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Restless rural spaces in the Iberian Peninsula--Montes Vecinais en Man Comun in Galicia and Baldios in the north of Portugal.

Short title: Commonlands in the northwestern Iberian Peninsula

1. Introduction

In the highlands of north-western Iberian Peninsula, on both sides of the border separating Portugal from Spain, commons remain in existence to this day. The economic significance of the highlands, along with its communitarian benefit, has been a reality for centuries. In the mountains herds provided meat, grease and wool, while wood was gathered for fireplaces and bush provided livestock bedding material, working also as fertilizer for the expanding agriculture. The commonlands were kept in existence and acknowledged throughout the evolving process from the primitive medieval economy to the modern capitalist-type economy. Having undergone the fervour of disentailment during the 1800s liberalist period (in some areas as those of north-western Iberian Peninsula, with a large group of peasant small-holders, the consolidation of capitalism gave rise to a less unequal division of land: the rate of privatization was not so high, due to a social consensus on the need for the conservation of at least a part of the commons (Iriarte-Gona, 2002), working for the sound traditional equilibrium between important land owners and poor peasants), the commons--Montes Vecinais En Man Comun (MVMC) in Galicia and Baldios in Portugal--also survived the 20th century totalitarian interventions of Franco and Salazar's regimes. In the last quarter of the 20th century, the rising of democratic regimes in Portugal and Spain enabled the restitution of the commons to the communities which once owned them. However, regarding the rural changes in recent decades and the decline of the highlands' traditional functions, these are currently a 'different kind' of communities and the common land now holds different functions.

The legislation in both countries acknowledges that the property of MVMC and Baldios belong to the populations surrounding the commonlands. Ever since the Montes' State Law of 1968, the MVMC are considered "indivisible, inalienable, imprescriptible and not subject to embargos". In Portugal, the Law of 1976 (and, for instance, the later Constitutional Court corroboration in the 'Acordao 325/1989') considers that "Baldios, as communitarian assets, belong to the local communities which hold their utilitarian possession and management". The rule covers the inalienability of the commons and prohibits private ownership over them; furthermore, it assigns to the communities a wide juridical accountability over the commons.

Iberian Peninsula commons are thus collective though private properties in the sense that their ownership, management and use are allocated to well define communities with access to shared resources from which others are excluded (1). Nevertheless, in respect to the management, the legislative process regarding the institution of the commonlands to the local communities considers two different management models: on the one hand, the responsibility lies fully with the commoners; on the other hand, the management is carried out jointly with the state, through the Forestry Services--in this model the Administration undertakes the management decisions. The state's intervention is wider in the north of Portugal: 61.3% of the commons units are co-managed by the Forestry Services, whereas the percentage in Galicia is 46.4%. One could say that, for a long period in the past, the economic property belonged to the communities although no official acknowledgement was given to their land's property rights, whereas, currently, the communities are the commons' legal owners, although the same legislation foresees limitations regarding the exercise of their economic property.

Altogether, the MVMC in Galicia and the Baldios in the north of Portugal cover a total area of one million hectares. In Galicia, the MVMC cover approximately 600,000 hectares owned by circa 2,800 communities, corresponding to one third of the total forest area and to one quarter of the Galician territory (Fernandez et al., 2006). While the average size of privately owned forest holdings is less than two hectares, the average size of the MVMC exceeds 200 hectares. Moreover, privately owned holdings often consist of several land plots, whereas the MVMC usually consist of one single plot (Fernandez et al., 2006). In the north of Portugal, 'the total area of the 671 commons on which information could be obtained is 378,574 hectares' (Baptista et al., 2002), (close to 1/5 of the region's total area), showing an average area of 500 hectares per Baldio, while the privately owned properties correspond also to a very small scale property type (DGF, 1998).

Their overall extension and large average size stand as evidences of the important role (as, for instance, anchors of local development) the commons can still play in current times. However, there is a distance between potential and reality still to overcome.

Four strong barriers determine the commons' performance: (i) the decline in the highlands' traditional functions arising from rural change; (ii) the ideological background surrounding the common lands; (iii) their social non-visibility (the title of Fernandez Leiceaga's seminal work (Fernandez et al., 2006) is "MVMC: the Silent Patrimony"); (iv) the limitations to the exercise of property rights derived from <<shared>> management.

After having been, in the course of centuries, an indispensable complement to the agricultural/livestock farming complex, the commons are nowadays decreasingly used as a supporting area for agricultural lands. Along with agriculture's loss of economic and social importance, with peasant emigration to abroad and to industry came of decline in the highlands' traditional functions. Also, the communities to whom the commons were handed back are quite different from those of the past: they lost cohesion, they are aged communities, a large number of their members are now emigrants, and they do not depend as they did on the revenues from land.

A second kind of constraints regarding the commons' performance is related to the ideological background surrounding the common lands--affecting all the stakeholders direct or indirectly connected with the common lands, including the communities' members. Although times of wide state intervention in forestation are over, the models of top-down development still prevail in current official policy, and these models tend to reject a locally based development construction. Local knowledge and experience in managing natural resources are disregarded and the commons (and the commoners) are considered <<incapable>>--a wide conceptualization which stems from both the 'hero-worship of property rights' (that is, private property) and the disregard for the legitimacy of communal property, considered not adequate to market demands. This situation actually contributes to both the resources' dilapidation and the environmental degradation, since the costs related to the regulation of collective action are often considered too high (2). In 2001, twenty five years after the promulgation of the legislation which returned the commons to the local communities, the Portuguese state's conduct regarding the application of the law was strongly disapproved by the communities (Carvalho, 2001). The main criticisms regarded the lack of state's investments in the commons and the neglecting of its own projects, as well as delayed responses concerning, for instance, the permission to sell goods (wood or burned wood) produced in the Baldios. In addition, complaints were also made regarding the lack of use of potential European Union's financial supports. In Galicia, the commons were also the object of dubious conduct by the state structures. Sineiro (1998) denounces "the notorious lack of government support to the real autonomy of the "comunidades vecinais " and "the non-fulfilment of its legal duties, such as the preparation of the Rexistro de Montes Vecinais (commons registration) containing an update on their situation, their use and their boundaries". Garcia (1998) also points out "the government's neglect towards the forest communal", evidenced in particular by "the lack of technical and economic support, a non-existing fire prevention policy and the scarce interest in considering the commons as a distinct reality that must be preserved under the same conditions as any other aspect of the national heritage".

The MVMC and the Baldios are generally unknown to the bulk of society, which constitutes another obstacle. The common lands' owners are not only beneficiaries in the present but also historical depositaries, given that they ought to preserve and guarantee the future of these lands (so its inalienability). The lack of social acknowledgement weakens the assumption of social responsibility by the communities. As for the Administration, who holds both technical and financial means and numerous commons' management, its deficient fulfilment of public service remains out of scrutiny and allows the maintaining of its role as <<master>> of the commons.

The commons are nowadays decreasingly used as a supporting area for agricultural lands but they are increasingly becoming object of direct economic exploitation intended for obtaining revenues destined for collective interest purposes by the commons' ruler boards. The woodlands are predominant and so are the revenues of wood selling. Nevertheless, revenues coming from wind turbines for electricity production, the allowance of water mini power station exploitation rights, as well as from stone and sand exploitation, are increasingly gaining significance. Moreover, the awareness of the commonlands' environmental and landscape is growing in importance.

The <<potential>> is there: commonlands can contribute for wealth creation, for environmental values promotion, for employment and other social functions fulfilment. How to overcome the distance between potential and reality? Are the <<new>> communities (to whom the commons were handed back) able to maintain their lands (can they find the motivation to do so?)? Which usage are they currently making of the highlands? Are the Galician and Portuguese communities reacting to modern challenges in the same way? What evidences can one get from their behaviour?

This paper aims at: (i) contributing to the knowledge of the Iberian Peninsula commons' reality--through the comparison between the MVMC of Galicia and the Baldios of the north of Portugal by identifying the major historical stages of commonlands in Iberian Peninsula and by focusing on 2 cases of commonlands--and (ii) highlighting constraints and opportunities to their current performance.

2. Comparing Galician and northern Portugal commonlands

2.1. The major stages in the recent history of commonlands in Iberian Peninsula

2.1.1. Fundamental support of traditional land use and significance of common uses

The MVMC and the Baldiosas significance throughout the centuries, along with the reason for their survival, lies in the fact that they were an inseparable reality from the life of the local populations, strongly marked by a communal way of living. According to Saco (1998), this is 'a form of communalism that expresses itself not only in the organization of commonlands' uses but also in the joint usufruct of certain facilities (such as clothes washbasins, hearths, wind and water-mills), in the collective management of water supplies for irrigation, festivities, pathway maintenance and repair, and also in performing a number of farming tasks'.

