The paper investigates actions and decisions of agricultural resource users and explores their implications for institutional change and natural resource management in the post-socialist context of Central Asia. More specifically, the authors propose a novel methodological approach for the aforementioned context to support policy-relevant research that explicitly addresses behavioral responses of pastoralists in Kyrgyzstan. The paper builds on distributive and economic theories of institutional change and combines findings from lab and field framed economic experiments with complementary qualitative methods (questionnaires, group discussions and semi-structured interviews). By these means the authors test the impact of a specific variable on institutional change in pasture use: the role of power and specifically the difference in the ability of players to “survive” in a bargaining game without an agreement. The impact of power asymmetries and its implications for cooperation and the efficiency of bargaining outcomes are discussed and analyzed. Experimental results largely confirm findings reported in the literature: as players learn about the game and the behavior of others, they adjust their decisions accordingly; the subjects also exhibit other-regarding preferences, resulting to the prevalence of relatively equally distributed gains as an outcome. Furthermore, the findings of the study suggest that under the condition of incomplete information about the preferences of other players, the experimental subjects internalize the game as a group. The authors propose that an explanatory variable for such situations might be that actual shared beliefs of pasture users assist players to economize on information processing and coordinate the bargaining in an effective way. From this perspective, the paper raises a series of questions regarding the proposition that power asymmetry leads to inefficient bargaining outcomes, and provides some first insights for further investigation.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited