Discussion Paper 55: HATZIUS, Dr. Thilo: Institutional analysis for sustainable development and natural resources management - towards a conceptual framework for participatory policy analysis and action research


Diskussionsschriften der Forschungsstelle für Internationale Wirtschafts- und Agrarentwicklung eV (FIA), Nr. 55, Heidelberg 1997




1. Introduction and summary

2. Institutional analysis for sustainable development and natural resources management - some justifications

3. Positive and normative analyses of institutions for understanding and improving sustainability of
natural resource use

4. Political and global dimensions of research on institutions of natural resources management and livelihoods
in rural areas of developing countries

5. PRA and survey methods in interdisciplinary participatory action research - some remarks on methodology

6. Basic assumptions, features and hypotheses of institutional analysis in a natural resources framework

7. Scope for positive and normative institutional analysis in conflictive situations?

8. Some topics of interest for particular research projects



1. Introduction and Summary

The present paper presents intermediate results from a research program conducted by the Research Centre for International Agrarian & Economic Development (FIA), Heidelberg in the broad area of Environmental and Institutional De velopment1), and more specifically, in the priority areas of 'Socio-economic Institutional Analysis' and 'Ecology / Resource Economics'. The paper is based on the preliminary work by TSCHIERSCH (1989)2) and on insights gained by the author himself during a visiting scholarship at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, England and in the course of consulting work in Latin America3). The paper is intended to serve as a point of departure for di scussions with research institutes interested in empirical research on institutions in natural resources management in developing countries 4). It first underlines the need for action research on institutions in the context of the management of renewable natural resources in rural areas of developing countries and explains why methods of applied welfare economics are considered to be of limited use in these situations. As an alternative the paper draws attention to the literature of the New Inst itutional Economics (NIE) school of thought, suggests elements for extending neoclassical economic analysis to include institutional analysis which could also improve participant or stakeholder analyses in the course of preparing and implementing developm ent projects of German Technical Cooperation (TC) concerned with the improvement of the management of renewable natural resources.

More specifically, the paper questions the two central assumptions of neoclassical economic theory (i) coordination of individual decisions with respect to the exchange of goods and services solely through markets, usually assumed to be perfectly functioning with perfect information, and (ii) maximizing behaviour of entrepreneurs/firms and of households/consumers. These assumptions are considered unsuitable when analyzing problems of natural resources management and livelihoods of poor people in rural areas of developing countries. Individual behaviour, interaction between stakeholders, and incentives for cooperation in sustainable resource use will be better understood through positive institutional analyses, as not only incentives via markets but also incentives and disincentives via organizations and institutions are considered. By incorporating different actors or stakeholders in normative institutional analyses the results from highly formalized and abstract models can be supplemen ted by an interactive process in which quantitative and qualitative information of different provenance and quality is shared, analysed and valued.

The paper also points to the political and global dimensions of local resource problems and to the need for a non-repressive, democratic and transparent political environment for such a research approach. Free exchange of information, r espect for nature, for local people and for other cultures is a basic necessity if transactions and communicative processes between actors or stakeholders from different cultures are to lead to more sustainability within a local environment. Corresponding to the broad agenda covering natural and social sciences, the research will have to be multidisciplinary, including the need for involvement of behavioural scientists. After pointing to the problems of communication and terminology in interdisciplinary r esearch, the paper specifies the core assumptions and basic hypotheses of the conceptual framework and sketches some topics of interest in institutional research. As the subject of interest to the partner institutes are not yet known, the outline is very general and needs to be further elaborated by the researchers to be involved5).

2. Institutional analysis for sustainable development and natural resources management - some justifications

The term 'sustainability' seeped into the jargon of politicians and of the international development aid community during the 1980s. Reflecting a growing concern about current development paths and resource use patterns - considered by many as non-sustainable - the term has, however, never been sufficiently defined to serve as a benchmark for policymakers or as a guideline in specific development contexts. As has been demonstrated elsewhere 6) the impossibility of finding a generally accepted definition stems mainly from the multiplicity of disciplines involved in the analysis of problems of non-sustainable development and resource use, from the multiplicity of types of development and resource situations studied and probl ems treated, and - last but not least - from the multiplicity of conflicting interests, perceptions and preferences of the actors ('stakeholders') involved. The insight of the need for finding out more about the corresponding incentive structure is our po int of departure and an important justification for research on institutions (understood as organizations, traditional rules as well as modern formal institutions) in development and in natural resources management.

A second justification for research on institutions stems from the insight that neoclassical economic analysis is unfit to treat problems of natural resources management in rural areas of developing countries satisfactorily. Some of the basic assumptions underlying neoclassical welfare theory and the corresponding methods of policy and project analysis are often an obstacle in such a context rendering results which are either useless or - even worse - biased against nature, against poor people and against the interests of future generations. The basic assumptions of neoclassical economic theory - and theories in general - have the purpose of defining and structuring the problems to be analyzed and of specifiying the conditions under whi ch the particular theory, model or method can be appropriately applied. Economists - compared to other social scientists - are comparatively good at structuring problems in the form of models, at formulating hypotheses and applying statistical methods (ec onometrics) to test them. They are also good at basing their arguments - as policy advisers - on quantitative indicators (prices or other derived values such as 'shadow prices', costs, benefits, internal rates of return, benefit/cost ratios etc.). Particu larly in the case of developing countries, however, these indicators often suggest hard facts while they are merely the results of Procrustean exercises demanded by donor agencies or motivated by the ambition of a researcher to apply sophisticated quantit ative methods. These methods, however, are usually only concerned with the 'well-structured'7) part of a problem, the technical and economic feasibility in the case of development projects. The ill-structured part, on the other hand, often circ umscribed as the 'institutional framework' (comprising the political, social, cultural dimensions of development) and the question of sustainability (meaning the time dimension and institutional embeddedness of development) is often treated insufficiently , is ignored or is taken care of by way of assumptions.

