources (Abdallah and Monela, 2007). According to
Abdallah and Monela (2007), local communities can also
designate village land as protected forestland and can
develop plans for sustainable use and conservation. To
date, however, the country‟s participatory forest
management experience has not significantly reduced
the rate of deforestation and land degradation:
programmes are expensive and time-consuming to
establish; local forest departments often lack sufficient
human and financial resources; and the benefits to
communities have not been sufficient to offset their loss
of unrestricted use of the forest resources. Similar
scenarios have been experienced in Zambia‟s forests
following Joint Forest Management pilot projects (ILUA,
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Sustainable natural resource management demands
deterministic and collective action to halt momentous loss
of biodiversity from overutilization. In Eastern and
Southern Africa, much of biodiversity conservation
challenges can be attributed to flaws in the
implementation of resource property rights and even the
absence of the property rights altogether as in the case of
prevalent open access regimes. Tragedy of the commons
occurs and is expressed in different forms of waning
natural resources at multiple temporal and geographical
scales. Institutions of governance, which will enable
definitive local rules, hegemony and self-governing of
actors would play a key role in progressive
implementation of property rights beyond existing
enabling legal provisions.
The role of local communities and other actors in
resource dominant areas is important to safeguarding
integrity of biological diversity. Integrative approaches are
required to stimulate active participation of local resource
actors. In order to maximise benefits and appropriately
internalise costs of establishing and implementing
appropriate property regimes among the actors, capacity
building through information generation and sharing in
addition to skills building is essential. Such strategies
curtail the challenges of dearth of information, lapses in
the taking advantages of economies of scale,
internalisation of transaction costs and misinterpretation
of legal and policy provisions among the actors. Land
tenure should always, thus, be made supportive and
clear to the actors. Therefore, functional social networks
such as partnerships between governments and other
actors are likely to improve collaborative governance of
natural resources delivery of the property rights via joint
ventures and other initiatives. Vices such as rent seeking
and undue political power relations among different
actors can be prevented by functional social networks
and collective action.
Conflict of interests
The author declared no conflict of interest.
The author is grateful to two anonymous reviewers who
criticized the initial draft. The Copper belt University also
gave access to various historical and contemporary
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