The activities making the most use of the MVMC were stockbreeding and agriculture, largely on account of the use of furze as livestock bedding material, small-ruminant feed for its shoots, household fuel and organic fertilizer allowing for the development of other crops (Balboa, 2000). Estevao (1983) points to a similar role played by the Baldios: besides firewood, charcoal, timber, honey, etc., they provided the necessary pasture for livestock feeding, while the brushwood and manure combined provided the traditional fertilizer used by the peasantry. Therefore, within the context of traditional agriculture, the use of Montes and Baldios was a practical and appropriate way of ensuring a well balanced agrarian system.

2.1.2. Administrative intervention, in the XIX (disentailment) and XX centuries (massive afforestation)

The demographic growth from the 18th century onwards (and the resulting necessity to expand arable lands) was partly responsible for disrupting this balance. The ideological arguments (namely, with 19th century's liberalism, the full support for private property ownership rights) and the developmental theories would soon be acknowledged. Bica (2004), referring to Portugal, and Pereira (1999), referring to Galicia, use the same expression--'disentailment frenzy'--to describe the type of liberal intervention which was directed at the commons. The move towards disentailment raised complaints, protests and resistance of all sorts (e.g., for Portugal, Rodrigues, 1987 and Bica, 2004 and, in relation to Galicia, Magarinos, 1999 and Pereira, 1999). New roadways for social development were sought, but the foundations of the traditional agrarian and stock farming system and its centuries-old balance were being put at stake.

The transition period into the 20th century witnessed the state's strong commitment, both in Galicia and in Portugal, regarding the afforestation of wildlands, commonlands and hillside areas. On top of the consequences (identical in Galicia and in Portugal) of the referred intervention were the pressures for the shared allocation of the Montes and Baldios (Pereira, 1999; Ribeiro, 1970). The individualization of the commons was, after all, a means of securing the resources the commons had always provided to the peasants. Through individualization, the situation moved towards the progressive loss of functions of the Montes. One of the main reasons for this 'de-functionalization', as Balboa (1995) calls it, is the disappearance of joint disciplines and the new commons' dependence on individual (and often diverging) strategies and decisions. As we will further point out, this 'de-functionalization' has also a social dimension to it, since the community looses much of its cohesion capacity. The productive balance between commons and cultivated lands is lost, and so is the social balance between the household and the community, a situation most noticeable during Franco's regime' (Balboa, 1995).

The rising of authoritarian regimes in Portugal and Spain will materialize the State's expropriation of the community lands which survived the process of sharing, alienation and individualization already put in practice.

In both cases, there were notorious coincidences of financial and industrial interests in the assignment of vast areas of land for afforestation. Among other examples, with regards to Galicia, Rodriguez (1999) refers to the interests of paper monopolies, and Magarinos (1999) denounces the systematic use of eucalyptus in the planting activities. In eloquent terms, Estevao (1983) draws a connection between this trend and the industrial expansion in Portugal. For one thing, in the aftermath of the cereal campaigns in the south of the country, the fertilizer industry gained new clients--in fact, due to afforestation, farmers saw themselves deprived of their basic source of organic matter, i.e., brushlands and animal manure. More importantly, according to the same author, 'since it would be unlikely that the lesser layers of the peasantry would buy large quantities of chemical fertilizers, in the end it was the expulsion of this social stratum of the peasantry from their place of residence that would lead to the influx of abundant, cheap and unskilled labour into the urban centres, while forcing those who remained to take up a modern, intensive agriculture, based on use of fertilizers, machinery and reduced labour' (Estevao, 1983).

In Galicia, communal property was forbidden by law from 1940 on, and the related traditional uses were restricted or even prohibited (Magarinos, 1999). In Portugal, the massive plantation of hillside areas, better said, of the commons, was announced in 1938 with the promulgation of the Afforestation Law. This law became the main regulation concerning commonlands and, opposing to what applied until then, determined that the commons would become the property of the state (that is, of the Forestry Services) as and when they became afforested.

Pereira's (1999) work 'O monte comunal na Galicia contemporanea: Unha historia de resistencia' ('The commons in contemporary Galicia: A story of resistance') contains many descriptions of the struggles and protests raised in Galicia in defence of the commons. Such resistance is also signalled in Portugal by a number of authors (see, for example, Rodrigues, 1987 and Gralheiro, 1990; in his novel 'Quando os lobos uivam' (When the wolves howl), the Portuguese writer Aquilino Ribeiro (Ribeiro, 1963) pictures one such episode of resistance against afforestation in Portugal).

2.1.3. Montes vecinais and Baldios are handed back to the local communities in the 1970s; agriculture loses its economic and social importance; 'new' communities show meaningful differences in relation to 'old' communities

Nevertheless, the disregard for safeguarding the rights of the people were not sufficient to erase completely an age-old social reality--the exclusive right held by the villagers of certain places or parroquias to use certain Montes and Baldios--. Moreover, the migration flows and the new industrial policies linked to the emergence of different markets weakened some aspects of the afforestation approach. The advance of the forest would go only as far as it proved relevant for industrial development, and could actually risk affecting agricultural crops that had evidenced sufficient economic strength. The lack of interest for massive arborisation, the inefficiency of the state authorities in maintaining the wealth thus created (proof of which are the forest fires that raged the hillside areas in the absence of the former owners), the rural communities' protests against the occupation of 'their' lands, the artificial, not to say parasitic, nature of the management carried out by many local authorities, all this gave way, with the advent of political changes towards democratic practices, to a number of legislative initiatives seeking to hand back the Montes and Baldios to the local communities. It should be stressed that, as expected, the commons coincide more and more with less crop suitable lands. In 1976, a law is promulgated in Portugal restoring the 'use, the income and the administration of the Baldios to their respective compartes' . This law allows two administrative procedures for the Baldios--"exclusively by the compartes" or "by an association between the compartes and the State". In Spain, there were several initiatives to legislate the vecinal property between 1957 and 1968. In 1980 a new law is published highlighting the nonpublic characteristic of the Montes, and in 1989 (when the Montes are already under the juridical competence of the Autonomous Community of Galicia) a law is promulgated establishing that the Montes belong to the "agrupacions vecinais na calidade de grupos sociais" (communities), and that the communities may collectively manage the Montes or may delegate their management to the Forestry Administration by means of a contract (e.g. Lopez, 1995; Diaz, 1999 in relation to Galicia and Gralheiro, 1990; Gralheiro, 2002 in relation to Portugal).

The comparison between MVMC and Baldios is systematized in Appendix where we present the chronology of both measures and significant facts in these three stages--(1) "19th century's liberalism and the seeking for the commonlands", (2) "The authoritarian State's intervention in the commonlands: seizure and afforestation", and (3) "The commonlands' restitution to the communities". The Appendix contains also a fourth section concerning the comparison between the current situation of Galician and northern Portugal commonlands: (4) "The commonlands' current situation in Galicia and in the north of Portugal: a million hectares of commonlands"--.

2.2 The Mancomunidade de Ponte Caldelas (Galicia) and the Nucleo de Baldios de Marao e Meia-Via (northern Portugal)

The case studies were chosen bearing in mind both the existence of multiple typologies and types of communal lands to be accounted for in terms of geographic localization (namely the distance to the littoral urban centres), the communities' degree of organization type (from a high degree of organization and initiative to others disarticulated, aged and most inertial), the management model, human and natural resources, land uses, intense- or under-exploitation.

We decided to choose commonlands neither too isolated nor peri-urban ones. In addition, we sought for commonlands with effective use and organization capacity, and so we looked for communities where groupings of commonlands existed. In Portugal there is only one such group (Nucleo de Baldios de Marao e Meia-Via or Nucleo de Amarante), established in 2002 by the jointure of seven Baldios belonging to seven parishes of Amarante (a Porto's municipality; Figure 1) and occupying a total of 6817 ha. In Galicia there are 15 groupings (mancomunidades), the most part located in Pontevedra province. Taking into account similarities in terms of relative geographic localization, rural characteristics, agrarian activities and the importance of forestry use, we chose the Mancomunidade de Ponte Caldelas, (a Pontevedra's municipality; Figure 1). This group was established in 1991 by the jointure of 7 commonlands but has now 23 commonlands occupying circa 4500 ha. In both cases, the geographic location of these communities is set away from the interior isolated conditions, although maintaining both rural characteristics and agrarian activities, these being more evident in the Portuguese case.

2.2.1. Methods

Fieldwork for this study was conducted throughout 2007. Primary data were collected through a range of sociological research methods, including (1) participant observation and informal conversations; (2) Participatory Rural Appraisal techniques; (3) formal, semi-structured interviews conducted mostly with members of the communities' directive boards. In order to further characterize the communities of the case studies, information regarding the populations of the target parishes (northern Portugal) and parroquias (Galicia) was obtained from the Portuguese and the Galician institutes of population statistics [census of 2001 (the last year with published statistics detailed to parishes)] while information regarding the uses and exploitation of commonlands was obtained from interviews with community members and from directive boards files.

2.2.2. Results

In terms of management, almost all the area belonging to the Nucleo is co-managed with the Administration, while in Galicia more than 60% of the Mancomunidade area is self-managed. Forestry is the main use in both cases and also similar is the higher risk of wild fires related to the monoculture forests of pine (Pinus pinaster Ait.) in Portuguese case and of eucalypt (E. globulus Labill.) in Galician case--which has recently occurred.