There has always been an uneasiness among economists working in development - and even more so among other social scientists - about some standard assumptions of neoclassical welfare theory when applying the corresponding methods under circumstances where markets tend to be underdeveloped, transactions in markets are particularly costly or of minor importance and information on income opportunities is scarce and unevenly distributed. In rural areas of developing countries the exchange o f products, factors of production and services often takes place outside markets or via mixed market-non-market contractual arrangements and even market transactions are often influenced by political power, by personal relationships (patron-client, kinshi p, 'conpadresco', farmer-trader etc.), by rent-seeking behaviour or by plain corruption. Market failure, as economists call such phenomenon, is even more of a problem when it comes to analyzing the problem of non-sustainable use of natural resources in ru ral environments. Here common property resources, public goods, externalities and natural monopolies are associated with the term 'market failure' often leading to the hasty suggestion of solutions through state intervention via projects and policies. The past experience with development aid, however, gives ample evidence of 'government failure', particularly in terms of management and maintenance of physical infrastructure provided by the state and management of natural resources. For lack of control and high monitoring (transaction) cost, state rules are rarely enforced leading to the deterioration of infrastructure and government owned natural resources. Even though the analysis of social institutions and organizations other than markets are in general less structured and more the field of social scientists other than economists, there are institutional economists combining the rigour of structured neoclassical economic analysis with an interest in institutions and organizations. Public choice and game theory, information and transaction cost economics, collective action, principal-agent relationships, moral hazard, adverse selection, interlinked markets, mixed market-non-market configurations etc. are some of the catchwords and subjects of interest us eful for the design of empirical research on institutions in the context of natural resources management8).

The impact of these new concerns and of the corresponding research results on the analysis and design of projects intended to improve the management and use of natural resources so far, however, seems to be limited. The planning tools u sed e.g. within German technical cooperation such as ZOPP (logical framework concept of GTZ9)), PRA (participatory rural appraisal), PCM (project cycle management) or the so-called 'open orientation phase', though featuring elements of institut ional analysis (e.g. participation analysis matrix within ZOPP methodology, wealth ranking and venn or chapaty diagrams as a PRA tool) are quite superficial. They mostly neither distinguish between assigned roles, hidden agendas or vested interests of dif ferent stakeholders, nor do they include the whole spectrum of institutional configurations. And they usually are only applied after decisions in favour of a particular project, executing agency, approach or technology have already been taken 10) . A timely and systematic analysis of organizations and institutions, of informal norms and rules as well as of formal laws and property rights as part of project preparation, however, seems particularly important for improving the management of renewabl e natural resources in order to understand the incentive structure of stakeholders within a new project environment and cultural context. It will help (i) to identify key issues to be considered in project design, (ii) to avoid unnecessary conflicts in pr oject implementation and thus (iii) to achieve more sustainable project results and resources management.

With these general objectives the present framework is a first stept towards a conceptual base (i) for research on (individual and collective) human behaviour in the management of natural resources in rural areas of developing countries , (ii) for interactive analyses of institutional causes of non-sustainable use of renewable natural resources in rural areas of developing countries, (iii) for the identification, description and analysis of existing organizations and institutions relevan t to projects of sustainable resource use, (vi) for the improvement of institutions and the creation or support of organizations promoting sustainable resources management and (v) for the preparation of new institutional arrangements or of projects enhanc ing the sustainability of natural resources management systems.

3. Positive and normative analyses of institutions for understanding and improving sustainability of natural resource use

In the section above, the neoclassical model of an economy - where the coordination of individual decisions and the exchange of goods and services is assumed to be realized exclusively through markets - has been criticized and consi dered to be not well-adapted for treating problems of non-sustainable resource use in rural areas of developing countries. In the present section, the corresponding neoclassical model with respect to human behaviour ('homo oeconomicus') is questioned and an extended behavioural model will be proposed. According to the model of neoclassical economics individual and collective behaviour is explained purely by economic incentives given via markets in form of prices of goods and services exchanged. This assum ption allows to analyze the impact of policies which change prices and, correspondingly, costs and benefits for consumers and entrepreneurs (e.g. through taxes, subsidies, fees) on the behaviour of actors. Another assumption necessary for such analysis is a maximizing rationale based on a given individual preference structure (constant over time) of the actors: profit maximization in the case of entrepreneurs (firms), utility maximization in the case of consumers (households).

Institutional economists, on the other hand, extend their subjects of interest to the analysis of incentives coming from organizational and institutional arrangements other than markets. Households, extended families, communities, commu nication and exchange networks, government, non-governmental and mixed private-government organizations etc. are subject of institutional analysis, with the incentives coming from particular organizational configurations as well as incentives and disincen tives coming from obligations and entitlements in the form of informal rules and norms, formal laws, contracts and property rights. Institutions are assumed to condition human behaviour and regulate the interaction between stakeholders or actors within a particular social or geographical unit. Representing restrictions and options at the same time, they provide incentives to and define the decision space of actors and reduce uncertainty about the behaviour of other actors. Institutions and the information on them thus facilitate individual and collective decision making as well as coordination and cooperation between different actors. In economic terms institutions influence costs, often called 'transaction costs'.

The effectiveness of institutions and their ability to reduce transaction costs, however, depend on their embeddedness within other relevant variables in the decision space and on the availability of information in the preparation of de cisions. Thus, the effectiveness of institutions as informal rules, norms, obligations or entitlements are partly conditioned by an individual's capabilities, knowledge, perceptions and preferences - a vector of variables located on a mental plane. Instit utions as formal rules, laws, entitlements or property rights, on the other hand, are part of a vector of variables on an operational plane. Other variables of the latter are explicitly formulated goals, available resources (including information), the st ate of the environment and options for action (activities) with corresponding expected outcomes.

In performing institutional analyses information concerning operational variables is generally more easily accessible and these variables are often quantifiable in physical units, in terms of costs and benefits, respectively. They are t hus found more within the domain of economists and quantitatively working social scientists. The variables on the mental plane, on the other hand, try to capture features which are hidden, often even to the actors themselves, and are less easily accessibl e and quantifyable with methods known to economists. Their further specification and integration into applied research will therefore require contributions from psychologists or behavioural scientists for specifying research topics, hypotheses, methods fo r information generation and processing as well as statistical tests.

