Human Ecology

, Volume 35, Issue 6, pp 733–747 | Cite as

Does Tenure Matter? A Comparative Analysis of Agricultural Expansion in the Mosquitia Forest Corridor

  • Tanya Marie Hayes


This article compares how public protection of forests and common-property forest institutions serve to control outside encroachment into frontier forests in Honduras and Nicaragua. The article combines institutional analysis with ethnographically based fieldwork and analysis of land-cover images to evaluate how property-rights arrangements influence monitoring, enforcement, and compliance with rules to restrict agricultural expansion in two biosphere reserves in the Mosquitia Corridor. Findings show that territorial demarcation and common-property rights are important components for frontier forest conservation. In areas with weak enforcement mechanisms and heavy reliance on social norms over official regulatory measures, the findings suggest that the perceived legitimacy of tenure arrangements and their respective land-use rules are fundamental to controlling the agricultural frontier.

Key words

Property rights conservation deforestation protected areas environmental management 



This work would not have been possible without support from the Institute for International Exchange Fulbright Fellowship, National Science Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, the Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change (CIPEC), and the Workshop for Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University. Folks at The Nature Conservancy, MOPAWI, AFE-COHDEFOR, MARENA, Proyecto Biosfera Río Plátano, the Saint Louis Zoo, and Centro Humboldt were also crucial in facilitating my fieldwork. I would like to thank Felipe Murtinho, Anthony Stocks, Tom Evans, and Catherine Tucker for their comments on earlier drafts and Joanna Broderick for her helpful technical edits.


