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Whose Commons? Fishermen, Developmentalists, and Conservationists on Lake Malawi

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Ferguson, Anne; Derman, William; Mkandawire, Richard
Conference: Designing Sustainability on the Commons, the First Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Duke University, Durham, NC
Conf. Date: September 27-30, 1990
Date: 1990
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/187
Sector: Fisheries
Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Africa
Subject(s): fisheries
water resources
Abstract: "We report on the early stages of a research project studying the growing crises in Africa's Great Lakes. Our presentation focuses upon the perceptions and understandings of Lake Malawi and its management held by fish biologists, fisheries department personnel, National Parks administrators, multinational oil companies, private aquarium interests, commercial fishing concerns and lakeside peoples. Lake Malawi contains almost 300 identified fish species (with more than an equal number not yet fully identified) and has a novel and newly established lakeside national park whose primary attraction is the colorful aquarium fish. The park provides a lever for environmentalists to lobby for alternative and sustainable uses of the lake in opposition to those whom one can loosely group as developmentalists. Among these are advocates of aquaculture. Malawi has recently seen a burgeoning of interest and 'onfarm' research in aquaculture. The flow of resources in aquaculture has diverted many qalified personnel and scare training funds away from management of the lake. In our paper we discuss the terms of the debate between the developmentalists and environmentalists -- how these different interests understand the lake as 'commons' and what constitutes its appropriate management. We conclude with the all too familiar finding that the least understood part of the lake system has been its fishing peoples. We briefly outline how they make sense out of the policies and decisions put forth by these two interest groups."

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