Managing Environmental Policies: Lessons From Traditional Communities

  • Roberta Freitas LemosEmail author
  • Célia Regina Neves Favacho
  • Kátia Cristina Favilla
  • Fábio Henrique Baia
Original Paper


Natural resource conservation concerns have been prevalent around the world, and a range of solutions has been implemented to prevent their depletion. This paper brings together the literature on the commons and on behavioral principles to understand how traditional communities’ management of common pool resources can contribute to this discussion. More specifically, it highlights how these communities can offer lessons to governments on how to develop and manage environmental policies to ensure sustainable development. Whereas Ostrom’s work focuses on investigating how local communities succeed at managing common pool resources without external interference, behavior analysis can explain how cultural practices are selected. Through this combined framework, we investigate the practices of an extractive reserve (RESEX) in Brazil. A RESEX is an area of land, generally state owned, where access and use rights, including natural resource extraction, are allocated to local groups. The RESEX Mãe Grande de Curuçá is an example of common pool resource management that uses governmental tools to benefit the community. Fisherfolks are able to successfully conserve one of their main sources of livelihood: the fiddler crab. Finally, this paper describes and behavioral interactions regarding the conservation of resources that governments may want to consider.


Common pool resources Traditional communities Extractive reserve Cultural selection Public policy 



We thank all the participants of the Think Tank 5 on Cultural Studies where the proposal of this paper was first discussed, but specially Sigrid Glenn, Maria Malott, Aécio Borba, Angelo Sampaio, Laércia Vasconcelos, and Marcelo Henriques for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper. We also thank the RESEX Mãe Grande de Curuçá community members and the ICMBio manager for giving the information we asked for.

Funding Information

This study was not funded.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. The second author is a community member at the RESEX Mãe Grande de Curuçá, who cooperated in this study with the description of the cultural practices of the community.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by the authors. The first author conducted two interviews with the second author to characterize the community’s cultural practices. The quotations from the deliberative council member are derived from these interviews.


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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ministério da CidadaniaBrasíliaBrazil
  2. 2.Comissão Nacional de Fortalecimento das Reservas Extrativistas Costeiras e MarinhasMarinhasBrazil
  3. 3.Conselho Nacional dos Povos e Comunidades TradicionaisBrasíliaBrazil
  4. 4.Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de LisboaLisboaPortugal
  5. 5.Universidade de Rio Verde and Universidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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