  1. Abu-Lughod D. (2000). Failed Buyout: Land Right for Contra Veterans in Postwar Nicaragua. Latin American Perspectives 27(3): 32–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. AFE-COHDEFOR (Honduran Ministry of Forestry) (2000). Plan de Manejo Reserva del Hombre la Biosfera del Río Plátano. Proyecto Manejo y Protección de la Biosfera del Río Plátano, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.Google Scholar
  3. Angelsen, A., and Kaimowitz, D. (1999). Rethinking the Causes of Deforestation: Lessons from Economic Models. World Bank Research Observer 14(1): 73–98.Google Scholar
  4. Banana, A., and Gombya-Ssembajjwe, W. (2000). Successful forest management: the importance of security of tenure and rule enforcement in Ugandan forests. In Gibson, C. C., McKean, M., and Ostrom, E. (eds.), People and Forests, MIT, Cambridge, MA, pp. 87–98.Google Scholar
  5. Barborak, J. (1992). History of protected areas and their management in Central America. In Steen, H. K., and Tucker, R. P. (eds.), Changing Tropical Forests: Historical Perspectives on the Challenges in Central and South America, Forest History Society, Durham, NC, pp. 93–101.Google Scholar
  6. Batistella, M. (2001). Landscape Change and Land-Use/Land-Cover Dynamics in Rondônia, Brazilian Amazon. CIPEC Dissertation Series, no. 7. Center for the Study of Institutions, Population, and Environmental Change, Indiana University, Bloomington.Google Scholar
  7. Brandon, K., Redford, H., and Sanderson, S. E. (eds.). (1998). Parks in Peril: People, Politics and Protected Areas. The Nature Conservancy, Island, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  8. Bruner, A. G., Gullison, R. E., Rice, R. E., and da Fonseca, G. A. B. (2001). Effectiveness of Parks in Protecting Tropical Biodiversity. Science 291:125–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cárdenas, J. C., Stranlund, J., and Willis, C. (2000). Local Environmental Control and Institutional Crowding Out. World Development 28(10): 1719–1733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carr, D. (2004). Ladino and Q’eqchi Maya Land Use and Land Clearing in the Sierra de Lacandón National Park, Petén, Guatemala. Agriculture and Human Values 21: 171–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chapman, D. (2003). Management of National Parks in Developing Countries: A Proposal for an International Park Service. Ecological Economics 46: 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. CIPEC (Center for the Study of Institutions, Population, and Environmental Change) (2004). International Forestry Resources and Institutions Research Program Field Manual, v. 12, CIPEC, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.Google Scholar
  13. Cupples, J. (1992). Ownership and Privatization in Post-revolutionary Nicaragua Bulletin Latin American Research 11(3), 295–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dietz, T., Ostrom, E., and Stern, P. (2003). The Struggle to Govern the Commons. Science 302: 1907–1911.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dodds, D. (1994). The ecological and social sustainability of the Miskito subsistence in the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, Honduras. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  16. Everingham, M. (2001). Agricultural Property Rights and Political Change in Nicaragua. Latin American Politics and Society 43(3), 61–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Geist, H. J., and Lambin, E. F. (2001). What drives tropical deforestation? Meta-analysis of proximate and underlying causes of deforestation based on subnational case study evidence. LUCC Report Series, no. 4. Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium: LUCC International Project Office, International Geosphere–Biosphere Programme. URL:
  18. Hayes, T. M. (2004). Collaborative management: an institutional analysis of community-state cooperation to conserve the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, Honduras. CIPEC Working Paper CWP-04-03. Center for the Study of Institutions, Population, and Environmental Change (CIPEC), Indiana University, Bloomington.Google Scholar
  19. Hayes, T. M. (2006). Parks, People, and Forest Protection: An Institutional Assessment of the Effectiveness of Protected Areas. World Development 34: 2064–2075.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hayes, T. M., and Murtinho, F. (2005). Sustaining self-governance institutions: an analysis of Miskitu and Mestizo Agricultural Systems in the Bosawas Natural Resource Reserve, Nicaragua. CIPEC Working Paper CWP-05-04, Center for the Study of Institutions, Population, and Environmental Change (CIPEC), Indiana University, Bloomington.Google Scholar
  21. Hayes, T. M., and Ostrom, E. (2005). Conserving the World’s Forests: Are Protected Areas the Only Way? Indiana Law Review 38(595): 595–596.Google Scholar
  22. He, X. (2005). Why Do They not Comply with the Law? Illegality and Semi-legality Among Rural–Urban Migrant Entrepreneurs in Beijing. Law & Society Review 39(3): 527–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Herlihy, P. (1997). Indigenous peoples and biosphere reserve conservation in the Mosquitia rain forest corridor, Honduras. In Stevens, S. (ed.), Conservation through Cultural Survival, Island, Washington DC.Google Scholar
  24. Herlihy, P. (2001). Indigenous and Ladino peoples of the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, Honduras. In Stonich, S. (ed.), Endangered Peoples of Latin America, Greenwood, Westport, CT.Google Scholar
  25. Hurtado de Mendoza, L. (2001). Migración Mestiza en BOSAWAS. Wani 26: 36–45.Google Scholar
  26. Igoe, J. (2004). Conservation and Globalization: A Study of National Parks and Indigenous Communities from East Africa to South Dakota, Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.Google Scholar
  27. IUCN (International Conservation Union). (2003). Building Broader Support for Protected Areas. Presented at the Fifth IUCN World Parks Congress, Durban, South Africa, Sept. 8–17. URL: (accessed December 2005).
  28. Jones, J. (1988). Colonization in Central America. In Manshard, W., and Morgan, W. B. (eds.), Agricultural Expansion and Pioneer Settlements in the Humid Tropics, United Nations University, Tokyo, pp. 241–265.Google Scholar
  29. Kaimowitz, D. (2002). Resources, abundance and competition in the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, Nicaragua. In Matthew, R., Halle, M., and Switzer, J. (eds.), Conserving the Peace: Resources, Livelihoods and Security, International Institute for Sustainable Development Winnipeg, Canada, and International Conservation Union, pp. 171–198.Google Scholar
  30. Kaimowitz, D., Faune, A., and Mendoza, R. (2003). Your Biosphere is my Backyard: The Story of Bosawas in Nicaragua. Policy Matters 12: 6–15.Google Scholar