A research project on institutions and behaviour can be understood and designed as positive or normative analysis. A positive analysis will describe and understand institutions, explaining how they work and influence behaviour in a part icular cultural context and within a given set of exogenous variables concerning the physical, economic, social and political environment. This analysis might perhaps arrive at predicting how actors will behave under a different set of exogenous variables or institutional setup. Like normative analysis, research might e.g. concern questions of how sustainability should be defined in a particular context for a particular problem, which institutions (informal or formal property rights, entitlements) or form s of organization will lead to a more sustainable resource use than others, or of how certain institutions or organizations might be designed, introduced or fostered in order to achieve a more sustainable management of natural resources within a given geo graphical area. Positive analyses will mostly be needed as part of normative inquieries. For both types of analysis transparency concerning the objectives, subjects and methods has to be maintained through communication and exchange of information between researchers from different disciplines as well as between researchers and the actors or stakeholders concerned.

4. Political and global dimensions of research on institutions of natural resources management and livelihoods in rural areas of developing countries

From the research agenda indicated above some inferences about the political dimension and implications of such research become clear. Even though the subjects investigated (understanding of institutions and human behaviour in the c ontext of natural resource use) are of a general and, particularly, of theoretical interest, empirical research has to be done in an action research framework related to the solution of specific problems of non-sustainable resource use as perceived by sta keholders. This means, an interest and a sincere commitment is needed on part of the more influential (and perhaps: affluent) stakeholder(s) involved. This commitment includes time and resources for participation in research as well as the political will and funds to initiate changes in current institutions and patterns of resource use once research results become available with respect to causes of non-sustainability and options for countervailing measures.

As has been pointed out before, the perception of non-sustainability, its extent and possible causes by different actors (stakeholders) will not be unanimous and there might be little interest or even fear concerning outside interferenc e, the creation of transparency with respect to causes of resource degradation or to hidden agendas as well as apprehensions about changes in the institutional status quo, about self-organization and about the empowerment of hitherto disorganized l ocal people. As interests, perceptions and hidden agendas are part of the research agenda interactive methods for getting to know each other, for overcoming fears, for gaining trust and for achieving commitment will have to be identified in a preparatory phase with the help of behavioural scientists. The corresponding concepts will have to be adapted to the particular circumstances or research subject and will be applied and tested throughout research in order to derive specific conclusions on the researc h process, rather than only research results.

The need for a repression free political environment and for an open discourse is quite obvious in action research. Even though there have been some indications to the contrary11) there is a commitment to strive for decentral ized, participatory forms of government and the involvement of local people in decision-making on policies and projects affecting their livelihoods in most Latin American countries. Since the 1992 Rio Conference many countries have explicitly included lon g-run concerns about equity and sustainability - besides short-term goals of economic efficiency and growth - into their policy agenda, i.e. concerns about the rights of all groups in society and of future generations for a decent livelihood.

The consideration of nature as a common world heritage as well as a resource of global dimensions requiring an openness of the country to the concerns and interests of the international community, however, propagated particularly by cou ntries from the North, is still being questioned by many countries in the South. All too often stakeholders representing international concerns and interests12) ignore the skewed distribution of benefits from natural resources and lack respect for the concerns of local people and of regional and national governments when claiming to defend goals of a global and long-run interest13) and when offering to help protect nature as well as offering services or technological and institutiona l innovations.

On the other hand, there seem to be indications that also on a global plane mutual understanding, exchange of information and communication is being improved by means of modern communication technology and institutional innovations. In particular, networks of NRO or research institutes for the exchange of information and research results and funds for the enhancement of sustainability (on an international scale the GEF14)) can be considered institutional innovations fostering understanding, cooperation and coordination of activities to enhance global sustainability. They will have to be taken into consideration when planning and implementing research projects in order to benefit from the experience of others, avoid previous m istakes and traps, economize on scarce research funds and improve the quality of research15).

The deficiencies of neoclassical welfare theory for the valuation of natural resources with competing demand from local and global users becomes evident when considering the valuation of local knowledge, culture and genetic material etc.. Natural resources including wildlife, forests, biodiversity and natural scenery are part of the world heritage and a crucial basis for the livelihood of the rural poor at the same time. As is the case with public goods with local, national and internat ional importance, their valuation in terms of market prices or shadow prices 16) implies methodological problems which have not yet been solved convincingly17) . For negotiating trade-offs and compensation in situations of alternative uses and competing interests ethical, institutional, political, and social dimensions need to be analyzed in addition to the physical (natural eco- or agro-eco-) and economic systems (resource scarcities and willingness to pay). Interactive processes of r esource valuation and for the identification of ('PARETO-') efficient policies, projects and institutions are therefore imperative18).

Attention to the institutional dimension of natural resources management problems and to the methodological correspondence between the local and the global level has recently been drawn by KEOHANE & OSTROM (1995): "... many of the ' design principles' underlying successful self-organized solutions to CPR problems appear relevant to the design of institutions to resolve problems of international cooperation as well as those at a strictly local level"19). The role of in stitu tions for the enhancement of cooperation, for increasing the availability of information and for reducing the costs of devising, monitoring and enforcing rules (transaction costs) are discussed and further elaborated in the different papers of the volume, although on a quite abstract level. The treatment of common property resource (CPR) problems in a game theoretical framework though very adequate for structuring the problem of CPR use, in the case of solving practical problems of non-sustainable resourc e use and of multiple actors is not very helpful. The complexity is such that analytical solutions do not seem to allow any inferences as to practical strategies. A transaction cost framework, on the other hand, appears to be more flexible and challenging for economists and other social scientists working in development concerned with degradation of renewable natural resources, the basic hypothesis being that the problems are caused by a lack of communication respectively high costs in the transactions to wards cooperative strategies in natural resource use20).

