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Alternative Pathways to Food Sovereignty through Community Based Partnerships: A Social-Ecological Case Study


The greatest challenges to sustainable food cultivation are social, not technological, and it is at small scales where some of the most innovative experiments in human organization are taking place. Through this case study, I sought to assess how one particular agricultural community in Costa Rica successfully transformed their local economy through collaborative partnerships with external partners over a twenty-year period. The dissertation assesses how well existing theories regarding the management of common-pool resources explain the capacity this community has demonstrated in transforming local livelihoods towards improved social and ecological well-being. Questions regarding trust, vulnerability, and collaboration are explored to better understand how NGOs can serve to successfully support long term regenerative development and robust social partnerships.

Results reinforce and lend support to existing theories regarding the management of common-pool resources. Each of Ostrom’s (1990) eight principles for successfully managing public goods were observed to play crucial roles in both the successes and failures in the observed case. In addition, the current investigation identifies a ninth principle that should be considered during the formation and maintenance of groups, teams, or organizations to foster cooperative, well-functioning partnerships. Food is the often under-acknowledged, basic social building block that engages all five senses and creates unique opportunities for sharing and strengthening interpersonal bonds.

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