  31. Kuperan, K., and Sutinen, J. G. (1998). Blue Water Crime: Deterrence, Legitimacy, and Compliance in Fisheries. Law and Society Review 32(2): 309–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. MacFarland, J., Morales, R., and Barborak, J. (1982). Establishment, planning and implementation of a national wildlands system in Costa Rica. In McNeely, J. A., and Miller, K. R. (eds.), National Parks, Conservation, and Development, National Parks, Conservation and Development, Proceedings of the World Congress on National Parks in Bali, Indonesia, 11–12 October 1982, Smithsonian Institute Press, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  33. McKean, M. (1992). Success on the Commons: A Comparative Examination of Institutions for Common Property Resource Management. Journal of Theoretical Politics 4(3): 247–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Messen, A. (1995). Excerpts from “Espectativas Creadas por la Declaración de Zona de Reforma Agraria de los Valles Sico-Paulaya.” Talk presented at the offices of the United States Information Service, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, February 21.Google Scholar
  35. Miller, K., Chang, E., and Johnson, N. (2001). Defining Common Ground for the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, World Resources Institute, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  36. Molnar, A., Scherr, S., Khare, A. (2004). Who Conserves the Worlds Forests? Community-driven Strategies to Protect Forests & Respect Rights, Forest Trends and Ecoagricultural Partners, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  37. Naughton-Treves, L., Buck Holland, M., and Brandon, K. (2005). The Role of Protected Areas in Conserving Biodiversity and Sustaining Local Livelihoods. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 30: 219–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Nepstad, D., Shwartzman, S., Bamberger, B., Santilli, M., Ray, D., Schleseinger, P., et al. (2006). Inhibition of Amazon Deforestation and Fire by Parks and Indigenous Lands. Conservation Biology 20(1): 65–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ostrom, E. (1990). Governing the Commons, Cambridge University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  40. Ostrom, E. (2005). Institutional Diversity, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.Google Scholar
  41. PBRP (Proyecto Biosfera Río Plátano) (1997/98). Río Plátano Biosphere Census, Proyecto Manejo y Protección de la Biosfera del Río Plátano, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.Google Scholar
  42. Redford, K., and Stearman, A. (1993). Forest-dwelling Native Amazonians and the Conservation of Biodiversity: Interests in Common or Collusion. Conservation Biology 7(2): 248–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Redford, K. H. (1991). The Ecologically Noble Savage. Cultural Survival Quarterly 15(1): 46.Google Scholar
  44. Salaverri, J. (1992). La situación actual en la reserva. In Murphy, V. (ed.), La Reserva de la Biosfera del Río Plátano: Herencia de Nuestro Pasado, Ventanas Tropicales, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, pp. 5–8.Google Scholar
  45. Salgado, R. (1996) La tenencia de la tierra en Honduras. In Baumeister, E. (ed.), El Agroltondureno y su Futuro, Editorial Guaymuras, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, pp. 91–132.Google Scholar
  46. Schlager, E., and Ostrom, E. (1992). Property-rights Regimes and Natural Resources: A Conceptual Analysis. Land Economics 68(3): 249–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Stocks, A. (1996). The Bosawas natural reserve and the Mayangna of Nicaragua. In Redford, K., and Mansour, J. (eds.), Traditional Peoples and Biodiversity Conservation in Large Tropical Landscapes, America Verde, Washington, DC, pp. 1–30.Google Scholar
  48. Stocks, A. (1998). Indigenous and Mestizo Settlements in Nicaragua’s Bosawas Reserve: The Prospects for Sustainability. Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Latin American Studies Association, session on “Prospects for Sustainability of Human Settlement in Latin American Rainforest II: Broader Perspectives and Issues, Chicago, Sept. 24–28.Google Scholar
  49. Stocks, A. (2003). Mapping Dreams in Nicaragua’s Bosawas Reserve. Human Organization 62(4): 344.Google Scholar
  50. Stocks, A., McMahan, B., Taber, P. (2006). Beyond the Map: Indigenous and Colonist Impacts and Territorial Defense in Nicaragua’s BOSAWAS Biosphere Reserve. Accessed via Integrated Approaches to Participatory Development. URL:
  51. Stonich, S. (1993). “I am Destroying the Land!” The Political Ecology of Poverty and Environmental Destruction in Honduras, Westview, Boulder, CO.Google Scholar
  52. Struhsaker, T. T., Struhsaker, P. J., and Siex, K. S. (2005). Conserving Africa’s Rain Forests: Problems in Protected Areas and Possible Solutions. Biological Conservation 123(1): 45–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Terborgh, J. (1999). Requiem for Nature, Island, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  54. Terborgh, J. (2000). The Fate of Tropical Forests: A Matter of Stewardship. Conservation Biology 14(5): 1358–1361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. TNC (The Nature Conservancy) (1997a). Mayangna Sauni Bu: Documentación del Reclamo Histórico de las Comunidades Mayangna de la Cuenca del Río Bocay, The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA.Google Scholar
  56. TNC (The Nature Conservancy) (1997b). Miskitu Indian Tasbaika Kum: Historia y Situación Actual de las Comunidades Miskitas del Alto Coco, The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA.Google Scholar
  57. Tyler, T. (1990). Why People Obey the Law, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.Google Scholar
  58. Tyler, T. (1994). Governing Amid Diversity: The Affect of Fair Decision-making Procedures on the Legitimacy of Government. Law and Society Review 28(4): 809–832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. UICN/ORMA. (1995). Resumen Ejecutivo el Estado de Conservación de la Reserva a de Biosfera Río Plátano, International Conservation Union, Honduras.Google Scholar
  60. UNEP-WCMC (United Nations Environmental Program World Conservation Monitoring Centre) n.d. World Heritage Sites, Honduras. URL: (accessed December 2005).
  61. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) (2002). Man and Biosphere Program. URL: (accessed December 2005).
  62. Utting, P. (1993). Trees, People and Power, Earthscan, London.Google Scholar
  63. Wells, M., and Brandon, K. (1992). People and Parks: Linking Protected Area Management with Local Communities, World Bank, Washington DC.Google Scholar
  64. Western, D. (1997). In the Dust of Kilimanjaro, Island, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  65. WRI (World Resources Institute) (1997). The Last Frontier Forests: Ecosystems and Economies on the Edge. World Resources Institute in collaboration with World Conservation Monitoring Center and the World Wildlife Fund. Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  66. WWF (World Wildlife Fund) (2004). Are Protected Areas Working? An Analysis of Forest Protected Areas by WWF. URL: (accessed June 2006).

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Seattle UniversitySeattleUSA

Personalised recommendations