5. PRA and survey methods in interdisciplinary participatory action research - some remarks on methodology

The use of PRA methods in action research on natural resources management is widespread and it has become a standard component in projects striving for a demand driven approach in development aid. This is not the place to enter into discussions on research methodology21) , however, the very fact of talking about 'action research', is an indicator for the basic approach of institutional analysis in rural areas of developing countries: it has to be participatory and transpar ent to the people concerned with respect to objectives, content and results, has to be people centred and has to lead to 'action'. Anthropologists and ethnologists have long practiced participatory observation research, while economists and other social s cientists have carried through huge baseline studies for development projects based on questionnaire methods. Both, however, have rarely been part of a single process linking up research with participatory planning and the execution of selfhelp activities . PRA, on the other hand, gives people "approaches and methods... to share, enhance and analyse their knowledge of life and conditions, to plan and to act"22). The principal objective of applying these methods therefore is the involve ment of ru ral people in research concerned with the lasting improvement of their living conditions, in other words with a sustainability perspective. Finding out more about institutions and human behaviour is a secondary objective directly related to a people centr ed approach to development. It is unthinkable to apply PRA methods without subsequently implementing development activities in case an agreement has been found. Otherwise, false expectations will be raised leading to frustration and the immediate deterior ation of people`s well-being: another hope will have been destroyed.

Consequently, there will have to be enough funds available from the beginning to allow for the eventual support of identified activities. A second alternative would be a close association between research and a development project with sufficient financial means and with an interest in a more profound knowledge. As PRA methods tend to have a limited capacity to generate quantitative information for testing hypotheses this means applying also traditional survey methods for the quantifica tion of the identified key indicators and variables mentioned above and for using statistical methods for estimating interrelationships between variables23).

With respect to the interdisciplinarity of research on institutions for sustainable development and natural resources management, practically all other disciplines of the social sciences have a place and should be considered24) . For action research, however, particularly social psychology and behavioural sciences have to be involved as social behaviour, cooperation, communication and interaction between actors from different cultures25) are not only key subjects of the intended research on institutions, but will also help to focus the energies of the participants in action research. For the time being there are only some general ideas of possible methods considered to be useful in the normative analyses of institut ions and projects and enquiries need to be done to get in contact with researchers in corresponding fields interested in empirical research on the subjects to be identified. Here only two examples for possibly useful research approaches will be given. Fir stly, the Transaction Analysis framework, developed by Eric BERNE and made particularly popular by a book by T.A. HARRIS 26). Besides having been successfully used in psychotherapy as a method to enhance understanding between people it has also been applied as a conceptual framework for understanding interaction between social groups and nations 27). Secondly, the Theme-Centered Interaction (TCI) framework, developed as a method of psychotherapy by Ruth COHEN for a similar purpose, has also been applied with a wider perspective of peacefully solving international conflicts. When it comes to solving problems of sustainability in a context where poor people depend on renewable natural resources considered to be irreversibly damaged by th em and lost to future generations and humanity the central role of ethics has been generally acknowledged. How to use an ethics framework in order to reach a consensus on how to improve human forms of interacting and living together in harmony with each o ther as well as with nature is still not very clear28).

On the other hand, an interdisciplinary approach must be open and tolerant to approaches by other disciplines and must show a particular awareness, sensitivity and flexibility in the use of language and terminology. Thus, e.g. the use o f the term 'transaction' in institutional economics (analysis of 'transaction costs') and in behavioural sciences ('transaction analysis'), even though refering to the interaction between people and larger social units in both cases, might turn out to req uire a closer definition in order to be useful for structuring research on human behaviour and social interaction and for quantifying the corresponding relational variables. Another example for the need for clarity in terminology concerns the term 'margin al', which is widely used by economists and ecologists alike. This term is at the very centre of neoclassical economic analysis29) and generally refers to the impact small changes in some economic variable have on others, based on an assumed eq uilibrium situation of an economic system (e.g. efficiency or PARETO optimality of an economy, marginal costs and benefits of a firm, marginal utility of a household). In a spacial analysis it refers to the spacial distribution of agricultural production systems where the main indicators are land rent, soil fertility, distance to markets and transport costs30). In common language and in the use of other disciplines of natural and social sciences the term might be used still differently, e.g. 'm arginalized social groups' or 'marginal soils'. Delimitating the different uses of the term or trying to find a common denominator can be a quite frustrating exercise as has been shown by BLAIKIE & BROOKFIELD (1987: 19).

6. Basic assumptions, features and hypotheses of institutional analysis in a natural resources framework

The basic assumptions, features and hypotheses of the conceptual framework for institutional analysis in the context of the management of renewable natural resources in rural areas of developing countries are as follows:

1. We define sustainability as 'context specific collective rationality' and adopt the basic hypothesis of microeconomic economic theory that collective rationality can only be understood by analyzing individua l behaviour and its rationality (assumption of methodological individualism).

2. Rationalindividual behaviour does not automatically lead to collectively rational outcomes as is often assumed in neoclassical theory. Collectively rational outcomes, defined as the 'intra- and intergene rationally optimal allocation of resources' , in terms of neoclassical theory concerns only economic efficiency. The basic assumption concerning the socially optimal initial distribution of entitlements (property rights) to resources and of incomes der ived from them has to be questioned in institutional analysis. Assuming strategically acting stakeholders in situations of outside interference, coercion, natural calamities, and shocks makes evaluations based on standard cost-benefit methodology highly q uestionable31) as markets are of little importance, are not perfect, are not in equilibirium, and there are costs in transacting - within markets as well outside. Quantitative models and corresponding cost-benefit indicators may thus only be us ed for a very short time horizon, for partial problems of markets or organisations, and for the purpose of consistency checks or as a point of reference. Equity and sustainability objectives have therefore to be operationalized and integrated into the ana lysis of projects and institutions32).

3. Individual rationality does neither imply maximizing nor selfish behaviour but is rather understood as goal oriented and consistent behaviour in the sense that actors can rank a given number of options according to preferences and corresponding operational goals (consistency assumption). Outcomes (e.g. in terms of costs and benefits of a technological or institutional innovation) have to be seen in terms of expected values with the risk aversion of individuals and collectives being a component to be considered in this analysis33).

4. Contrary to neoclassical economics the present framework distinguishes individual actors from organizations as actors and stakeholders. Individuals may act as resource users themselves or in specific positions with in organizations or with particular roles (e.g. as traditional or modern leaders, money lenders, innovators). Organizations are seen as social structures in which individuals cooperate according to given and agreed upon rules34). By cons idering the whole range of institutional configurations of civil society, from a simple verbal contractual arrangement (e.g. reciprocal exchange of a service or product) to a complex hierarchical multipurpose organization the usual dichotomy of market-sta te and private-public is overcome35).

