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Common property theory and resource governance institutions: strengthening explanations of multiple outcomes



Different strategies to govern resource commons generate outcomes that can be assessed along different dimensions, in terms of the ecological or social sustainability of the resource system, contributions to the livelihoods of those who rely on these resources, or equity in the allocation of benefits. This paper reviews the existing literature concerning three major renewable resource commons, namely pasture lands, fisheries and irrigation water. Most existing work on these commons has been inattentive to the multiple outcomes that management of all renewable resources generates. Studies of commons can provide better information about livelihoods, sustainability and equity dimensions of natural resource governance outcomes than previously. Attending to the distinctive determinants and drivers of these outcomes and the nature of trade-offs and synergies among them has the potential to advance common property theory substantially. Possible relationships among livelihoods, sustainability and equity are identified, and the major explanations of outcomes advanced by scholars of fisheries, pastoral and irrigation commons reviewed. An interdisciplinary approach is needed to improve existing efforts to determine the outcomes that resource commons generate.


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*Correspondence: Dr Arun Agrawal Tel: +1 734 647 5948 e-mail:


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Common property theory and resource governance institutions: strengthening explanations of multiple outcomes



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