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The impacts of long-distance relationships on local natural resource management

Pisor, A.C., Borgerhoff Mulder, M., & Smith, K.M. (2023)

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences

The management of large common-pool resources, like fisheries and forests, is more difficult when more people and more communities can access them—a particular problem given increased population sizes, higher mobility, and globalized trade in the Anthropocene. Social relationships spanning communities, such as kin relationships, business or trade relationships, and friendships, can make management even more challenging by facilitating and transmitting norms of overharvesting. However, these long-distance relationships can also bolster management by transmitting norms for sustainability, promoting interdependence, and laying the groundwork for nested management systems. Here, we review the negative and positive impacts of long-distance relationships on local natural resource management, providing illustrative examples from our field research on forest and fisheries management in Tanzania. Drawing on the evolutionary literature, the development literature, and our field data, we offer suggestions for how development partners can avoid the pitfalls of long-distance relationships and how they can leverage or even deliberately foster long-distance relationships to promote successful local natural resource management.