5. Institutions are understood as rules which determine the decisions and the interaction of actors by restricting as well as widening the decision space. They thus represent constraints and resources at the same time. As in formal rules and norms of behavior as well as formal institutions with legal status (e.g. contracts, property rights, statutes, committees) they may cause as well as help save transaction costs within a social system and must be considered part of social capital 36) .

6. In the analysis of individual behaviour mental asessing will be distinguished from an operational one. Capabilities, perceptions, norms of behaviour and preferences are elements forming a vector of mental variables; goals , entitlements to resources and alternative incomes (contractual arrangements or property rights), states of the environment, alternative activity sets with corresponding expected outcomes are elements of a vector of operational variables. Consiste ncy in the sense of a unique ranking of goals and activity sets can be expected on the operational plane but not in the sense of a unique and stable order of preferences. The time horizon for which stable preferences can be assumed and the degree to which preferences can be ranked in a definite order is expected to vary between individuals within a social system.

7. Empirical analyses of sustainable and non-sustainable use of renewable natural resources might be carried out for a given organization (rural family, household-firm) in a FSR context or for a larger social system or te rritorial unit (traditional community, district, watershed). The relationship between variables on the mental and operational plane, the individual perceptions, capabilities, norms, entitlements (property rights) to physical as well as informational r esources are assumed to explain individual behaviour as well as cooperative or non-cooperative behaviour in the sustainable or non-sustainable management of natural resources 37).

8. The estimation of market demand functions and quantitative indicators (willingness to pay) for the valuation of resources and outcomesof activitysets in the use of natural resources will only be pos sible in exceptional cases. Instead, preferences and valuations will have to be determined directly by means of questionnaires (e.g. contingent valuation, CV), identified in interactive processes between actors (e.g. participatory rural appr aisal, PRA; theme-centered interaction, TCI) or derived indirectly (e.g. travel cost approach). The same methods will be used for the identification, specification and, ideally, quantification of transformation and transaction acitivities and costs as wel l as for sets of activities and the corresponding expected outcomes 38).

9. To inquire into behavioural patterns of actors the following hypotheses are proposed: (i) situation specific rationality: satisfactory instead of maximum results because of non-indifference to risk; (ii) bounded, subjective rationality dependent on information and transaction costs limitations; (iii) bounded, subjective rationality influenced by perceptions, norms and capabilities; (iv) strategic behaviour, i.e. acting in response to be h aviour of other actors and to expected changes in exogenous variables. For the four hypotheses the particular interactive behaviour within the social system related to collective outcomes of natural resources management (free riding, shirking) will have t o be considered39).

10. Depending on the problem situation and general subject of research various actors might be the subject of interest in institutional analysis. A central focus will certainly be on the rural family, the agricultural household-fir m unit as actors within a larger organizational or geographical unit. The rural family or agricultural household-firm might also be analyzed as organizations with various actors (e.g. gender or age specific stakeholders). Transformation and transaction ac tivities will be analyzed in production (agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, crafts etc.), preparation of production (purchase and preparation of inputs) and treatment of production results (storage, transformation, marketing). Reproductive activitie s will concern home-keeping, health and hygiene, knowledge enhancement, leisure, festivities, ritual and religious services. Other remunerative or non-remunerative activities might concern the provision of services, wage labour, reprocitive labour and ser vices provision, honorary activities, communication, information generation, representation of interests, etc., in short, all activities which any kind of actors in a rural environment might consider worth spending time on.


7. Scope for positive and normative institutional analysis in conflictive situations?

A typical conflict situation where positive and normative institutional analyses might be needed are buffer zones of natural parks or nature reserves where conservation interests clash with settlers or loggers. Logging, harvesting o f high valued non-wood forest products, adventure tourism, and the production of drugs or other commercial crops are activities with high commercial returns, usually realized within an extremely short time span. Conservation objectives of national governm ents or international organizations, on the other hand, are motivated by political goals, by ethical norms and with a concern for the longer time span. The actors might be indigenous peoples only marginally in touch with the rest of society, traditional p easants, settlers and migrants from other parts of the same country or abroad, profit oriented private enterprises, representatives from the local, regional or national administrative and political system, from local or national NGOs as well as from inter national NGOs and official donor agencies. The valuation of resources and the search for a solution in such a complex situation of competing resource use will be extremely difficult. Because of the high stakes involved, both for resource users as well as protecters (physical or cultural survival vs. extreme wealth vs. political credibility or survival vs. religious beliefs or moral obligations) a high political sensitivity and criminal potential as well as acute danger of violent solutions in case the eff orts of a participatory approach fail are inherent in such situations.

In each case, the mixed group of actors involved, the distorted distribution of information and power, the types of institutions to be considered and the corresponding variables to be analyzed will be specific to the particular natural, social, cultural, economic, political and institutional environment. An interdisciplinary research approach will require a combination of corresponding skills specific to each particular situation. Besides natural scientists and economists concentrating on the more structured part of situation analysis based on quantitative data, social scientists and particularly behavioural scientists will be needed to analyze the less structured part and also bridge the gap between actors with often very limited abili ty to communicate. In some contexts the severity of conflicts and the complexity of different interests, hidden agendas and stakes involved might neither allow for bridging the gap between actors nor for carrying out institutional analysis with a particip atory policy analysis framework. Any other approach, however, will only be a second or third best solution and to the detriment of nature since the politically powerful and the powerless poor are often those who - although for different reasons - use rene wable natural resources in an non-sustainable way40).

8. Some topics of interest for particular research projects

The following topics might be considered in research on institutions in natural resources management as part of a development aid or thesis project. They are only briefly sketched, partly overlapping and will need to be further elab orated after observations on the present paper will have been received and after specific problem situations will have been identified41).

