| Co-Operatives In Natural Resources Management Workshop report 10 |
The participants identified many gray areas in the co-operative management of natural resources. Generally speaking, there was a consensus among the participants about the need for conducting research to evaluate alternative regimes systems of CPR management to find out what works and what does not and the design systems of collective/co-operative management that are likely to work successfully. Similarly, need was felt for research in technical sciences to develop scientific techniques and methods of locating natural resources like groundwater, brine, marine fisheries etc., and estimating their stocks, and direction of movement. A case was also made for applied research for designing new tools and equipment that can reduce the risks and the drudgery involved in exploitation of many natural resources like marine fisheries, brine, groundwater and so on.
More specifically, the participants identified the following major issues in the co-operative management of natural resources for future research:
(i) Identification and description of those elements of macro environment that affect NRMCS and development of strategies for coping with them;
(ii) Governance and control structures and mechanisms adopted by NRMCS and ways to enhance their effectiveness;
(iii) Operating rules and procedures and their impact on the performance of NRMCS;
(iv) Personnel policies and their impact on the performance of NRMCS;
(v) Member participation in the activities and management of NRMCS;
(vi) Resource-specific constraints on the performance of NRMCS and alternatives for their removal;
(vii) Member-specific constraints on the performance of NRMCS and alternatives for their removal;
(viii) Technology - specific constraints on the performance of NRMCS and alternatives for their removal;
(ix) Issues relating to the quantum of benefits from NRMCS and their distribution among their members;
(x) Issues relating to markets and marketing of natural resources and/or their products/commodities; and,
(xi) Factors affecting financial and economic viability of NRMCS and issues relating to pricing and cost recovery.
As biological systems, the natural resources of land, water, forests, and fisheries are dynamic and amenable to management. Three alternative systems or regimes under which natural resources can be managed are privatisation, nationalisation, and collectivisation/co-operativisation. Experience with nationalisation of natural resources has not been good in most of the cases all over the world. Privatisation has yielded mixed results: it has been justified on efficiency grounds and condemned on equity and sustainability grounds. Co-operativisation or co-operative management is a relatively nascent regime. The results of co-operative management of natural resources also have, so far, been mixed. But the co-operative mode of natural resources management seems to hold the highest promise as an instrument of achieving the goals of efficiency, sustainability, equity and resource users’ satisfaction. It is also politically and socially more acceptable in most societies and nations than any other alternatives.
It was revealed by the case-studies that most of the natural resources management co-operatives (NRMCS) were parastatal organisations and not genuinely member-controlled co-operative societies. It was also found that none of the NRMCS studied had restoration, conservation and sustainable use of the natural resources as one of their objectives. The major determinants of success across all resources and geographic regions were identified to be:
(1) high stakes of resource users in the resource as well as in the co-operatives managing the resources;
(2) small and homogeneous or otherwise cohesive community of resource users;
(3) education and awareness of resource users;
(4) good local leadership;
(5) professional management;
(6) existence and strict enforcement of rules for regulating the use of the resource, preventing free riding, and sharing the costs and benefits of co-operative management equitably (in proposition to the effort put in or contribution made);
(7) government support in the form of funds, technical information, legitimacy, and co-ordination;
(8) involvement of an external agency as a catalyst; and
(9) integration of production processing and marketing.
Wherever and whenever a few or all of these factors are absent or are not available in needed quantity, co-operatives are prone to failure.
Most of natural CPRs could be put to more socially productive uses if they are given to co-operatives of local people, especially the rural poor on long-term (99 year) lease and the co-operatives are provided needed financial, technical, and legal support by the government. There is urgent need for a national policy for CPRs providing for their co-operativisation. Besides, the existing Co-operative Societies Act and the Companies Act will also need to be suitably amended to provide for establishment of NRMCS or NRM companies.
There is also a need to remove conflicts in the goals of various policies and programmes affecting natural resources and to simplify rules and procedures for assigning property rights in common property and government-owned resources to NRMCS. The government should allow the NRMCS full autonomy and not use them as its instrument for promoting goals other than those of their members.
Non-governmental organisation having requisite technical expertise and financial resources could play an important role as a catalyst in organising and nurturing NRMCS and educating and training resource users. They should be encouraged and supported financially and technically by the government to play a complementary and supplementary roles and not treated as adversaries. Once established, NRMCS will need to be managed professionally. The managers will need to develop innovative organisational designs and systems having flexibility to cope with unanticipated events, rational reward and punishment system, effective implementing and monitoring mechanisms, and accountability to their members and other clientele. For this, there will be need for establishing NRM institutes on the pattern of the Institute of Rural Management, Anand. State Agricultural Universities and Engineering Colleges and other Technical institutes can generate reliable information about the quantity and quality of natural resources available in the country.
Above all, there is need for a strong political will at the all levels to promote co-operativisation of CPRs in the country. The co-operative leadership will have to play a more vigorous role in lobbying for necessary changes in the existing laws, rules, and regulations affecting NRMCS, develop social and political entrepreneurship, and enhance the awareness of people about their rights and responsibilities in natural resources management. After all, it is the politicians who decide what will be done; the social scientists can only tell them what should be done and technocrats and bureaucrats can only advise them how it can be done.