This paper analyses the role of institutions in the management of common pool resources (CPRs) in semi-arid Tanzania. Common property regimes have often been considered inadequate for the management of CPRs because of the problems of excludability, but they are becoming more widely supported as the way forward to overcome the problems of resource use and degradation in developing countries. A series of design principles for long enduring common property institutions have been proposed by Ostrom, but there is concern that they are not applicable to a wide range of real life situations or that they may be specific to certain types of CPR. Here, we compare these principles to the situation prevailing in 12 villages in six districts in semi-arid Tanzania. Data on management institutions were collected through semi-structured interviews and meetings at district and village level. The combined information was used to make a qualitative assessment of the strength with which each design principle appeared to operate in the management of forest, pasture and water resources. Boundaries, conflict and negotiation in CPR management are of key importance in semi-arid regions. However, the need for flexibility in order to deal with ecological uncertainty means that many management institutions would be considered weak or absent according to the design principle approach. This supports the view that the design principles should not be used as a 'blueprint to be imposed on resource management regimes' rather that they provide a framework for investigating common property regimes with the proviso that, certainly for semi-arid regions, they may highlight where management cannot be explained by institutional theory alone.
Quinn, C.H.; Huby, M.; Kiwasila, H.; Lovett, J.C. Design principles and common pool resource management: An institutional approach to evaluating community management in semi-arid Tanzania. Journal of Environmental Management (2007) 84 (1) 100-113. [DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2006.05.008]