1. Comparative analysis of organizational configurations for the collective management and coordination of individual strategies in the use of renewable natural ressources

The focus will be on different organizations in a rural natural resources management environment. They might be rural families, agricultural household-firm configurations, traditional or recently established water user or pastoral group s, agricultural or other production associations or cooperatives, non-governmental organizations etc. Shirking of individuals within an organization, principal-agent situations and contractual relationships will be of interest. The actors will be either t he individual members of the indicated units, or the different stakeholders within the larger territorial context. Particular attention will be given to transaction activities other than the production activities of neoclassical production theory. Identif ication, description and valuation in terms of time, material and monetary costs of these transaction activities will be an important step to a more structured comparative positive analysis of different organizational configurations and will serve as a ba sis for normative considerations in organizational choice. The role of risk, individual and social valuation of time, valuation of future costs and benefits, individual vs. collective time preference functions and gender perspectives might be issues taken up and included in hypotheses of individual behaviour to be tested42).

2. Procedures for an interactive discourse between stakeholders for attaining PARETO improvements in the management of renewable natural resources management in a local and regional development context (positive and normative analy sis).

Solving problems of non-sustainability in the use of natural resources will always mean analyzing situations of competing uses and, therefore, conflicting interests. Assumptions of optimal initial distribution of property rights on reso urces, hypothetical compensation as well as zero transaction costs underlying the concept of 'potential PARETO improvement' (PPI) in a neoclassical benefit-cost framework ignores via assumptions the problems which in a real situation, however, cannot be b ypassed. Even without considering (re-) distributional policies, in any democratic society an agreement on trade-offs between different strategies (alternative institutions, investments or projects) of natural resources management has to be found. Percept ions on resource degradation and its reasons, measures to be introduced, valuation of resources and trade-offs between measures, interests concerning resource degradation etc. are questions to be solved in an interactive process.

Research will therefore have to inquire into how the difficulties of finding a consensus are influenced e.g. by perceptions of actors, communication systems, culture, traditional rules and norms as (internal) institutions, the legal fra mework as part of democratic (external) institutions, alternative income earning activities of the poor, the importance of stakes involved for the rich (e.g. lumber, high-valued crops like drugs), hidden agendas and corruption. Situations of non-cooperati on and non-stainability might be particularly strongly related to one or various of these factors. Knowledge on them will be necessary for identifying the appropriate actions to be taken, procedures for a participatory situation analysis and a bargaining process to be established, perhaps with the help of an independent mediator who will have to be identified in the process.

Information on non-sustainability or non-sustainable resource use patterns of specific actors and on their specific situation with respect to the variables indicated might sometimes be evenly spread, readily available and agreed upon. M ore often, however, it will be asymmetrically distributed and strategically used by different actors or stakeholders. Getting to know the role of information (types, sources, generation costs, use etc.) and communication (patterns, barriers, costs etc.) a nd corresponding technology as well as the potential of TA and TCI methods to reduce transaction costs in the search for a consensus on projects and institutional setups will be central to this research. A thorough understanding of the underlying theoreti cal concepts of neoclassical welfare and resource economics as well as New Institutional Economics (e.g. PARETO optimality, COASE theorem, transaction cost economics) and of concepts of behavioural science will have to be aquired.

3. Sustainability as context specific collective rationality vs. individual rationality in the use of renewable natural resources

Here the perception of sustainability and non-sustainability of a resources management situation by stakeholders and its influence on collective action will be the focus of research. In the case of individuals the assessment vector (men tal plane) will be related to the operational vector, in the case of organizations the perceptions of key individuals (mental plane) to the operational vector of the organization. Thus individual perceptions are compared to collective (average) perception s, declared operational variables to actual behaviour, variables on the mental plane to variables on an operational plane. Behaviour of individuals and organizations is expected to be at least consistent i.e. the choice of activities, activity sets or opt ions corresponds to declared operational variables such as goals, perceived and real options and restrictions (institutions), expected outcomes, assessed risks etc. Insights into the relationship between individual rationality and intra- and intergenerati onal collective rationality in the use of renewable natural resources for a particular situation and group of actors are expected.

Understanding the role of markets and of other institutions as a source of incentives and disincentives should help finding collective arrangements for using natural resources in a more sustainable way. The distinction between natural r esources as assets as well as sources of income streams, between discount rates and time preference rates, and between free access, common property and privately owned resources will have to be understood. A distincion between a vector of variables on a m ental and on an operational plane will have to be accepted as a basic working hypothesis to allow for inquiries into the relationship between perceptions of sustainability, capabilities, preferences and social norms on the one hand and operational variabl es as well as actual behaviour concerning coordination, cooperation, collective decisionmaking and collective resource use on the other. The correlation between variables on a mental and on an operational plane will have to be calculated and hypotheses te sted in order to gain insights into the role of perceptions, social norms, capabilities and information as well as goals, property rights on resources, entitlements to alternative incomes in explaining differences in behaviour or inconsistencies.

4. Behaviour of individual actors in institutionally significant positions (leaders) and as key resource users or decision-makers within organizations

Traditional and modern leaders (chiefs, clergymen, politicians etc.) often are considered transaction cost saving institutions in the sense that they might have a strong influence on individual and collective behaviour and thus on a pea ceful settlement of conflicts. For processes of collective action in natural resources management, in the preparation and participation of project activities, as innovators, in creating new or reforming old institutions or organizations and acting as lead ers within organizations etc. they often have a key role to play. As mediators they might be useful in negotiating compensation between international, national and local stakeholders. On the other hand, they might be a principal cause for non-sustainable resources use in case of abuse of position and of political, economic or other power. Different hypotheses with respect to human behaviour need to be tested for individual actors or decisionmakers within organizations, including strategic, income and weal th maximizing or satisfying behaviour, orientation on traditional norms and beliefs as well as hypotheses with respect to constant vs. changing preferences, bounded or subjective rationality.

