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An Adaptive Organizational Learning Framework for Resilience in Fisheries Co-Management: Based on an Analysis of Fisheries Regimes in Malawi

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Russell, A.J.M.; Dobson, T.
Conference: Governing Shared Resources: Connecting Local Experience to Global Challenges, the Twelfth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Commons
Location: Cheltenham, England
Conf. Date: July 14-18, 2008
Date: 2008
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/286
Sector: Fisheries
Region: Africa
Subject(s): fisheries
institutional change
Abstract: "Due to fish stock declines in Lakes Malawi and Malombe, the Malawian government introduced co-management to replace a central fisheries management regime that lacked local legitimacy. Based on a combination of ethnographic and archival data collected over a three year period, we present analyses of co-management regime 'successes' and 'failures' through a model of organizational learning. Existing local leadership institutions tend to cater to social demands for stability and continuity. As ecological and social contexts evolve, crises develop that these institutions may be unwilling/unable to address. In some cases, governments, communities, donor agencies and NGOs promoted the creation of co-management regimes in direct opposition to existing institutions, causing many co-management institutions to fail. Even where successfully introduced, co-managementregimes' effectiveness may be eroded by rival institutions' attempts to resist the changes imposed, or due to the new institution's own inertia. "We argue that the success of institutional innovations in fisheries regimes is influenced by the awareness of local leaders and extension agents to 'psychological failures' and their in/abilities to address these challenges to adaptive organizational learning processes. Only if local institutions are helped to balance the natural desire for stability with adaptivity to social/ecological change, will co-management institutions be able to achieve resilience. We discuss predictable psychological failures experienced in local fisheries contexts in Malawi, and suggest ways in which NGOs and local Fisheries Department staff should address them. For an agency to succeed in promoting these types of adaptive learning processes at the local level, its field staff must be supported in playing the roles of sensitizers, facilitators, and advisors, addressing locally-relevant needs. Co-management in Malawi poorly addresses the influence of traditional authorities, and the proposed framework can be used to support institutional innovation by fisherfolk stakeholder groups and traditional authorities."

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