The mean surface area of Montes Vecinais belonging to the Mancomunidade is around 200 hectares, a value close to the average of all MVMC in Galicia. The mean surface area of the Baldios belonging to the Nucleo--945 hectares--is twice as much as the average size of the other commonlands in northern Portugal.

The population's characteristics are similar in the two studied areas, with higher percentage of youngsters in northern Portugal and higher percentage of elders in Galicia (Table 1). Regarding employment, most of the population in Galicia's studied parroquias is employed in services, while in northern Portugal most of the population in the studied parishes is employed in industry (Table 1).

The Galician Mancomunidade de Ponte Caldelas has 1150 commoners while the Portuguese Nucleo de Amarante has 1400 commoners (3). None of the commonlands in the Portuguese Nucleo have land-use planning and in the Galician case only one third of the 23 communities have such plans. Tables 2 to 5 summarize data to the individual and collective uses of the commonlands, the participation of the commoners in their commonland, and the accomplishments made with the revenues associated with the use.

3. Conclusions

3.1. The comparison between MVMC and Baldios--commonlands belonging to two regions of different countries--exposes remarkable similarities

[1] The common areas in Iberian Peninsula were for centuries up until modern times the mainstay of the traditional agricultural system, having played a unique role in preserving the relationship between landowners and land users. Within the context of traditional agriculture, the use of MVMC and Baldios was a practical and appropriate way of ensuring a balanced agrarian system. (e.g., Bica, 2004; Fernandez et al., 2006).

[2] The demographic growth from the 18th century onwards was partly responsible for disrupting this balance. The transition period into the 20th century witnessed a significant commitment by the state, both in Galicia and in Portugal, towards afforestation of wildlands, commonlands and hillside areas (e.g., Bica, 2004; Fernandez et al., 2006).

[3] The move towards disentailment and massive afforestation raised complaints, protests and resistance of all sorts, either in Galicia or in Portugal. New roadways for social development were being sought, but the foundations of the traditional agrarian and stock farming system and its centuries-old balance were being put at stake. (e.g., Ribeiro, 1963; Estevao, 1983; Rodrigues, 1987; Pereira, 1999; Bica, 2004; Fernandez et al., 2006).

[4] The lack of interest for massive arborisation; the inefficiency of the state authorities in maintaining the wealth thus created (proof of which are the forest fires that raged the hillside areas in the absence of the former owners); the rural communities' protests against the occupation of 'their' lands; the artificial, not to say parasitic, nature of the management carried out by many local authorities; all this gave way, with the advent of political changes towards democratic practices, to a number of legislative initiatives seeking to hand back the Montes and Baldios to the local communities. Such were the Laws of 1976 and 1993 in Portugal and of 1957, 1968 and 1989 in Spain.

[5] Reflecting the generalized rural world changes, the Iberian Peninsula communities to whom the commons were handed back and the current commons functions are quite different from those of the past.

[6] Commonlands coincide with unsuitable crop lands.

[7] Commonlands great dimensions favour the maintenance of extensive common areas suitable for forest use.

[8] There are many commonlands in Galicia and northern Portugal revealing situations of under-utilization (Baptista et al, 2002; Fernandez et al., 2006), due to brush land overgrowth, wildfires, Administration mismanagement, and aged or absent communities.

[9] In both regions and in many cases, the Administration still holds the direct management responsibility; however, in no case does it care about promoting or encouraging commoners assumption of their property rights, e.g., by reversing the model.

[10] As for the relation with central authorities, another aspect concerns the taxation regime. Considering that the owning communities of communitarian lands are entities with economic capacity, these should be subject to financial control. Meanwhile, in Galicia, the MVMC are taxed as profitable mercantile societies, without taking into account their collective, social and environmental functions. Furthermore, the differences between the communities which, on the one hand, invest their incomes in conserving and improving resources (or in collective works and services) and the communities which, on the other hand, limit themselves to sharing profits between their members are not taken into consideration. In Portugal, the Baldios are not subject to taxing over the incomes of collective persons. In this case, one could perhaps say that the social and collective functions of the Baldios had been considered. Whether or not this is a legal intention, it is our opinion that the existence of fiscal control would contribute to cement the property rights of the Baldios. This would contribute both to the acknowledgement and the transparency of communitarian management.

3.2. The comparison between the Mancomunididade de Ponte Caldelas and the Nucleo de Baldios de Marao e Meia-Via allowed confirming the similarities while noticing some differences

[a] The results show that, in both the Portuguese and the Galician cases, the individual use of commonlands endures. Although uses such as the gathering of wood and bushes are still widely practiced by community members, their importance is reduced in terms of number and economy and they do not reassure the incomes of families.

[b] The accomplishments made with collective revenues from the commonlands are significant. These revenues often allowed the commonlands to replace the role of central or local Administration in the building of several infra-structures in their villages.

[c] Regarding the collective use of the commonlands, forestry predominates over other uses. In both studied cases, uncontrolled forest fires recently destroyed vast forest areas, the risk and magnitude of the fires being enhanced by the existence of monocultures of pine in northern Portugal and of eucalypt in Galicia. Herding, as a collective activity disappeared in the Portuguese Nucleo; in the Galician Mancomunidade it still remains an important activity in one community. One of the most important income sources is currently the installation of Aeolian parks. However, even in this apparently successful use, there is a noticeable lack of both knowledge and negotiation power with regard to the communities owning the commonlands. There are no tourism enterprise initiatives, although the commonlands are widely used by visitors for several leisure and recreational activities.

[d] The employment data of the studied areas shows that agriculture is no longer the main income source of these populations. The resulting altered relation between the people inhabiting the rural areas and the land is followed by a change in people's habits and the adoption of more urban values and practices. The social network linking its members through principles of territorial proximity no longer exists.

[e] Low participation level in the life of the commonlands. This low participation is partly due to the co-management model, disinterest being a giving-up reaction to the often contradictory state's decisions and to the long waiting for answers. The Administration theoretically decides taking into account the general society's interests; however those interests are not discussed in conjunction with local stakeholders.

[f] Commoners were able to set-up associations of commonlands. The impressive number of the Galician associations (mancomunidades) is located at Pontevedra province, the most industrialized Galicia's region.

3.3. Constraints and opportunities concerning the performance of North-Western Iberian Peninsula commonlands

As stated above, the similarities between the two situations are numerous. The historical and geographical conditions are analogous and the political, cultural and legislative frameworks of both countries influence the commonlands in corresponding ways. Existing literature and the field work allowed the summarizing of both the factors which negatively influence the commons (Table 6) and the factors which effectively favor the commons, sometimes only potentially, as further enumerated in Table 7.

Decisive aspects regarding the communities' organization, such as participation and cohesion (or, as verified, the lack of both), will be emphasised; the human resources as well as the processes which constitute the base for fulfilling the social, economic, and environmental functions of the common lands, will also be referred.

Participation and cohesion are related factors--their significance being demonstrated by the influence they have on other aspects such as organization, management and decision making processes--and are somehow more directly dependent on the commoners' will.

As registered, there's a lack of participation in both cases; however there are some differences. The Portuguese situation has the poorest participation, which in general is due to: (i) non-existing administrative power close to the villages (in Portugal the parishes are administrative organs at the community level, sometimes replacing--either by imposing themselves or because the communities are inactive--the commoners in the management of their commonlands; in Galicia the parroquias have no administrative functions, creating an administrative void occupied by the communities); (ii) the fiscal obligation--the Galician legal requirement demanding more control over communitarian management--; (iii) the growing economic and social dynamics of Galicia; and (iv) the major presence of the Administration in the commonlands management.

The term cohesion is borrowed from sociology, meaning the relatedness of humans within groups (Boudon, 1995). The <<old>> communities were based on a subsistence economy, their productions being destined for their own consumption. Their <<principle>> was one of traditional uses and customs; the individual's survival was linked to the community's survival--implying a solid member's cooperation as well as an inter-aid accepted and exerted in its functioning-. The indiscriminate land use, particularly the non-arithmetic regulated utilization by the communities' members, call for the exercise of rights concerning the benefit from the common asset according to individual necessity. The inequalities among the communities members were exposed by (and grew along with) their use of the hillsides, those having more means, in individual grow-surface, livestock or equipments, had superior capacity to benefit from the common asset and used the hillsides more intensively. Then, the communities eventually found the stability which enabled the viability of agrarian lands and conferred a stronger level of cohesion on the rural collectives, indispensable for facing external powers and threats collectively.

