Communidade & the Tragedy of Commons

The Planning Studio in Goa happened mid February and since then my brain is processing two important pieces of information. One, is the Communidade Code of Land management in Goa’s villages and Second, the Tragedy of Commons.

The Tragedy of Commons (, for more information), is a dilemma arising from a situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally, in their own self interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource even when it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long term interest for this to happen. In the Tragedy of Commons however, there is an anomaly that ‘common’ property, is no one’s property, while everyone uses it. But this is often mistaken for ‘everyone’s property (contradicting the theory of common property) and hence abused, competing with each other for a larger share of the resources.

The Communidade Land Management system also has the concept of ‘common’ or ‘shared’ land property that is used by the community for the well being and economic gains of the community and its people. But in this case, the common property actually belongs to everyone. Under the Communidade practices, the community together owns the land. So it is technically, ‘private’ property, just that there are many owners.

The reason for this exploration is to question this customary Code of land management, its application in Goa. Its possible utilization, in principle, was suggested by a Goan Citizen Forum, for modern land management. It was argued, during our discussions, that the Communidade Code can emerge as a possible model in which modern land management practices can be fashioned to ensure that land, as a resource, is not misused and it remains as a primary resource for the community for its own economic and welfare use.

However, putting the Communidade Code and the Tragedy of Commons side by side, it will be worth questioning if the two are actually talking about the same theory. And, if economists can shed light on this, principally, will having a ‘shared’ resource, inherently, make it more susceptible to abuse?

Yesterday, I also had a chance to discuss this with another colleague, who pointed out that the Communidade Code of land management is inherently feudal in character. Her take was, should traditional systems be retained just because we want to conserve customary practices that are imagined to be easier to follow? Or would we as a country, including of course Goa, like to move towards democratic systems that are yet alien and seem contradictory to our customs?

Of course, the issue remains that land in Goa is being misused. Whether the government can look behind or forward, it needs to understand deeper issues. While drawing from the past, lets hope that we don’t end up reinforcing feudal systems and, at the same time, while moving ahead, we don’t ignore the learning from history!

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