Strengthening access to aquatic resources

Posted on October 1, 2014

Especially in developing countries, aquatic resources are central to rural livelihoods, food and nutritional security, and the reduction of poverty. Because rural people are often faced with competition from multiple stakeholders over rights to access land, water, wetlands and fisheries, it’s important to develop and maintain governance systems that are fair and just. It’s been proposed that the practice of governance should be analysed by reference to three main dimensions, namely representation (…which stakeholders are represented in decision-making, and how?), power (…how is formal and informal authority distributed with regard to resource access and management?) and accountability (…how are power-holders held accountable for their decisions, and to whom?). This type of analytic framework can help to formulate programmes of action research to diagnose obstacles and opportunities for improved governance. The authors of the proposal illustrate their approach by reference to several case studies, one of which focusses on the expansion of access to resources through community-based fish culture in Bangladesh floodplains. In this example, stakeholder representation was improved as a result of government lobbying by coalitions of community organizations and environmental lawyers. Community-based fish culture has helped to redistribute authority by improving income and nutrition for the landless poor and female-led households, two groups that were excluded in the previous system. And as community organizations have become more active advocates and better at communicating with local government, they have also become better at preventing the capture of resources by elites. These patterns of action have helped to increase production levels, equalize the distribution of benefits, and allow households to invest more in health and education, which all help to build community resilience to shocks and stresses.

Reference: Ratner, B.D. et al. 2013. Governance of aquatic agricultural systems: analyzing representation, power, and accountability. Ecology and Society 18(4), 59.

Posted in: fish, social