In that interdependent system, the communities could amplify individual objectives, producing indirectly positive or undesirable effects (Valade, 1995). As a result of the bonds among people and between people and land, these communities were more homogeneous than current communities. Personal relations dominated over impersonal, mundane relations, and both family and neighbourhood bonds cemented cohesion in a community. A continuous cooperation in the past is related to a positive level of trust (4) among group members. Thus, a history of past cooperative ventures is likely to be an important determinant of the probability of future cooperation (Aggarwal, 2000). Conversely, the members used <<to do without>> instruction, experimentation or speculation. Cooperation, materialized in communitarian actions (e.g. herding and use of common equipment such as the communitarian oven), was dictated by necessity. So, notwithstanding the essentiality of cooperation, were these <<old>> communities aware of their potential and strength?

Cohesion is one of the most important factors linked to the strength of a community, and strong communities are more able to assume rights and responsibilities regarding their lands. In both MVMC and Baldios open access does not exist. The resources belong to the communities and their multiple uses may be forbidden to outsiders. By exerting their right to the land, communities engage in their duties and are acknowledged as social entities, thus cementing cohesion. Otherwise, they weaken their organization, as shown, for instance, by the low level of participation in meetings.

In the current conditions (with the communities' way of life and income sources drifted away from their lands), the question is how to regain the lost cohesion? The answer will drive through: (i) social and official reconnaissance; (ii) properties rights exercise; (iii) revalorization of natural resources and social capital resources (which related opportunities are also stated forwards); (iv) direct management.

The community's organization is reinforced if its members participate with their experience and knowledge in the managing and decision taking of development projects (adapted to local conditions). Internal cohesion is enhanced if the communities adopt professional forms of management and establish or reinforce networks between commonlands. These networks are valuable because they facilitate: (i) common solutions, such as forest fire prevention and fight, accountability solutions, and use optimization of machinery and installations; (ii) experience and information exchange; (iii) the elaboration of common planning and resource use projects; (iv) work generation; (v) empowerment. Furthermore, they enhance bonding which increases both responsibility and benefit sharing, leading to a natural conflict reduction.

In several aspects, namely planning and equipment use, the participation of private forest owners in these networks is not only possible, it is also desirable. Communities should also establish contacts in order to set up networks with foreign communities, since cultural exchange is of the utmost importance. The awareness regarding these cultural values in communal property and the will to preserve them is likely to guarantee the development of these international networks. One of their objectives would be the elaboration of projects for the promotion of communitarian patrimony--understood neither as a museum nor a laboratory but as another form of owning-. Reflecting on the possibility of extending these international networks to distant countries, the proximity of northern Portugal and Galicia suggests that this process should start from both countries.

Commonlands persist as a wealth source, maintaining the customs of diverse and multi-functional uses. Their development model is specific, valorising resources with no market value. The opportunities for the re-working of rural space expansion based upon low impact development are evidenced by Halfacree (2007). The communities and this particular form of property--incongruous in times of economic liberalism, while tempting for city councils and new forms of private entrepreneurship--will survive better if they become an active part of local development projects, and they can do that by enhancing the strong points associated to their functioning (Table 7).

The commons of both the Mancomunidade and the Nucleo have a large potential in what concerns natural and human resources. As for human resources, the special meaning of the presence of women, youngsters and old-peasants in these regions of high emigration must be emphasized. More than half of the commoners are women. While in a number of other environments the role of women is strictly limited to the private and domestic spheres, hence their frequent invisibility, the inland rural communities usually cannot do without the women's productive input. Besides, migration towards the urban centres, national or foreign, involves men in particular (while women usually stay at home looking after the "rearguard"). Despite the sometimes dominant role of women in the farm (as when it comes to household chores) and the impact that social and economic changes have on women and men, and on gender-specific organizational aspects, (Philipp, 1995), the role of women as producers is not always duly acknowledged. Meillassoux (1993) refers to the 'woman's submission to her matrimonial relations' and the 'woman's inability to secure her own production related status'. In addition to age-old atavisms that are hard to put aside, there are other types of constraints concerning the role of women as producers. For example, in Galicia, under the current Lei de Montes (Commons Law), representation in the Assembly, the main-decision making body, is made on a household rather than on an individual basis. This 'imposes serious constraints on the formal participation of the entire community and, in practical terms, implies a lack of participation of women and serious problems regarding generational significance in these organizations' (Saco, 1998).

The visibility of women is only revealed in the selling of the goods they produce outside the domestic circuits. Nevertheless, behavioural changes and changes in relational patterns between men and women are noticeable, partly driven by the diluting boundaries between the rural and the urban worlds, and by the impact of the media and the changing mentalities (Silva, 2003). In other words, whenever circumstances allow, the active role of women stands out. The involvement of women in community life has special features, regarding the way they cope with difficulties and respond to conflicts. Moreover, among their various duties, women are normally experts in building solidarity networks, and their presence must be taken into account.

Regarding the old-aged peasants, numerically significant in certain communities, there are many active citizens who maintain the networks and the connections they have built and extended across the lands they are determined to preserve. In an ethical model of development, policy objectives can not be limited to the logic of competitiveness. As a consequence, only the opportunities with market advantages would be valorised while social cleavage and marginalisation may increase. The commoners must react against the mainstream, integrating the contributions and the know-how of the elderly.

Youngsters can also be a potential resource in these areas, although they are the most affected by the narrow range of opportunities in rural areas (Frederik, 2006) and most of them seek the cities. In order for them to stay, and to attract others, it is necessary to have access to housing. In the interviews conducted, most of the respondents mentioned the administrative difficulties related to building outside the urban centres.

In summary, the future of commonlands in northern Portugal and Galicia depends on the valorisation of their natural resources and on the qualification of their human resources. Regarding natural resources, these represent a convergence of interests given the growing social concern towards environment--forestry sustainable management promotes social and ecologic values, as well as wood production--. Moreover, both the MVMC and the Baldios, by their nature and their size, may play a structuring role in the rural context they belong to. 'The montes vecinais en man comun, are virtually the only rural areas in Galicia with big enough dimensions to allow for sustainable management' (Arenas and Aboal, 1999). In the same way, Pereira (2000) expresses the view that 'by their origin, their size and their type of proprietorship, communal lands could suitably be the mainstay of forestry and other rural development policies, as well as the pillars of regional development'. Thus, as already stressed out, the potential is there.

Therefore, it is essential that each community in each common land valorises their patrimony. Besides social capital, both management and technical know-how are crucial as well as the financial means to perform the commons' valorisation. Public powers should provide the means to compensate such an existing deficit. After all this a State's social obligation which has not been fulfilled. Relying fully on administrative support is appealing though probably worthless. Currently, any market-based activity (for instance, forest activity) demands skills, professional management and the required funding. Bearing in mind the communities which have insufficient or no monetary capital at all, how can this situation be dealt with? One solution would be the commoners' individual contribution, not envisaged in none of the studied communities. From an individual perspective there is no guarantee of an economic reward during the commoners' living time, and times are changing so rapidly that their heirs' beneficiation is uncertain; whereas from an ethical or political individual perspective, as concerns collective decisions, there is no guarantee regarding the future investment of its present financial contribution. The communities owning common lands must shift to an entrepreneurial type and find adequate ways to do it. The communities which do not have funding of their own are totally dependent on public subsidies or external agents (e.g. those renting plots for plantations). Currently, the capacity to accomplish collective benefits sets entirely new challenges for the communities. Up to now, as the two cases show, the communities were able to reduce costs in order to hire technical support, thanks to associations such as the Mancomunidade and the Nucleo.

Other associative ways consist in affiliating in organizations which protect the community's interests. The Organizacion Galega de Comunidades de Montes Vecinais en Man Comun (OGCMVMC) in Galicia and the Secretariado dos Baldios de Tras-os-Montes e Alto Douro (the Baldios' Secretariat in northern Portugal), established soon after the advent of democratic regimes, have excelled in dynamics, information diffusion and in both mobilization and vindicating activities. The OGCMVMC is the most active Galician pressure group (Fernandez et al., 2006). The setting-up of the Mancomunidades and of the Nucleo is due to the commitment of those organizations in both countries (5).

Meanwhile, better results would be obtained if these groups had not been led to be so persistently engaged in demanding an effective application of the laws at last favourable to the commons.

Contrary to a development which merely claims for general economic growth and pushes peripheral regions to exclusion (Wade, 2004), recent development theoretical perspectives focus on local people and territory, and enlighten the projects centred in enhancing the social capital of territories and in the valorisation of resources and competitiveness advantages (Cristovao and Miranda, 2006).

Given that the current legal opportunity recognizes the rights of the communities over the commonlands, in order to efficiently attain their objectives, the commoners should choose their strategies on basis of the physical attributes of their resources, the internal and external framework of rules, and the mutual choice of behaviours by the members of the community (Oakerson, 1992). This should happen together with the fulfilment of the Administration's (government) institutional responsibilities. One of the key factors identified in the literature on common property regimes is the role of the state in supporting and protecting common property rights (Ostrom, 1990; Richards, 1997). It is not the case to give the burden of collective action organization or common property management to the state; in fact, the state has shown incompetent managing--as evidenced by the recent forest fires-.

