Open Access, Open Systems: Pastoral Management of Common-Pool Resources in the Chad Basin

Mark Moritz
Date and Time: 
Friday, January 31, 2014 - 3:15pm

Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 51A (Colloquium Room)


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 in the Logone floodplain in the Far North Region of Cameroon suggest that open access does not have to lead to a tragedy. We have argued that this pastoral system is best conceptualized as a complex adaptive system, in which a combination of individual decision-making and coordination of movements leads to an ideal free distribution of mobile pastoralists. I explain how this self-organizing system of open access works and discuss the implications for theories of management of common-pool resources and our understanding of pastoral systems.


Mark Moritz is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the Ohio State University (OSU). His research examines how African pastoralists have adapted to changing ecological, political and institutional conditions that affect their lives and livelihoods. His long-term fieldwork has resulted in strong collaborations with local researchers and allowed him to develop innovative, large-scale, interdisciplinary research projects that examine pastoral systems within the analytical framework of coupled human and natural systems using a regional approach that situates the Far North region within the historical context of the greater Chad Basin. Currently Moritz's research focuses on several interrelated areas: management of common-pool resources; ecology of infectious diseases; and regime shifts in coupled human and natural systems.

Colloquium Series This Quarter