March 12, 2007

Mangroves, local communities and the environmental economist

Edward B. Barbier discusses the preservation and replanting of mangroves in the blog of the Ecological Society of America. He advocates eliminating perverse government incentives - such as preferential loans, and subsidies for larvae, chemicals and machines - that favor conversion of mangroves to shrimp farms. He also advocates granting some property rights over mangroves to local communities. These communities do not currently share in the direct monetary benefits of mangrove conversion by the shrimp, wood chip and tourism industries, and lose their opportunities of harvesting fish, wood, and other products from mangroves. But Barbier wants local management of mangroves as long as it leads to Barbier's preferred use of the mangroves:
However, the decision to allow such local management efforts should be based on the capability of communities to effectively enforce their local rules and manage the forest to prevent over-utilization, degradation and conversion to other land uses. Moreover, such community rights should not involve full ownership of the forest but be in the form of user rights.


  1. Thanks for the pointer to an interesting post, and I appreciate that Barbier wants only the result that suits him. It seems to me that neither use rights nor community ownership deal with Barbier's problem, which seems at heart to be a question of discount rate. If the owners of the mangrove -- state, community, individuals -- figure they can make more money now by clearing it then that's what they'll do. There's also the question of externalities. Given the pretty good evidence that mangroves do protect against damage, if the shrimp farmers or whomever had to pick up the tab for disaster relief, and that could be enforced, there'd be no reason not to let them clear the mangroves.

    It's Garrett Hardin's old CCPP game at work again. It almost always is.

  2. Thank you, Jeremy. First, the fact that mangroves protect against damage is not enough reason to preserve mangroves. Second, undoubtedly the best property-rights or management system to deal with externalities and reach socially efficient outcomes is

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