The Differential Impact of User Heterogeneity in Resource Management: A Case Study from Kerala

Jeena T Srinivasan
JEL codes: 
Working Paper No. 66 December, 2005

This paper analyses the heterogeneous users decision to participate in comanagement,
which is an institutional alternative proposed in the wake of state’s
failure in managing the Cochin estuarine fisheries in Kerala, India. Since a collective
action under co-management require not only user’s active participation in terms of
their labor but also involve various types of organizational and managerial costs, the
users were given the following choices on co-operation. Firstly, the users had the
choice to contribute their labor in conservation activities, which would ensure
sustainability of the fisheries. Secondly, they could make a voluntary contribution
towards meeting the organizational costs of collective action. Thirdly, they could
contribute in terms of labor as well as in monetary terms. Finally, they had the
choice not to participate at all. Keeping in view the problems of free rider and adoption
of stratagic behaviour by users some incentives were given for each of the above
ways of co-operation. A multinomial logit analysis of the decision of about 369 sample
fishermen to participate in co-management as defined above shows the differential
impact of user heterogeneity in resource management. While heterogeneity in terms
of the present legal status of the users motivate them for contributing their labor even
in the absence of any additional economic incentives, heterogeneity in economic
status and membership in formal organizations matters when it comes to making
monetary payments. In addition to these, the overall optimism of the users’ motivates
them to both physically engage in conservation activities as well as make monetary
payments. Adoption of strategic behaviors by at least some users cannot, however,
be ruled out. On the whole it is seen that the heterogeneous fishermen’s decision to
participate depend upon their anticipation of the distribution of benefits from cooperation.
However, one must be cautious that those who anticipate disproportionate
benefit from co-operation are likely to take a lead role. Therefore, care must be taken
to prevent them from deciding the rules of the game in such a manner that they are
disproportionately in their favor