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close this bookBasic Concepts in Environment, Agriculture and Natural Resources Management: An Information Kit (International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (IIRR))
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View the documentPhilippine commercial energy sources, 1990
View the documentCommon property resources in crisis
View the documentDegradation of the uplands
View the documentLowland degradation
View the documentEnvironmental issues in animal production
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Common property resources in crisis


Common property resources in crisis

Common property resources (CPRs)

Are those non-exclusive resources in which a group of people have co-equal use, rights and coownership. They are designated as such either on the nature of the resource or on the nature of their usage.

CPRs are divided into three broad categories:

  • Land Resources like forests, grazing lands, public lands, wastelands.
  • Water Resources like streams, ponds, lakes, groundwater, oceans, seas.
  • Air, Sunlight and Space or indivisible natural resources.


CPRs have cultural, social, political and historical bases. Designating a resource as a CPR mainly depends on the existence of a group of people who are residents or indigenous to the area, bound by tradition, formal and informal structures and norms through which they control, own, manage, protect and preserve these resources.

To differentiate CPRs from public and private resources, public resources are those which are exclusively owned, controlled and managed by the government; while private resources are those which are exclusively owned, controlled and managed by an individual or group of individuals. Open access is the term used to describe unregulated use of communally, publicly or privately held property and resources.

CPRs: Roles, function and contribution

CPRs perform a major role as a life support system. In developing countries like the Philippines, CPRs are a significant component of the resource base of rural and urban communities. They contribute to the production and consumption needs of the people in these communities, as well as beyond.

Physical products are obtained directly and indirectly from CPRs: food, timber, fuel, water, manure, fiber, animal feed and clothing.

Income and employment are generated from and provided out of CPRs, particularly for rural communities around them. CPRs are used for activities such as handicrafts production as well as in growing crops and rearing livestock. CPRs are valuable as sources of food sustenance during the drought period.

Larger social and ecological benefits. When properly managed, CPRs ensure the sustainability of agro-ecological systems providing basic needs and sustenance for the poor. CPRs also provide an improved microclimate environment in surrounding communities.

CPRs in crisis

Degradation of CPRs as manifested by their fast pace of shrinkage in area and decline in productivity has resulted in making the poor people who depend on them even poorer. Although efforts by government, private groups and communities to restore, manage and protect CPRs have been started in some areas in the country, the crisis is still real. One factor that contributes to the degradation of CPRs is that the people who manage them are not clear about their roles and rights to the resources. Poor people continue to depend on these dwindling CPRs. And the cycle of poverty and common property resources degradation continues.