Covasna County

The composesorate in Covasna County (SE part of Transylvania) were officially established in the second part of the 19th century, by the Austrian Empire seeking to put an end to acute conflicts between aristocrats, freeholders and former serfs. Most of the composesorate we encountered in the study were former properties of groups of freeholders and former border guards (grăniceri). The composesorates are formed of members with a certain quantity of shares/rights (called shares, quota-parts, or simply parts -- and recently transformed into hectares). The shares are allocated to the descendants of the initial members from the 19th century, by dividing up equally among heirs (for more detail please see section on History).

As community-based fully-fledged organizations, the commons of Covasna administer the forests and pastures in a rigorous and equitable manner, treasuring the land as a common good, a community inheritance, which offers valuable benefits to the members and the whole community. Having a fairly developed material basis (income, capital, cars, machinery etc.), purchased through management of the available resources, these commons are able and act as safe-nets for people in or around them. The community as a whole is constantly sustained through investments in cultural, educational or social needs (sponsorships to the school, sports team, music or dance ensembles, funeral halls, party halls etc.) or even high-value investments, such as roads, big constructions, repairs of the commonly-used spaces (churches, pastures, wells, cemetery, the eating hall in the church etc.).

The study included interviews with 49 composesorate representatives, distributed as in the following map.

Map. The commons, composesorate, included in the study sample. N=49

  • In 2015, the territory of Covasna had approximately 169.000 hectares of forest and 61.000 hectares of pastures. 116 forest and pasture commons - composesorate -  function in the whole county, summing up 32% of the total forested area (54.000 hectares) and more than half of the forested areas privately owned.

  • The commons in Covasna own medium sized forests and pasture lands, smaller than the ones in the South or East, but much higher than the ones in the West. According to our data, the commons in Covasna managed on average: 763ha of forest and 202 ha of pasture, to which there can be added an average of 51ha of forested pastures.

  • The annual allowable quota of timber on average is 2678 cubic meters/year/composesorat and what has been effectively harvested (according to declarations of composesorate representatives) is 2109 cubic meters/ composesorat.

  • Most of the timber is commercialized as standing timber towards local logging companies, and 1/4 is distributed towards the members as firewood.

  • Composesorate in Covasna are well-equipped with assets such as: off-road vehicles (23 cases), forestry machinery (23 cases), buildings and office center (20 cases) and a range of utility constructions (stables, sheepfolds or forest huts).

  • The assets of the commons in Covasna county:

    • 20% have logging enterprises and / or logging teams

    • 41% have office buildings in their property

    • 47% own at least one off-road vehicle

    • 47% own forestry and/or agricultural machinery

  • Members’ participation in the decision making process of the commons in Covasna county:

    • 33% - equal vote

    • 66% - voting proportional to the amount of rights

    • 20% - secret vote for the Council;

    • 27% - two valid General Assembly annually

    • 50% - the quorum is not met at the first annual General Assembly, a second call is necessary

  • The benefits offered to the members of the commons in Covasna county:

    • 10% offer exclusively firewood

    • 47% offer exclusively cash

    • 27% offer aids for members in difficult situations (death, sickness, losses, conflagration)

    • Firewood quota for members (average/member): 1.5mc/ hectare

    • Dividends value (average/member): 252 RON (50 Euro)/ hectare

Interactive map of researched commons in Covasna County. Please click on the red dots for details about each composesorat. Scroll down in data window for more information. Source: Associative Environmentality data base 2017

Examples of stamps for official documents, used by composesorate in Covasna county in 2016.

Approximately 20% of the county population is a member in one of the commons in Covasna, which cumulate around 41.500 members in total (*according to an estimation based on our findings and the data of the 2011 national census). The number of members in each composesorat varies greatly, from 16 individuals to 1400. Over time, the number of members increases constantly, as some members die and their heirs become members.

The over-division of rights, a consequence of this system of inheritance, tends to become a problem, because a large part of the members are not entitled to receive significant benefits. This is a usual problem in other Romanian commons as well. For example, in cases of over-fragmentation, members with very small shares cannot receive a portion of firewood, or the cash dividends are so small that they are not even worth the effort of people retrieving the dividend. Moreover, if members with very small shares have the right to vote, they tend to become a mass of decision without a real stake. At present, 16 composesorate in Covasna (33%) have have more than 30% of members with insignificant shares. 4 composesorate have most of the members (above 50%) with very small shares. The chairman of the Alsocsernatoni Szekely Kozbirtokossag Composesorat (Cernat commune) considers that a possible solution could be that the composesorate (as a whole) buys the very small rights. Another solution is the one encountered in the Forest and Pasture Composesorat Bățanii Mari (Bățani commune), where in order to avoid excessive fragmentation, the assembly of commoners decided that the rights smaller than 1 ha should not be divided, and the descendants, siblings, are urged to reach a consensus for splitting the benefits.

A member can buy the rights of another member, the by-laws allow only for internal transactions. In most cases, In Covasna the frequency of these transactions is relatively low. The purchase of rights internally can be done by respecting a maximum cap/limit set by each common in the by-laws (statut).

All the by-laws of the Covasna composesorate mention a cap, a limit on the number of rights that may be held by a member, indicating concern for equitable sharing of rights and benefits and prevention of monopolies. The limit can be 5%, 10% or 20% of the total number of shares.

Example fragment from by-laws of one composesorat. "Article 5. (...) a) The surface and the rights acquired by a member of the composesorat cannot exceed 5% of the patrimony of the composesorat. b) The alienation of rights in the composesorat can be done only among members of the composesorat, with the exception on the composesorat institutution, which can acquire rights or other assets from its members or other persons or firms, on the condition that it redistributes the acquired property among members, proportionally with the rights/shares/quota-parts held by each."

Example fragment from by-laws of one composesorat. "Article 7. (1)The right to vote of each member of the composesorat is established as follows: - up to one hectare (share) - one vote

                                        -for more than one hectare (share) the number of votes equals the number of full hectares (shares) held

(2) No member can hold individual rights of possession or administration over the patrimony of the composesorat, cannot claim individual property rights or claim its individual title as composesor (commoner member).