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Dilemmas of Democratic Decentralisation in Mangochi District, Malawi: Interest and Mistrust in Fisheries Management

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Hara, Mafaniso
Journal: Conservation & Society
Volume: 6
Date: 2008
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/2721
Sector: Fisheries
Subject(s): fisheries
resource management
Abstract: "To establish participatory fisheries management, in 1993 Malawis Fisheries Department constituted elected Beach Village Committees (BVCs) with village headmen as ex-officio members. But, struggles between elected BVC members and traditional authorities (TAs) over benefits from fisheries undermined the authority of elected members. Legal ambiguity on who should make decisions facilitated the takeover by headmen. Further, the BVC was elected by the population as a whole, representing more than just the fishers, whom these committees were designed to control. This resulted in the sabotaging of the BVCs activities by the fishers. Under these conditions, representing the whole population undermined the effectiveness of the BVCs. In 1998, decentralisation reforms placed community inclusion in fisheries management under Village Development Committees (VDCs), whose members would be appointed by elected District Assemblies (DAs). This reform is likely to unleash a struggle over BVC-VDC relations. But, different visions of decentralisation, shared mistrust of local democracy, higher level battles for authority among the government, politicians and TAs stalled the decentralisation process. Donors supporting these reforms were also mistrustful of representative local institutions. The institutions chosen and recognised by the government under donor pressure are the sites of political struggles in which representation, a sense of belonging and downward accountability are losing ground."

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