Monash University
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Institutions and human mobility in an African river fishery: a case study of fishing camps on the Kafue Flats, Zambia

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posted on 2017-03-02, 23:15 authored by Musutu, Sililo Agness
Fisheries in developing countries are coming under increased pressure as accessibility improves and more people seek better catches, higher prices and access to expanding urban markets. Evidence shows that institutional arrangements that have successfully regulated access to fish stocks over many generations are now proving ineffective as new entrants gain access and over-exploit the stocks. Over the past thirty years, exploitation of the floodplain fishery of the Kafue River in Zambia has increased markedly as more people settle in the area and “seasonal migrants” access the fishery during the flood season. The capacity to exclude new entrants is thus a key determinant of achieving sustainable use. The purpose of this study was to determine how capacity (assets, capabilities and context) affects the performance of institutions (organised groups of actors) to effectively regulate access to the Kafue fishery. The design of the study was qualitative in nature, drawing on interviews and documentary analysis to identify capacity constraints and successes in the governance structures in two fishing camps on the Kafue Flats that differ in their accessibility. The semi-structured interviews involved 29 respondents from Shimungalu and Nyimba fishing camps on the Kafue Flats, Zambia. I compare the findings to provide insights into why regulation was effective at one site – Shimungalu – and not at the other–Nyimba. The study revealed that the government’s ability to effectively regulate access to and use of the fish resource is constrained by limited assets. The reality is that the government will not be able to acquire sufficient resources necessary to effectively regulate access to and use of the Kafue fishery on its own. Migrant fisher-folk use their assets and capabilities to establish a context that makes it difficult for them to be excluded, especially in fishing camps such as Nyimba, where the actors have low self-esteem and confidence, resulting in an inferiority complex and inability to enforce by-laws. While there will always be capacity constraints in governance, the findings of this study expose an opportunity for the government and other stakeholders to strengthen their capacities when a nested system with polycentric governance (polycentricity) is understood and implemented. The situation in Shimungalu demonstrates that polycentricity strengthens horizontal and vertical links amongst groups of actors, improves connectivity, mobilises local resources, facilitates co-learning and provides opportunities to combat corruption. Polycentricity represents a collective governance system in which all groups of actors involved in fisheries management on the Kafue floodplain fishery can interact across scales and levels under a general set of rules. It offers a solution because it enables organisations to fill institutional voids and configure the available assets and capabilities in ways that allow them to meet the challenge posed by migrants while also promoting appropriate harvesting methods. It is suggested that further study should be conducted to deepen the understanding of establishing and operationalising a more formal nested system with polycentric governance in the management of common pool resources (CPRs).


Principal supervisor

Charles Breen

Additional supervisor 1

Linda Downsborough

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School of Media, Film and Journalism

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Film and Television Studies

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Faculty of Arts

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