The role of nongovernmental and of community-based organizations (as opposed to the state's) in the management of natural resources has been increasingly acknowledged by institutions such as the World Bank (World Bank, 2005). Moreover, external reconnaissance and concrete support measures also contribute to rebuild the authority of local communities, enabling them to apply their experience in well succeed collective actions (Edwards and Steins, 1997).

In order to reach a sustainable exploitation of the commonlands in Iberian Peninsula it is necessary to work out politics to establish conditions for maintaining cohesion in the communities.

The debate on the future of the commons must necessarily be set in the context of the reality facing the territorial areas where they belong. The rural world is undergoing a continuous depletion of its structures and its heritage. Reduced as it is in terms of size and significance, it risks, in the warning words of Lopes (2003), 'to end up as a mere reference for social and cultural ethnological and anthropological studies'.

Nevertheless, they are still <<out there>>. In the Iberian Peninsula, the use and land tenure of commonlands are surviving the age of globalization. Rural spaces are inhabited by men and women and there are communities proficient in managing the MVMC and the Baldios. In some cases the management is deficient or even inexistent and this situation must be corrected if these commonlands are to survive and to fulfil its social goals. A stronger involvement and support by the Administration in the management of the commonlands (both regarding the countries and the European political centre) would be desirable for the future. Given the potential local and regional roles of common lands, it is in the interest of all to provide their productive functioning in order to attain proper social, economic and ecologic functions.


1. 19th century's liberalism and the seeking for the commonlands

Portugal                              Galicia

1821 The liberal courts sustain the
privatization of Baldios

1830 The liberal administrative       1848 The ownership of the montes
legislation assigns administrative    is endorsed to the
functions to the Juntas das           municipalities (22nd of May's
Paroquias (which will later be        Real Orde), after the
revoked and restored (1); in 1913     territory's administrative
the Juntas das Paroquias are          distribution in both
designated as Juntas de Freguesia).   municipalities and provinces, in
Baldios are categorized as both       1833. (3)
parochial and municipal.(2)

1867 The Civil Code distinguishes     1855 The Madoz's disentitlement
Baldios as communal things, not to    law declares that are to be sold
be seized individually (the           "all rural and urban properties
individuals comprised in              and all foros belonging to the
determinate administrative            State, the clergy, the military
circumscriptions being the only       orders, the confraries, the
ones allowed to take benefits from    pious workmanships and
them).                                sanctuaries as well as those of
                                      belonging to the people.
1868 "Report concerning the           1862 The Catalogue of the Montes
Country's General Arborisation"       sets for sale 90% of the montes'
intended, among other purposes, to    surface area. The operation was
distinguish the uncultivated areas.   a failure (4).

1869 The disentitlement legislation
regarding both convents' (1861) and
Crown's (1866) estate also
comprises Baldios, in exception of
the lands significant to people's
communal fruition. The
municipalities receive incentives
--such as the participation in the
alienation's receipts (5).

(1) Exposing both hesitations and indefiniteness which followed the
consecutive variation of power relations in 19th century's
convulsions, the Juntas' assigned functions of 1830, almost as wide
as modern administrative codes (Gralheiro, 1990), are revoked in
1832, restored in 1835, revoked again in 1842 and reintroduced in
1878, now as the territory's permanent administrative division,
holding its own constituents and competences.

(2) Such an artificial distribution that, in most cases, neither the
Camaras nor the Juntas knew which ones belonged to which (Gralheiro,

(3) The territory's distribution on both municipalities and provinces
represents the accomplishment of a model which valued Castilian's
municipal tradition. However, in its regards to Galicia, it was
misadjusted not only in the historical point of view but also
concerning the population's occupation of the territory (Fernandez
Leiceaga et al., 2006).

(4) The public auctions were frequently empty. Not only the less
privileged peasants needed to keep using the mounts in the same
patterns but also because the dominant social groups felt that the
rupture did not suit them.

(5) In southern Portugal the Baldios' privatization was actually
carried out: (1) the control of autarchies by large landowners
favourable to privatization, soon taking advantage of most part, as
well as (2) the protective legislation on the cereals, consequently
extending the cereals' culture to Baldios. In the north, two decisive
differences: (1) a less profound social differentiation adding to the
local authorities' involvement in protecting the "communal" and (2)
less favourable mountainous Baldios regarding the culture of cereals.

1. 19th century's liberalism and the seeking for the commonlands

Portugal                              Galicia

1880 The Forest Services are          1870s An attempt to put in
created. Regardless of the liberal-   practice the montes vecinais'
privatizing ideology, the State's     forest exploitation plans took
carrying out of the Baldios'          place: since the mounts, now
arborisation was sustained.           publicly categorized, weren't
                                      sold after the disentitlement,
Estevao (1983) estimates that         there was a need to increase the
approximately 2.5 million hectares    forest's wealth (setting aside
of land area were set to be           the forest's integration in the
cultivated between 1874 and 1902,     traditional farming system (1)).
essentially due to Baldios.           Since the beginning of the 19th
                                      century, the area of montes
                                      vecinais was reduced by more
                                      than a million hectares.

1889 The arborisations take place.    1880 The montes'
The threat represented by the         individualization will continue
disentitlement law's selling of       in the first third of the 20th
Baldios in public auctions is         century allowing the peasants to
followed by the pressure caused by    expand the incomes, alongside
an unusual element, the seizure       the conversion   into   pastures
carried out by the Forest Services,   and individual afforestation. In
leading to the peasant's seizure of   montes de varas (2) the
Baldios.                              allotment begins in 1880,
                                      reaching its maximum between
                                      1920 and 1936 (it continues
                                      after the civil war, its
                                      individualization being
                                      concluded in 1970). In the
                                      montes vecinais it starts to
                                      widen in 1920. The allotments
                                      weren't equitable (as in the
                                      case of the use itself).

1901 The founding of the Regime
Florestal (Forest Regimen), a legal
instrument which defines the
State's range of influence while
building the legal base for
Baldios' upcoming arborisation.

(1) Two opposing perspectives: the mounts as forest spaces with
favourable edafo-climatic conditions and the mount's predominant
agrarian use. Inexistent results concerning both forest politics and
wealth's promotion. Although carrying along a different kind of
consequences, namely the collective property's individualization by
the neighbours themselves: both disentitlement and administrative
intervention did not entail an actual modification in both property
and exploitations, although representing a dangerous threat. The
legal inexistence of montes vecinais since the middle of the 19th
century enhances the inadequacies of the agrarian system, while the
intensification of uses also encourages the division.

(2) The montes' collective property is noticeable in two distinct
regimes which understandably reflect the mounts' variety of uses: (1)
the so called montes de varas, remaining opened and undivided,
although its property explicitly corresponds to a certain group of
neighbours or houses; every co-owner has a specific and changeable
quota regarding such mechanisms as inheritances and exchanges as well
as purchases and sales; it concerns a private and undivided joint
ownership, legally equivalent to Roman Law; they are a minority
located in the northern region, in the province of Lugo; (2) the so
called montes de vecinos or montes vecinais, in which the property is
endorsed to the vecinos' community, regardless of who in a specific
moment created it; the legal rights regarding both management and
uses of mounts are consequently connected to the fact of belonging to
a community, as well as to the fact of being vecino, inhabitant of a
specific location; the vecinanza is the only requirement in order to
enjoy these rights (which go beyond the individuals and, for that
matter, are undifferentiated--they are equal for all, without quotas-
-and cannot be passed on); the montes vecinais legally assume the
Germanic law (Balboa, 2000).

2. The authoritarian State's intervention in the commonlands:
seizure and afforestation

Portugal                              Galicia

1932 The Estado Novo (1) suspends     1941 The State Forest Patrimony
the alienation of uncultivated        (Patrimonio Florestal do Estado
lands; it has other plans for its     (PFE)) (1941-1971) is the agency
use.                                  which will carry out the
                                      forestation. The forest politics
                                      will, in turn, be carried out by
                                      the police. The Administration
                                      remains contrary to the use of
                                      those lands as a complement of
                                      the farming system. The montes'
                                      role regarding the feeding of
                                      cattle alongside the subsequent
                                      gathering of fertilizer were
                                      considered the afforestation's

1935 "Memoria sobre o                 1940s The consorcios are
Reconhecimento dos Baldios ao Norte   accomplished, the vast majority
do Tejo" ("North of Tagus's Memory   being in montes vecinais. The
on the Acknowledgment of Baldios"):   consorcios were established
420 000 ha are settled for            along with the municipalities
arborisation, within a period of 30   (not regarding the communities),
years.                                in advantageous conditions for
                                      the PFE--and since it held the
                                      financial resources, the
                                      decision making would basically
                                      rely on the Patrimony as well.
                                      In 1964, more than half of the
                                      vecinal territory was included
                                      in consorcios.