5. Institutions as informal rules and norms of behaviour as well as humanly devised formal and legally binding rules in a dynamic context - inquiries into institutional change in natural resource use in rural areas of developing co untries

Understanding institutions as constraints as well as resources is also a useful assumption from a dynamic perspective to the problem of resource degradation in an institutional economic framework. Besides probing theoretical explanation s of institutional change in the face of non-sustainable resource use in rural areas of developing countries42), this research is considered to be useful in understanding institutions of natural resources management in a local context. In parti cular, it will have to be seen how the distinction between variables of a mental vector as well as an operational vector can be integrated into a dynamic analysis. A change over time in the importance of institutions as informal rules and norms or as form al rights and entitlements can be expected, enhanced by a gradual decrease in the dependence of local people on incomes from direct use of local natural resources. Also, an increase in activities in other sectors as well as in other geographical regions w ill have an impact on how people value nature and natural resources and how they manage them. Opportunity costs and transaction costs will be central variables to be considered, even if a retrospective quantification will be quite difficult. Inquiries int o institutions as perceived and real restrictions, on a mental as well as an operational plane and between people of different social units, of different economic sectors and different geographical regions are expected to give useful insights into underst anding institutional reasons for the degradation of natural resources. Current theories 44) will have to be considered, even though formal tests might not be possible.

Quantitative analyses and the testing of corresponding hypotheses will not only be difficult for reasons of lack of information but also because of the multiple interdependencies of variables. As institutions influence human behaviour a nd - at the same time - have been created and modified by people in the course of time, a clear distinctions of demand and supply aspects as well as of cause and effect in institutional change is difficult. Compared to the reductionist approach in growth models of modern analytical economics, inquiries into institutional change are much more difficult, particularly with respect to the identification of and the distinction between endogenous and exogenous variables. Together with the difficulty of finding adequate quantitative data modesty in expectations with respect to a better understanding of sustainability and institutions in a dynamic context is required45).


1) See also GANS, O. (ed.) (1989) Environmental and Institutional Development. Aspects of Economic and Agricultural Policies in Developing Countries. Studies in Applied Economics and Rural Institutions 19, Saarbrücken & Fort La uderdale

2).TSCHIERSCH, J.E. (1989) Institutional Causes of Natural Resource and Environmental Problems in Rural Areas of Developing Countries. In GANS, O. ibid. 35-51

3) See HATZIUS, T. (1993) Resource Use in Andean Agriculture. Neoclassical and New Institutional Concepts for Understanding Rural Institutions, Diskussionsschriften No.32; (1995) Resource degradation in rural areas of developing countri es from an institutional economic perspective. Diskussionsschriften No.43; (1996) The Institutional Dimension of Sustainability in Rural Development. Diskussionsschriften No.49.

4) FIA, besides keeping in touch with the 'Institute of Development Studies', University of Sussex, Brighton, England, is in contact with the 'Instituto de Ecología', Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz, Bolivia, the ' Instituto Interamericano de Cooperación para la Agricultura' (IICA), Coronado, San José, Costa Rica and with the 'Institute of Development Studies', Jaipur, India. Ratna V. REDDY, a fellow of the latter institute is currently in Heidelberg o n a VON HUMBOLDT scholarship.

5) In the course of the paper quite extensive references are given which should help the interested reader to further enquire into the subjects treated.

6) See HATZIUS, T. (1996) Sustainability and Institutions - Catchwords or New Agenda for Ecologically Sound Development? Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Working Paper No. 48, Brighton

7) Concerning the well-structured part of a problem, see HATZIUS, T. (1990) Entscheidungs-Unterstützungs-Systeme - einige Begriffserklärungen und Erläuterungen, Diskussionsschriften No.17

8) See e.g. DE JANVRY et al. (1995), KEOHANE, R.O. & E.OSTROM (1995), OSTROM, E. et al. (1994); HOFF et al. (1993), OSTROM, E. et al. (1993), GILLROY (1993) HAYAMI & OTSUKA (1993), JOHNSON (1991), WEIMANN (1991), LANDAU (1990), KREPS (1990), OSTROM, V. et al. (1988), LUSK & RILEY (1986)

9) ZOPP (zielorientierte Projektplanung) has been developed by GTZ (German Society for Technical Cooperation) based on the logframe approach used in some form or other by most donors

10) See e.g. LANG & DRECHSLER (1989); more recent work by HUPPERT & URBAN (1994) in the specific context of irrigation management and by GTZ Division 403 has not yet been revised and will also have to be taken into consideration

11) See e.g. The Economist Nov.30th, 1996 "Backlash in Latin America" and the latest news from Peru

12) E.g. politicians or donor agencies of multilateral and bilateral aid, non-governmental or voluntary as well as research organizations

13) E.g. preservation of bio-diversity, property rights for genetic material, collection and storage of data on local resources and indigenous knowledge

14) See GEF (1994) Global Environmental Facility and SJÖBERG (1994)

15) Examples are e.g. the ODI Agricultural Research & Extension (AgREN), Pastoral Development, Rural Development Forestry, and Social Forestry Networks; ODI/IIMI Irrigation Management Network, the IIED Dryland Networks Programme; se e also EYZAGUIRRE (1996), LEFORT (1995), NEW PARTNERSHIPS WORKING GROUP (1994), DAVIS & PARTRIDGE (1994), BOOTH (1994), HOLDER et al. (1993), ANNIS (1992), KHALIL et al. (1992)

16) They are estimated when no market prices are available, where positive or negative external effects of market transactions have to be considered or when local market prices are otherwise distorted, which makes valuation at world mar ket prices a second-best solution.

17) See e.g. BRUNS (1995), REDDY (1995), TACCONI & BENNET (1995); MUNASHINGE (1994), BASTIAN & SCHREIBER (1994), UNCTAD (1994), TURNER (1993), STRÖBELE (1991), WINPENNY (1991), SCHRAMM & WARFORD (1989), HODGSON (1988), HIRALAL (1987), CUMMINGS et al. (1986);

18) See SILVA (1994) for studies on Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico; see also WICKE (1995), CAREW-REID et al. (1994), UTTING (1994), TANDON (1996), OAKLEY et al. (1991)

19) KEOHANE & OSTROM (1995):2

20) See also PLATTEAU (1996), LUECK (1995), OSTROM, E. (1995), SINGH (1995), SITHOLE & BRADLEY (1995), YOUNG (1995), BALAND & PLATTEAU (1994), OSTROM, GARDNER & WALKER (1994), WHITE & RUNGE (1994), WILSON & THOMPSON (1993), OSTROM, E. (1990), DESHPANDE & REDDY (1990), BROMLEY (1985)

