Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

James K. Boyce

Second Advisor

Léonce Ndikumana

Third Advisor

Frank Holmquist

Subject Categories

Economics | Economic Theory


This dissertation evaluates the applicability of Elinor Ostrom’s theory of the commons to other forms of collective action by mapping it on a case study of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union in Ethiopia and its efforts to overcome the vast disparities that have long structured the global coffee commodity chain (the “Coffee Paradox”). The conclusions I draw are the following. While Ostrom’s theory has serious omissions, it also sheds much needed light on the struggles of Ethiopia’s coffee farmers to overcome their poverty. Both the design principles that Ostrom identifies for governance rules and her list of predictors for successful common property resource management institutions suggest that Ethiopia’s coffee cooperatives could be in peril. However, by expanding Ostrom’s governance framework to incorporate a broader enabling role for governments as well as supportive roles for civic organizations, NGOs, and social movements, we see greater potential for the success of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union.