Success and transformation, collective marketing and common pool credit in a Belizean fishing cooperative an empircal example of a multi-tiered collective action problem /

by 1970- King, Thomas Dean

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation is the combined product of ethnographic field research carried out in a rural fishing community in Belize and the intersection of three literatures interested in society, economy, and community life in similar places around the world. Theoretical and empirical problems important in fisheries anthropology, rural economic development, and self-governing collective action institutions have shaped the research problem discussed in this thesis. I draw from these literatures as they pertain to problems associated with growth in a fishermen’s cooperative. The cooperative has a long and proud history of success in collective marketing that has provided fishermen a high degree of economic self-determination in their village’s development. The fishermen from this small rural fishing community on the Central American shores of the Caribbean Sea provide us with an example of collective action that illustrates the merits of small-scale, community-directed development. Their cooperative is a success story of the popular grassroots approach to rural economic development. These fishermen’s economic success has transformed their cooperative into a multi-million dollar seafood processing and marketing business. However, the accompanying growth in the cooperative’s membership challenges the cooperative’s resilience. As it has grown, the cooperative’s membership has become more diverse, in the fishing methods members use, their residences in relation to the fishing grounds, and in their economic interests in the lobster fishery. These changes in the membership’s composition affect the members’ commitment to collective marketing and their use of a common-pool of credit—nested components of a multi-tiered collective action problem. I adopt a theoretical framework based on Ostrum’s principles for self-governing collective action institutions to test the relationships among several variables internal to the cooperative’s structure and operation: membership composition, monitoring opportunities, member commitment, the costs of providing and maintaining the common-pool of credit, and the benefits collective action confers to members. Selected external factors that affect member commitment and the state of the common credit pool are considered as well, namely the effects of tourism development and the average market price for iii lobsters in a given season. Data collected through interviews with fishermen and other primary and secondary sources are analyzed using measures of association, correlations, and linear regression to test hypotheses generated from the theory. The complexity of the theoretical relationships in the model relative to the number of cases and type of data makes more sophisticated and formal quantitative analysis impractical and inappropriate in the present study. Qualitative analysis of these data provides evidence to support the theory. While the regression carried out to evaluate the interaction of these variables is too imprecise to draw reliable conclusions, it does not contradict the results of qualitative analysis. The qualitative analysis identifies membership composition as a significant factor explaining much of the variation in cooperative members’ monitoring options, commitment to marketing with the society, and level of debt and the costs associated with maintaining it over the cooperative’s 40-year history. However, these variables do not influence the economic returns collective marketing confers to members, but rather their effect is shadowed by the influence of foreign market prices for lobster. Therefore, while fishermen’s collective marketing does not determine the level of economic returns conferred through the cooperative, the persistence of collective marketing does provide the institutional setting by which the members access a higher market price, the determining factor in their deferred second payment. The concluding chapter presents the theoretical contributions and practical significance of these findings. iv
Bibliographical Information:


School:Pennsylvania State University

School Location:USA - Pennsylvania

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:

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