21) See instead e.g. EYZAGUIRRE (1996), BRACE (1995), CORNWALL et al. (1994), MOSSE (1994), FISHER, WHEELER & ZWICK (1993), SHOGREN (1993), SALAS (1992), McCRACKEN et al. (1988), HILL (1986), VON KELLER (1982)

22) CHAMBERS (1992)

23) See the IDS-Bibliography by STEWART et al. (1995), in particular the chapter on 'Soil and water conservation, watershed management' by Joost GUIJT and e.g. DEFOER et al. (1996), REDDY (1996), NARAYAN (1995), OMOLO et al. (1995), SCO ONES (1995), FERNANDO (1995), FORD et al. (1994), MOSSE (1994), SALAS & TILLMANN (1994), WESTPHAL et al. (1994), FORD et al. (1992), PALINISWAMY et al. (1992)

24) See also BADER (1994), PETERS (1994), IRMEN & FUNKE (1993), STREETEN (1992), PRESCOTT (1987), FOX & MILES (1987), HILL (1986), LIPTON (1970), MOSHER (1969), ALBERT (1967)

25) Different cultures with different perceptions of what 'sustainability' or 'development' means also coexist within the same country, the Andean countries are good examples here. See also THOMPSON (1995) on his 'cultural theory' appli ed to Nepal, LEACH & MEARNS (1996) on perceptions of resource degradation. For the role of culture in development see e.g. SENGHAAS (1996), GASPER (1995), HOFSTEDE (1994), FIOL (1991), BARRACLOUGH (1980), KIRPAL (1976), MOORE (1968)

26) HARRIS, T.A. (1973) I'm OK, you're OK

27) Ibido p. 249

28) See also ROY (1996), MITTELSTRAß (1995), BROAD (1994), KOSLOWSKI (1988), FRANK (1988), LEACH & MEARNS (1992)

29) See BRUNS (1995)

30) A spacial model first introduced by VON THÜNEN, see CHOMITZ & GRAY (1996) for a recent application of the model in the context of natural resources management in developing countries

31) Thus, actors rarely act in 'standard situtations' an assumption made for PARETO optimality criteria; see MARGGRAF (1991)

32) See also PASCHE (1994), QIUXIA & HERRMANN-PILLATH (1992), FREY (1990), NORTH (1992) and (1990), BARZEL (1989)

33) See also BRANDES (1996) and (1985), ITO (1994), HODGSON (1993), MULLER (1993), NORTH (1992) and (1990), PENZ (1992), PLATTEAU (1992), SCHENK (1992), SCHLÖSSER (1992), OSTROM (1990), ELSTER (1989), GERHARDT (1989), SCHÄFER & WEHRT (1989), HODGSON (1988), BLASEIO (1986), ELSNER (1986), AKERLOF (1984), FIELD (1984), BECKER (1982), TIETZEL (1981), ALBERT (1963)

34) Examples are private firms, rural households, grassroots organizations, water user associations, local communities, NGOs, local government or central government administrative units

35) See STREETEN (1995), OSTROM, V., FEENY & PICHT (1993), TOYE (1993), NORTH (1992), KLITGAARD (1991), LEWIS (1990), WADE (1988), RAMB (1988), BATES (1981)

36) The corresponding theoretical explanations can be found in the NIE literature, particularly in NORTH (1990); see also BATES (1995), HARRISS et al. (1995), REUTER (1995) and (1994), HODGSON (1993), FURUBOTN & RICHTER (1991), NORT H (1989), STIGLITZ (1989), HODGSON (1988)

37) See also BARDHAN (1995), BIANCHI & MILLER (1995), VOGEL (1995), GREEN & SHAPIRO (1994), JUVIK (1993), TOYE (1993), TANG (1992), MARGGRAF (1991), NORTH (1990), BARZEL (1989), ELSTER (1989), AXELROD (1991), HIRSCHMAN (1984), B LAU (1967), OLSON (1965)


39) See e.g. OSTROM, GARDNER & WALKER (1994), KNUDSEN (1993), LANGLOIS & CSONTOS (1993), HILL (1986), BECKER (1982), ALBERT (1967)

40) For other settings see e.g. MERTINS & POPP, 1996 COLDHAM (1995), NOTZKE (1995), DAVIES & JOHNSON (1994/95), GADGIL & GUHA (1994), LUND (1994), SCOONES & COUSINS (1994), SILVA (1994), TRAWICK (1994), COLCHESTER & LOHMANN (1993), EADIE BRANDON & WELLS (1992)

41) Interesting examples for action research in natural resources management are e.g. RAVNBORG & ASHBY (1996);

42) The research might be based on the experience with farming systems research, possibly extending to a watershed or regional context; NIE concepts based on COASE (1994), (1988), and (1937), WILLIAMSON (1990), (1985), and (1979) might be a good point of departure; see also BARDHAN (1995), BIANCHI & MILLER (1995), TOYE (1993), NORTH (1992), LINDENBERG (1991), KREPS (1990); on time preference and discount rates see NORGAARD & HOWARTH (1992); on watershed management see WHITE & ; RUNGE (1994)

43) The hypotheses of property rights and transaction cost theories revealing a tendency in an economy towards PARETO-optimal (transaction cost minimizing) institutions has to be questioned in the face of resource degradation, see e.g. MARGGRAF (1991) chapter 10, for a critique of a positive welfare economics (transaction cost) approach to explaining institutional change, PLATTEAU (1992) and (1995) for a critique of the evolutionary theory of land rights in an African context; TOYE (199 5) for a critical view on the NIE approach to a theory of institutional change

44) See HATZIUS (1995) section 2.2.2

45) See also BIANCHI & MILLER (1995), OSTROM & KEOHANE (1995), SNIDAL (1995), TOYE (1995), YOUNG (1995), HODGSON (1993), HOFF, BRAVERMAN & STIGLITZ (1993), FEENY (1993), HAYAMI & RUTTAN (1985)

46) Not all references are quoted in the paper. The extensive literature is meant as an orientation in research preparation.



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