A Multi-Tier Social-Ecological System Analysis of Protected Areas Co-Management in Belize
Co-management of protected areas has been recognized as a viable option to sustainably manage ecosystems. This collaborative approach actively engages civil society in the protected areas governance processes. Attempts at co-management, however, have not been uniformly successful; whereas the governance of some initiatives succeed and become strong and sustainable, others become weak or fail over time. In this paper, we provide a nuanced application of Ostrom’s multi-tier SES framework to carry out a systematic analysis of representative cases of co-management in Belize. This novel approach allows us to avoid the common problem of overstating the explanatory power of individual variables, while enabling us to tease out the interrelationships among critical process and contextual variables that may influence co-management outcomes. Our findings show that strong co-management is associated with a multiplicity of variables, including information sharing, conflict resolution, investments, self-organization, and networking. Contextual conditions inclusive of strong leadership, social capital, and high levels of dependence on resources for daily livelihoods seem to have influenced these processes over time. The presence of cross-scale and cross-level networks also seems to be important in influencing co-management outcomes. Our study contributes to the further development of Ostrom’s multi-tier SES framework by proposing the addition of five new third-tier variables. We advance some key lessons in the analysis of co-management outcomes and offer some policy recommendations to improve protected areas co-management policy and practice in Belize.
Area of Interest: Belize