1936 Administrative Code. The         1950s The key stage in the
Baldios continue to be divided in     afforestation large development
both parochial and municipal (2).     (also, at a smaller level, in
                                      the first half of the 1960's)

1938 The Afforestation Law. The       1957 The montes belonging to
mountain ranges' massive              vecinos in man comun
arborisation is announced,            (accordingly to the traditional
essentially in Baldios, now           parochial landmarks) are
concentrated north of the River       recognized in Galicia. However,
Tejo and considered more suitable     the Montes Vecinais continue to
for forest culture than for any       be considered public, since they
other sort (4). The police will       are attached to the
carry out the forest politics.        municipalities that hold great
                                      capacity of decision.

1940 The Afforestation Plan is set
in motion (5).

(1) Estado Novo, the Portuguese version of the Iberian fascisms, was
already in power during the last 6 years (and would remain in power
up to 1974).

(2) Concerning its categorization: indispensable or dispensable to
communal fruition. Baldios are considered prescriptible, although the
dispensable ones are the only ones whose access to private commerce
is allowed.

(3) The forest sector is converted into a strategic axis of its
economical politics (the peninsular northwest would become "Europe's
cellulose reserve" (Fernandez et al., 2006). Alongside the legal
disappropriation of the vecinal property (and its assimilation with
the communal, public mounts), the politics of Franco (the Spanish
dictator) had two further objectives: the communities' loss of
management's capability and the radical alteration of uses. The
balance between objectives and results discloses the politics'
failure: the financial activity's deficit (Fernandez et al., 2006),
social conflicts (aggravated by the inexistence of pastures along
with the fact that the receipts were being channelled into the
cities), judicial claims and devastating fires.

(4) The access to cattle, which was to be admitted in the initial
disposals of the Forest Regimen, ends up being denied (the peasants
will endure countless fines). As the arborisation went on, the
Baldios went under the ownership of the State.

(5) However, according to Estevao (1983), "with unimaginable slowness
and unreliability". The areas subject to arborisation as well as the
ones submitted to the forest regimen will continue to have limited

2. The authoritarian State's intervention in the commonlands: seizure
and afforestation

Portugal                              Galicia

1942 At a national level, a license
is emitted regarding the creation
of a society associated to paper
paste production (1). Between the
end of the 1940's and the beginning
of the 1960's, the forestation
reaches its higher levels.

1953 Subsequently to several civil
court jurisdiction processes
against the State, in which
individuals claimed property rights
over bush sortes (parcels), a
decree acknowledging the
communitarian property of small
mountain ranges populations is
actually elaborated. However, it
won't be put in practice.

1954 In addition to the 1938's law,
the Law 2069 will constitute the
forest activities' future "code";
the word of order will be "do not
proceed to arborisation against
people's will"; going further on:
several appeals towards the
reconciliation were made,
representing the potential
stability between both forest and
agrarian interests (regarding the
Baldios) (2).

(1) The 1940's will witness the corporative regime's apogee. 1945 is
generally considered as the industrial sector's starting year in
relation to the Portuguese economy (Moura, 1974). However, divergent
interests began to emerge--involving the industrialist sectors, which
defended the mountain ranges' forestation, and other sectors,
comprising other industrialist interests, as well as the great
agrarian landowners' interests, contrary to alterations. The Internal
Colonization Assembly (Junta de Colonizacao Interna (JCI)), an
institution created by the Estado Novo, will reflect the apprehension
of social agitation caused by the interventions. The JCI does not
oppose the extinguishing of Baldios, it actually states that "it is
necessary to develop both work capacity and initiative of
populations", although sustaining that not all the Baldios should be
subject to arborisation.

(2) However, the protests against the arborisation campaigns never
fully ended. In a first stage, the arborisation would compel the
weakest rural factions to establish themselves in the urban centres,
due to the decreasing life conditions: destruction of the traditional
agrarian system by means of disabling shepherding, along with the
scarcity of bushes and the economic incapacity concerning the
purchase of chemical fertilizers. However, the continuing massive
arborisation could lead to the complete asphyxiation of local life.
Once the industrial sector turned for the external market and since
the mountain ranges' regions no longer provided man power for the
urban centres, the massive forestation became meaningless, with the
additional risk of damaging the household agricultural explorations.
The afforestation loses its initial meaning and no longer takes

2. The authoritarian State's intervention in the commonlands: seizure
and afforestation

Portugal                              Galicia

1966 The climate of adversity
registered throughout the 19th
century and in the first half of
the 20th century (with brief
intervals) continues. In the new
Civil Code of 1966 the references
to the  "communal  things" are
eliminated (1).

1970 In the beginning of the
1970's, 500 000 ha north of the
Tagus River were submitted to the
forest regimen (2).

(1) These are only considered public or private things--in both cases
without regarding people's rights. Despite the fact that the Baldios
play an essential role regarding the local populations' life (even to
the eyes of its opponents) the distinction between Baldios and
communal fruition is deliberately abandoned.

(2) Official calculations estimate that the areas subject to
arborisation (by excess, according to Estevao (1983)) represent about
200 000 hectares, comprising less of half of the regime's submitted
area of Baldios.

3. The commonlands' restitution to the communities

Portugal                              Galicia

1976 Constitution of the Portuguese   1968 The Montes' State Law: law
Republic: the Baldios are             upholding the sectors related to
recognized as an integrant part of    non-forest uses of mounts,
the cooperative and social sector     namely sectors related to the
regarding the property of means of    raising of cattle (1). The MVMC
production (cfr. article 82, no. 4,   are considered "indivisible,
paragraphs a), d) and c)).            inalienable, imprescriptible and
                                      not subject to embargos"
Law 39/1976. The Baldios are          (subsequently to the 1963's
restored to the communities which     Compilation of special Civil
possessed them. They are considered   law, in Galicia).
communitarian use lands, utilized
by the inhabitants of a determined    1970s The montes' categorization
freguesia or freguesias (or part of   takes place, beginning in
them) inaccessible to legal           Ourense and Lugo. In Pontevedra
commerce and insusceptible of both    and Coruna only after 1978 the
alienation and private seizure.       process is carried out,
                                      initially being tied down by the
Between 1976 and 1993, the            ICONA's protection (an
political parties PPD and  CDS        Administration's organism which
presented   an   average   of one     substituted the PFE) of
amendment and/or revocation           municipal interests (2).
proposal per year. Meanwhile, as
the parliament is dissolved (from     1977 A Law promoting the Forest
1976 to 1987), the emendations were   Production. The consorcios are
not voted. In 1989 a law predicting   abandoned (not be signed again)
the "dissolution of Baldios" was      and substituted by convenios,
sent to the President of the          more suitable to the mounts
Republic in order to be promulgated   property).
(Parliamentary Decree 137/V); the
President of the Republic submitted
it to the Constitutional Court (the
composition of the TC, 6 years'
mandates, did not coincide with the
parliamentary majority) which, by a
voting majority, considered it to
be different from the
Constitution's definition of
property terms (the Constitution
explicitly acknowledged the
communitarian property's

1990 A new alteration proposal is
presented by the parliamentary
majority, taking advantage of the
constitutional revision of 1989 (3).

(1) The municipalities' interests opposed to it. Even though the law
keeps some of both municipalities' and Forest Services' competences,
while exposing its limitations regarding the process of initiating
the categorizations, a legislative solution relating to the vecinal
property's indefinition is eventually found.

(2) This is the political agitation period of the transitory years.
Widespread conflicts are registered in Galicia regarding the
afforestation, although concentrated in Pontevedra and Coruna due to
the categorization process. It is also in these two provinces that
the municipalities' resistance is higher: in social and demographic
terms, this is the location of the most dynamic local communities,
and the municipalities believe they will loose the mounts' control
permanently. The municipalities' first democratic elections take

(3) However, the President of the Republic opposed; on the other
hand, the Constitutional Court agreed because the new spirit of the
Constitution developed a sense of "statelessness", corresponding to
the autonomy's reinforcement of communitarian goods as part of the
cooperative sector! The Constitutional Court rejected, with seven
votes versus six, the new alteration under the article 82 of the
reviewed Constitution.

3. The commonlands' restitution to the communities

Portugal                              Galicia

1993 The Law 68/93 holds the          1980   Law   of   11-11-80,
concept of communitarian property     which explicitly recognizes the
intact, however, the Baldios' legal   Montes' private character of
protection against alienations was    montes while diminishing the
weaker, since the alienation is now   municipalities' attributions
allowed by 'reasons of local          (1).
interest': "a) whenever the Baldios
reach the population area's limit     1989 Xunta de Galicia's specific
and the alienation is necessary to    MVMC law (2).
the expansion of the urban area; b)
when the alienation is intended for
the installation of industrial
units, infrastructures and other
enterprises of collective interest,
namely for the local community";
The Juntas de Freguesia's powers
were reinforced.

(1) This law allows the effective categorization of montes vecinais'
large surfaces. The ICONA's purposes are intended for the reduction
of conflicts related to the afforestation as well as for the
possibility to accomplish more consorcios (Fernandez Leiceaga et al.,
2006). In the inlands, mostly in Ourense's province, many communities
remain unstructured. However, there was a necessity to regulate these
conditions taking into consideration the European Union's subsidies

(2) It confirms the MVMC's private nature while approving the
communities' debts amnesty with regard to the Administration,
allowing many communities the repossession of the mounts' management.
673 000 MVMC were categorized, of which 303 000 were under the
Administration's management (120 000 consorcios, 183 000 convenios).

