Collective action and assurance of property rights to natural resources: A case study from the Lower Amazon region, Santarém, Brazil
The present study aims to analyze human cooperative behavior in a rural setting in regard to assurance of property rights to natural resources, and to understand the reasons why some people cooperate and some do not. To pursue this goal, I analyzed communities of native peasant people from the Ituqui settlement in the Brazilian Lower Amazon region. Their livelihood relies heavily upon resources from surrounding ecosystems—floodplain and upland. The floodplain is composed of two main ecological zones: natural grassland and flooded forest. The upland ecosystem is also composed of two main zones: bottomland and upland dense forest (tropical moist). This case focuses on two collective actions in which they have been involved. The first collective effort involved seven communities from the Ituqui settlement and dealt with assurance of property rights of the upland ecosystem. After approximately 15 years of land movement, the upland ecosystem was privatized through agrarian reform by the end of the 1980s. In the mid-1990s, the second collective action took place in one community whose residents had participated in the first collective endeavor. The second group effort involved only one-third of the households and its main purpose was to guarantee property rights to the floodplain ecosystem. Household analysis uncovers heterogeneity in terms of household structure and economy, which creates different incentives for people to cooperate or not. Historical accounts reveal that social capital facilitated involvement in the collective action. Finally, in places where individuals explore more than one system in an integrated production economy, the actions taken in one ecosystem may affect other related ecosystems. Analysis of structure and composition of the upland forest and remote-sensing analysis of patterns of land use indicate that although the target of the collective action is the floodplain, the upland is indirectly affected. In this case, opening a pasture and removing wood species to subsidize cattle activity in the floodplain creates a consequential effect on the upland. To conclude, this study shows the importance to consider multi-scale analysis in studies of collective action and conservation.
0326: Cultural anthropology