Open Access, Open Systems: Pastoral Resource Management in the Chad Basin

  • Mark MoritzEmail author
  • Paul Scholte
  • Ian M. Hamilton
  • Saïdou Kari
Part of the Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation book series (STHE, volume 11)


The discussion about the impact of pastoralists on ecosystems has been profoundly shaped by Hardin’s tragedy of the commons that held pastoralists responsible for overgrazing the range. Research has shown that grazing ecosystems are much more complex and dynamic than was previously assumed and that they can be managed adaptively as commons. However, proponents and critics of Hardin’s thesis continue to argue that open access to common-pool resources inevitably leads to a tragedy of the commons. A longitudinal study that we conducted of pastoral mobility and primary production in the Logone Floodplain in the Far North Region of Cameroon suggests that open access does not have to lead to a tragedy of the commons. We argue that this pastoral system is best conceptualized as an open system, in which a combination of individual decision-making and coordination of movements leads to an ideal free type of distribution of mobile pastoralists. We explain how this self-organizing system of open access works and its implications for theories of management of common-pool resources and our understanding of pastoral systems.


Common-pool resources Pastoralism Open property regimes Ideal free distribution 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Moritz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paul Scholte
    • 2
  • Ian M. Hamilton
    • 3
    • 4
  • Saïdou Kari
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale ZusammenarbeitBonnGermany
  3. 3.Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal BiologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  4. 4.Department of MathematicsThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  5. 5.Centre d’Appui a la Recherche et au Pastoralisme (CARPA)MarouaCameroon

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