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Field Trips

International Association for the Study of the Commons
IASC European Meeting

September 14-17, 2011
Hosted by the Agricultural University Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Theme: Shared Resources in a Rapidly Changing World


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During socialism, large production units, cooperatives and agro-industrial complexes organized the agricultural production in Bulgaria. Land reform in Bulgaria was initiated in early 1991. The land in Bulgaria was not nationalized; therefore the reform was an act of restitution. The ownership on land parcels was restored to the previous owners or their inheritors, within the actual or comparable boundaries that existed before the collectivization in the 1950s. However, the landowners from the 1950s had grown too old to farm; some had passed away. In addition, a great number of them had several inheritors living in towns, and no desire to return to the village.
The land reform was officially reported as completed in 2000, when nearly all landowners got their official land titles. However, receiving the formal title is a necessary but not sufficient condition for obtaining de facto property right. From New-Institutional-Economics point of view the real owner is the one who can extract the benefits, and also who bears the cost of maintaining the asset. Most of the new landowners (especially the ones who live in the towns) are neither able to extract the benefit from land, nor can bear the cost to maintain it. This situation creates a range of problems that will not disappear until full adjustment of the property system happens. Therefore, the land reform should be considered as completed not after the initial distribution of formal land rights, but after the process of secondary redistribution, during which other institutional arrangement emerge.


Salinisation is a phenomenon with complex interactions in the eco-system. Unlike most of the other soil degradation problems, preventing soils from salinisation processes, requires not only technical measures but also appropriate institutional settings, e.g. for managing irrigation or the nearby forest.
The total area of village’s land is 4200 ha. At the present time, about 1200 ha are not cultivated because of salinisation plus other economic and social reasons The salinisation process in the village of Belozem is a result of natural conditions and improper human activities over the last 500 years. During the sixties and seventies, the existing irrigation system was reconstructed, a drainage system was developed, and chemical melioration was carried out on most of the fields. Since the agrarian reform, the drainage system is not maintained and this poses a real threat, i.e. that salinisation may reverse to the level that existed before sixties. The reasons for this situation are not clearly defined property rights on land, the drainage infrastructure, and the water resources. In addition, the cooperation among the farmers is not sufficient to operate the complex irrigation-drainage system. Nevertheless, the community went through a very intensive collective action process within the last years for struggling to cope with the salinisation problem. We will get an insight into this process during our field trip.
Belozem is situated about 30 minutes drive from Plovdiv. We meet the major of the village, we speak with a salinisation expert, who has long since followed the development of the community and have a tour visiting the fields and the village.


Very often large farmers plow and plant the field paths and municipal pastures. They justify this action with the consolidation of their land. Plowing dirt roads, however, prevents small farmers, which got their land back after restitution, to reach their plots. Plowing municipal pastures deprives poor stock-breeders of land on which to graze cattle. In an attempt to clarify the users’ rights, the recent changes in the Land Law provide the opportunity for communities, to distribute municipal pastures among their stock-breeders. The distribution is supposed to happen during general meetings of the population in the villages. Mayors, in cooperation with the Municipal Office for Agriculture, produce lists of farmers who raise animals and want to use municipal pastures. It is possible for farmers to organize themselves in associations, which continue to use the pastures jointly. During this field trip we learn about this process of institutional change, the redistribution of property rights and its implications for production.
We visit Saedinenie and its’ the municipal pastures and field paths, we speak with the responsible person of the municipality on the one side and a representative of the cattle raisers on the other side, to get a comprehensive insight into the conflicts of the case. Saedinenie is located 30 kilometers North –West from Plovdiv and covers an area of 29 772 ha, of which 25 614 is arable land.

Agricultural University of Plodviv pictureLeibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology pictureLeib­niz In­sti­tu­te of Agri­cul­tu­ral De­ve­lop­ment in Cen­tral and Eas­tern Eu­ro­pe (IAMO) pictureBodø University College (BUC) picture

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