4. The commonlands' current situation in Galicia and in the north of
Portugal: a million hectares of commonlands

Characteristics    Baldios                    MVMC

Total surface      378 574 (of 671 Baldios)   619 043 (Galicia's
(ha)               (Baptista et al., 2002)    forest plan of 1986) 608
                   290 000 (of 595 Baldios)   642 (1997's 3rd National
                   (Germano, 2004) (1)        Forest Inventory) 673
                                              682 (Fernandez et al.,

Average surface    564 (47%>200; 26%>500;     237.5
(ha)               28%<50 (Baptista et al.,

Number             823 (Baptista et al.,      2 835 (Fernandez et al.,
                   2002)                      2006)

Percentage of      36%>200 ha 59%>50 ha       49% (2)
commonlands with   17%<10 (Baptista et al.,
afforested         2002)

Location (by       54% Vila Real              42% Ourense
districts in       25% Viana do Castelo       32% Lugo
Portugal and by    12% Braganca               20% Pontevedra
provinces in       7% Braga                   6% A Coruna
Galicia)           2% Porto                   (Fernandez Leiceaga et
                   (Germano, 2004)            al., 2006)

Management         The compartes' exclusive   New convenio (previous
modalities         administration by the      direct management)
                   concelhos directivos dos   Transformed convenio
                   Baldios. In co-            (previous consorcio)
                   management regimen with    Continued consorcio
                   the State (when the        Current direct
                   communities are less or    management (canceled
                   not at all organized,      consorcio) Permanent
                   the Juntas de Freguesia    direct management (never
                   substitute the Concelhos   was consorcio nor
                   Directivos dos Baldios,    convenio)
                   whether in direct
                   management whether in
                   regimen of association
                   with the State)

                   Cases of renting to the
                   companies of forest
                   exploration (namely with
                   links to the celluloses)
                   Management supported by
                   the services' companies
                   More than one management
                   type can,
                   simultaneously, appear
                   in the same common land

Percentage of      38.7%: Direct management   51.7%: Direct management
commonlands in     61.3%: Co-management       29.3%: Convenio
each modality      with the State (3)         17.1%: Consorcio
                   (Baptista et al., 2002)    (Fernandez et al., 2006)

(1) Numbers refer only to Baldios subjected to the 'Regime Florestal

(2) Estimation based on a study carried out in MVMC of three counties
(Fernandez et al., 2006).

(3) The significance of the low Baldios percentage in direct
management is further aggravated by the fact that 551 baldios (67%)
are managed by Juntas, meaning that in many cases there is lack of
organization capacity by part of communities. The Juntas in most of
cases share their delegate functions with the Administration.

4. The commonlands' current situation in Galicia and in the north
of Portugal: a million hectares of commonlands

Characteristics     Baldios                    MVMC

Finantial           When trees were planted    With Convenio:
outcomes from       by the Forestry              70% fot the
forestry            Services:                  communities
activities in         60% for the                30% for the
commonlands with     communities (or Juntas     Administration
co-management       de Freguesia)
(legal                40% for the              With  Consorcio:
obligations)        Administration               40% for the
                    When the forest was        ....60% for the
                    originated through         Administration
                    natural regeneration:
                      80% for the
                    communities (or Juntas
                    de Freguesia)
                      20% for the

Reinvestments in    Whithout legal             15% of profits
commonlands         obligation

Fiscal              Tax exemption on the       Under the mercantile
obligations         income of collective       societies' general
                    people (IRC)               taxing regulations

Public subsidie     Without statistics (1)     90% of subsidies
                                               destined to both
                                               forestation of
                                               previously abandoned
                                               lands and silvicultural
                                               purposes (Fernandez et
                                               al., 2006)

The compartes/      Inhabitants of one or      Group of vecinos
comuneiros (20      more freguesias (or part   holding economic units,
                    of them) that              with permanent
                    accordingly to uses and    residence on a specific
                    customs are entitled to    geographic area
                    both use and fruition of   (parochial), being
                    Baldios (no.3 of art. 1    involved in activities
                    of law 68/93)              related with the MVMC
                    The obligation predicted
                    in 1976's law in order     The assemblies are
                    to apply the 'activity     constituted by the
                    in the location' does      houses' representatives
                    not exist. The voters
                    living in the local
                    community which holds
                    the baldio are generally
                    considered compartes

Sectors of          13.3%: Agriculture and     5.3%: Agriculture and
professional        fishing 49.4%: Industry    fishing 34.6%: Industry
activity (% of      and construction 37.3%:    and construction 60.1%:
vecinos /           Services                   Services
compartes) (4).

Intercomunitarian   One association--          15 Mancomunidades
associations.       'Nucleo'(since 2001)       (since 1997)

(1) The public subsidies are almost exclusively linked to State's
projects of afforestation. Referring to a new kind of official
agreement that allows communities to formalize applications, Germano
(2004) indicates that intentions of such applications exist in 3.5%
of the total area of Baldios.

(2) That is, holding the right to participate in democratic
assemblies which regarded the collective decision on issues related
to both mounts and communities themselves

(3) The requirement concerning the exercise of this activity makes
sense in peri-urban mounts due to the tendency to choose residential
areas away from the urban centers. People without relationship to the
vecinal community could then be accessing to benefits, namely
pecuniary ones (the Statutes of different communities will regulate
this issue).

(4) Data concerning only the Nucleo (in Portugal) and the
Mancomunidade of Ponte Caldelas (in Galicia).

4. The commonlands' current situation in Galicia and in the north of
Portugal: a million hectares of commonlands

Characteristics    Baldios                    MVMC

Communities'       BALADI--National           OGCMVMC--Galician
organization       Federation of the          organization of MVMC's
                   Baldios                    Communities

                   Regional organizations:    Associacion of
                                              Communities of MVMC of
                   Baldios' Secretaryship     Galicia (currently
                   of Tras-os-Montes e Alto   inactive)

                   ACEB -Association
                   towards the cooperation
                   among Baldios ADEFM--
                   Association of Minho

Associations       FORESTIS                   Galicia Forest
assembling         National Federation of     Association
communities and    Forest Producers (FNPF)
privates                                      Galician Sectorial
                   FENAFLORESTAS (National    Forest Association
                   Federation of Forestry
                   Cooperatives)              Galician Association for
                                              the Promotion of Forest
                   Several associations of    Wealth
                   Forestry Producers
                                              Professional Association

Uses (number or    719: forest area (2)       >33% of total surface:
percentage of                                 forest use
commonlands) (1)   685: shepherding (3)
                                              2% of total surface:
                   550: firewood gathering    animal use

                   589: bush gathering        63%: bush, firewood

                   153: antennas              87%: hunting coutos

                   85: quarries               50%: power lines

                   48: aeolian parks          4 MVMC: quarries
                   (Baptista et al., 2002)    (few examples of rural
                                              tourism; aeolian parks'
                                              expansion) (Fernandez et
                                              al. 2006 (4))

Prevailing         Forestation and
receipts'          cleanings (fire
applications (5)   prevention)

                   Social equipments

                   Water distribution

                   Access roads

                   Leisure Areas

(1) Available data do not allowd the direct comparison of both cases.
The commonlands occupy the worse lands, in which the forest
propensity prevails. In the alienations processes' there was a
preference for agricultural cultivation's lands. In Fernandez
Leiceaga's study (Fernandez et al., 2006), the used sample confirms
the superior percentages of unproductive uses

(2) In the last 25 years (according to 650 answers) it registered a
reduction of 614 (91% due to fires, 8% due to cuts without subsequent
forestation, 5% due to both reasons) and an increase of 366 (Baptista
et al. 2001).

(3) However, the number of people involved in pasturing is smaller
than the number involved in both firewood and the gathering of

(4) Estimation based on MVMC of three counties.

(5) Data concerning only the Nucleo (in Portugal) and the
Mancomunidad of Ponte Caldelas (in Galicia).

4. The commonlands' current situation in Galicia and in the north
of Portugal: a million hectares of commonlands

Characteristics                       Baldios MVMC

Positive externalities                The protected areas as well as
                                      an important number of
                                      territories of Rede Natura 2000
                                      are located in the commonlands.

                                      The commonlands are depositaries
                                      of the main biological diversity
                                      of both northern Portugal and
                                      Galicia, supplying cities,
                                      villages and towns with water

                                      The commonlands are surroundings
                                      of unpolluted air, annually
                                      absorbing thousands of tons of
                                      carbon dioxide, contributing for
                                      the Kyoto's Protocol fulfilment.

                                      The commonlands are crossed by
                                      tourist and cultural routes as
                                      well as by sporting itineraries
                                      of both landscape and
                                      ethnographic variety.


