Conflict and mediation in high altitude rangeland property rights in Bhutan

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Semi-nomadic yak herders of Bhutan depend on high altitude rangelands and yaks for their livelihoods. Conflicts over high altitude rangelands among herders can lead to sub-optimal management with negative impacts on the environment, livelihoods and socio-economic well-being of semi-nomadic yak herders. This paper explores the conflicts and mediation mechanisms arising from property rights issues amongst semi-nomadic yak herders in three comparative areas of Bhutan: i) Yak herding under a traditional management system withina Protected Area system (Merak, East), ii) Yak herding under a more extensive traditional management system (Dakarla, West) and iii) Yak herding and sedentary livestock farmingwith improved pasture development (Sha Gogona, West Central). Qualitative research methods were adopted to capture the experiences and views of 151 semi-nomadic herders, livestock farmers and government officials including 40 individual interviews and ninefocus group discussions. The research revealed that conflicts over high altitude rangelands occurred within and between yak herding and downstream communities. Unclear boundary and competing property rights; incongruence between sharing of benefits and costs, and contravention of collective choice arrangements all caused conflicts. These conflicts occur within and between communities regardless of the type of user rights regimes (i.e. private,communal or mixed). Herders and sedentary livestock farmers employed both informal and formal conflict resolution mechanisms to resolve intra-community and inter-community conflicts. Fostering tenure security through demarcation and fencing of rangeland boundaries, granting clear property and ownership rights and written group constitution and by-laws that build on traditional collective action are needed to reduce conflicts and improve high altitude rangeland condition.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 16th Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Commons
Subtitle of host publicationPracticing the commons: self-governance, cooperation, and institutional change
Place of PublicationUtrecht, Netherlands
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventXVI Biennial IASC Conference: IASC 2017 - Utrecht University Hall (Academiegebouw), Utrecht, Netherlands
Duration: 10 Jul 201714 Jul 2017 (Conference website) (Conference proceedings)


ConferenceXVI Biennial IASC Conference
Abbreviated titlePracticing the Commons: Self-Governance, Cooperation, and Institutional Change
OtherOn behalf of the IASC and the Local Organizing Committee, I would like to invite you to the XVI Biennial IASC Conference ‘Practicing the commons: self-governance, cooperation, and institutional change’, to be held from 10 to 14 July 2017 in the beautiful medieval city centre of Utrecht.

With this conference, we aim to consolidate and expand the important work of the IASC on the study of the commons, both in academia as well as ‘in the field’. As previous conferences have shown, commons are important worldwide, both in the present as well as in the past. Especially in Europe, due to the increased privatization of public goods and the impact of the economic crisis over the past few years, commons and other forms of institutions for collective action have received increasing attention from both academia as form society itself; Europe even seems to experience a new ‘wave of collective action’ in virtually every sector of society: new forms of institutions for collective action pop up in energy, care, infrastructure and food (see for example the results of recent surveys by our research team ‘Institutions for Collective Action’).

Organizing this conference in Europe will also offer a unique opportunity to give the issue of commons studies a bigger exposure among academics, practitioners, and NGOs, possibly resulting in an increased involvement of European scholars on commons. It will also allow the community of scientists to connect to new, inspiring forms of collective action that are coming up at the moment. We intend to demonstrate that the knowledge brought together within the IASC by scholars and practitioners dealing with the commons from developing countries can be a great source of inspiration for current western developments, in terms of resource management.

On behalf of the IASC and also on behalf of the local organizers, I hope to meet you in Utrecht in July 2017!

Tine De Moor, Past-President IASC / Chair of the Local Organizing Committee IASC2017
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