As the literature on common property and other tenure relations involving
natural resources has shown forests and other natural resources are controlled
and managed under myriad forms of property relations. The legal (de jure) rights
to these resources may reside with the state, but the actual (de facto) rights
of ownership and control lie with local communities or individuals. These frequently
traditional forms of property rights pre-date the state claims over the resources
(National Research Council, 1986; Peluso, 1992a). These are of critical importance
to the technology transfers recommended in the sections on Forestry and on Coastal
Public ownership of forests and other natural resources is difficult to enforce. When states attempt to revoke traditional community rights to forests by invoking state control, the result has often been a lack of control or management. The forests are open to overuse and encroachment. By clearing land, farmers indicate their ownership (Arnold and Campbell, 1986; Mueller et al., 1994; Thiesenhusen, 1991).
The acceptance or rejection of a technology or of a mitigation strategy (tree planting, modification of coastal land use) will depend on who owns, who controls, and who manages the resources, both legally and in practice. States often claim rights over resources that are in fact controlled by local communities or individuals. Conflicts occur when the governments attempt to assert their legal claims over the traditional or local rights. (Lynch and Alcorn, 1994; Thomson et al., 1986)
Since the late 1970s, governments and NGOs in Asia, Africa, and Latin America have come to realise the importance of alternative land management systems to give people greater rights to control and use their local resources. Management and usufruct rights to the forests and forest land are granted to communities (through community forests or joint community-state management) or to individuals (through leaseholds or other tenure arrangements), giving them the necessary security that encourages them to sustain forest resources (Peluso, 1992b; Poffenberger, 1990; Repetto, 1988).
The experience in agriculture, forestry, and use of other natural resources has shown that the successful introduction of new technologies or modification of resource use often depends on a recognition of the existing forms of property rights, or on taking steps to create an optimal property rights regime. With an understanding of the existing - legal and actual - forms of property rights, technologies or modified resource uses can be adapted to fit the property relations. If property issues are taken into account, those introducing new technologies or proposing modifications in land or resource use can be more assured of the support of the target populations or groups.
Other reports in this collection