We thank F. Baptista (Departamento de Economia Agraria e Sociologia Rural, Instituto Superior de Agronomia) and M. Jordan (Instituto de Estudios e Desenvolvemento de Galicia, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela) for advice on the commons situation in Portugal and Spain, respectively.


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Ribeiro, J. [1], Cristovao, A. [2]

[1] Escola Superior Agraria, Instituto Politecnico de Coimbra, Bencanta, 3040-316 Coimbra, Portugal. Telephone +351 239802940. Fax +351 239802979.

[2] Departamento de Economia, Sociologia e Gestao, Universidade Tras-os-Montes e Alto Douro, 5000-660 Vila Real, Portugal.

(1) Its singularity must therefore be established when compared, for instance, to the situation in Navarra, where most of the common property belongs to the municipalities (Lana, 2008), to England and Wales' commonlands, which hold a "complex set of property rights" (Short, 2008), or to the reindeer herders' nomadic nature of their use of land (Minde, 2001).

(2) This conception, influenced by the individualistic behaviour theory and rooted for a long time in the western mentality, conceives as viable nothing other than free market and private property (Olson, 1965; Demsetz, 1967; Hardin, 1968); it is closely related to the liberal theories of the late 20th century and still remains the mainstay thinking. Commonlands, however, can be assessed differently. Since the mid-1980s, there has been a shift toward the potential of community-based management. Several authors summarized a body of evidence relevant to common-property resource management, describing not the tragedy but the potentiality of the commons, and not simply in sparse and remote regions. The work provided by several authors, supported by extensive field surveys and experimental research, highlighted the need to evaluate the costs of cooperation, and helped the clarification of concepts, the identification of variables and the design of principles essential to the functioning of communal property (Arnold and Campbell, 1986; Feeny et al., 1990; Ostrom, 1990; Bromley, 1992; Feeny, 1992; Oakerson, 1992; Ostrom, 1992; Edwards and Steins, 1997; Short and Winter, 1999; Steins and Edwards, 1999; Ostrom, 2001; Agarwal, 2001; Agrawal, 2001; Dietz et al., 2002; McCay, 2002; Mackenzie, 2004; Poteete, 2004; Brown, 2006; van Laerhoven and Ostrom, 2007).

(3) In Galicia, the Laws 13/1989 and 260/1992 of the MVMC establish that in each resident family (or economic unity) only one member can be a commoner. According to the Portuguese law all residents are commoners. Here we used the same Galician criterion to determine the commoners' number in both cases.

(4) "Trust" defined here as the expectation by members of a group that others will cooperate.

(5) This reference to the "association benefits" in the OGCMVMC journal exemplifies the commitment: "The benefits of the organization as [mucho menor que]mancomunidade [mucho mayor que] are better revealed in planning and claiming. Some examples: fighting forest fires; education and divulgation activities; productive projects in commonlands. In terms of claiming, we only have to keep in mind that union is strenght" (Diaz, 2004).
Table 1. The population's characteristics and employment in the
studied parishes of northern Portugal and the parroquias of Galicia.
Data source: the Portuguese and the Galician institutes of population
statistics (census of 2001)

                                  Parishes of Amarante
                                  (northern Portugal)

Total population                         4185

Age distribution (%)
  <14 years                              19.4
  15-64 years                            62.4
  [greater than or equal to]65
    years                                18.3

Employment (%)
  Agriculture and fisheries              13.3
  Industry and construction              49.4
  Services                               37.3

                                  Parroquias of Ponte
                                  Caldelas (Galicia)

Total population                         5921

Age distribution (%)
  <14 years                              10.9
  15-64 years                            63.9
  [greater than or equal to]65
    years                                25.2
Employment (%)
  Agriculture and fisheries              5.3
  Industry and construction              34.6
  Services                               60.1

Table 2. Level of significance of the individual uses of the
commonlands in northern Portugal and Galicia. 0 = inexistent; 1 =
little significance; 2 = little significance but widespread; 3 =
medium significance; 4 = moderately significant; 5 = very significant

                             Nucleo de Amarante
                             (Northern Portugal)

Collection of firewood                2
Collection of bushes                  2
Husbandry                             1
Production of honey (1)               1
Collection of mushrooms               1
Collection of wild berries            1

                             Mancomunidade de Ponte
                               Caldelas (Galicia)

Collection of firewood                  2
Collection of bushes                    2
Husbandry                               1
Production of honey (1)                 1
Collection of mushrooms                 1
Collection of wild berries              1

(1) Significant in two cases

Table 3. Level of participation in the organization and management of
the commonlands in northern Portugal and Galicia. 0 = inexistent; 1 =
very low; 2 = low; 3 = moderate; 4 = high; 5 = very high; 2-3-4 * =
impossible to correctly attribute a value--participation may be high
in crisis situations, e.g. during the occurrence of wildfires

                     Nucleo de Amarante    Mancomunidade de Ponte
                     (Northern Portugal)   Caldelas (Galicia)

Participation in     1                     3

Participation in     1                     2
daily organization
and management

Participation in     2-3-4 *               2-3-4 *
crisis situations
(forest fires)

Table 4. Uses of the commonlands in northern Portugal and Galicia. 0
= not used; 1 = residual use; 2 = little importance; 3 = median
importance; 4 = important; 5 = very important

                        Nucleo de Amarante    Mancomunidade de Ponte
                        (Northern Portugal)     Caldelas (Galicia)

Forestry                4                     4
Herding                 0                     1
Water abstraction       3                     0
Mobile phone antennas   2                     2
Aeolian parks           3                     0 (1)
Quarries                0                     1

(1) Only in project

Table 5. Accomplishments made with revenues associated to the
commonlands in northern Portugal and Galicia. 0 = none; 1 = very
little importance; 2 = little importance; 3 = medium importance; 4 =
important; 5 = very important

                         Nucleo de Amarante    Mancomunidade de
                         (Northern Portugal)    Ponte Caldelas

Afforestation            4                     4
Tending and thinning     4                     4
Wild fire prevention     4                     4
Social buildings         3                     2
Water distribution       4                     3
Roadways                 4                     4
Picnic/festivity areas   4                     4
Fluvial beaches          3                     0
Other equipments         3 (1)                 2 (2)

(1) One aero modelling lane, one trout aquaculture, two gaming parks,
physical maintenance circuit

(2) windmills, one archaeological park, water-fountains

Table 6. Factors negatively affecting the general commons' reality

Adverse ideological prejudice         Galicia and Portugal

The dependency from external          Galicia and Portugal
support (for instance, in the
financing, creating and maintaining
of teams against forest fires)

Co-management dominated by            Galicia and Portugal (heavier in
Administration                        Portugal)

The absence of management plans       As recorded, one third of the 23
difficult control over what has and   Galician communities   have
hasn't been done, also difficult      such   plans; in Portugal, they
the assignment of responsibilities    are finally being prepared,
                                      recent Administration's
                                      decisions wants all Baldios with
                                      such plans

Taxation regime (commons'             Out of control in Portugal. In
accounting ought to be properly       Galicia, without acknowledge of
controlled)                           the collective, social and
                                      environmental functions

Lack of participation by men and      In Galicia, the legal
women.                                assignation of community member
                                      to one head per house entails
                                      extra difficulties to women

Loss of communities' cohesion         Galicia and Portugal

Table 7. Opportunities for the North-Western Iberian Peninsula commons

1. Long term strategies associated    Galicia and Portugal
to the legal principles of

2. Contribution to the local          Galicia and Portugal

3. Rural areas with minimum           The average is larger in
dimensions to perform sustainable     Portugal, but in both countries
management                            the commonlands dimensions are
                                      quite adequate for sustainable
                                      management. This characteristic
                                      has special interest since in
                                      this region the land is divided
                                      into very small plots (both in
                                      Galicia and in the north of

4. Forestry production (eucalypt,     Many highlands in Galicia and in
pine, autochthonous and exotic        the north of Portugal are
broadleaf trees)                      covered with trees (mainly
                                      eucalyptus in the Mancomunidade
                                      of Ponte Caldelas and mainly
                                      pines in the Nucleo of
                                      Amarante). However, recent
                                      forest fires and tardy
                                      Administration management are
                                      responsible for situations of

5. Non-wood forestry production       Galicia and Portugal
(grazing, honey production,
mushroom, wild berries, medicinal
and aromatic plants collection,
hunting and fishing, biomass

6. Aeolian parks and other            Galicia and Portugal (in project
renewable energies                    in the Mancomunidade of Ponte

7. Recreational activities in         Galicia and Portugal (practiced
growing demand such as                in both the Mancomunidade of
(eco)tourism, hunting and fishing     Ponte Caldelas and in the Nucleo
                                      of Amarante, but without

8. Environmental functions            Galicia and Portugal
including carbon sequestration and
biodiversity promotion

9. Social functions (job generation   Galicia and Portugal
and thus enhancement of population

10. Cultural functions (promotion     Galicia and Portugal
of landscape values, cultural
patrimony, ...)
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Author:Ribeiro, J.; Cristovao, A.
Publication:Spanish Journal of Rural Development
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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