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Community Management of Floodplain Lakes of the Middle Solimões River, Amazonas State, Brazil: A Model of Preservation in Transformation

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Oliveira, A. C.; Cunha, L. H.
Conference: Constituting the Commons: Crafting Sustainable Commons in the New Millennium, the Eighth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bloomington, IN
Conf. Date: May 31-June 4
Date: 2000
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/865
Sector: Fisheries
Region: South America
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
community participation
indigenous institutions
collective action
river basins
institutional analysis
Abstract: "In the early 1980s, various lake-management initiatives emerged in the middle region of the Solimões River, in the state of Amazonas, Brazil. These initiatives responded to two complementary dynamics: 1) the work of the Catholic church in forming community organizations with local leaderships, influenced by the concepts of Liberation Theology (choice for the poor and fighting against unjust resource distribution), and 2) the perception of scarcity of fish resources on which the riverside population depends, provoked by commercial fishing practiced as much by local fishers as by large fishing boats responding to the increase in demand that accompanied the growth of the regions urban centers. In an area of 250,000 km2 and a population of around 200,000 (equivalent to the area of the archdiocese de Tefé), more than 330 preserved lakes are registered in 10 counties. In 1992, the Preservation and Development Group (GPD) was created, which currently draws 26 communities involved with lake preservation from Tefé, Alvarães, and Maraã counties. The present study concentrates its attention on the communities participating in the GPD, using three communities (Santa Helena do Icé, São Paulo do Coracy, and Santa Tereza do Cubuá) as field research sites. These communities are located near the city of Tefé, approximately 600 km from Manaus, in a floodplain region influenced by the Solimões and Japurá rivers. "The general preservation model encountered among the GPD communities employs three definitions of types of lakes: procreation lakes, in which fishing is not permitted (also called 'sanctuaries'); maintenance lakes, in which fishing is permitted exclusively for the subsistence of community families, and free lakes, where access to the resource is not regulated by the community. This general model has been adapted by the studied communities to differing local conditions. These differences result in a diversity of local rules for access and resource use (fishing equipment and areas, fish sizes), as well as specific mechanisms of conflict resolution, vigilance, and punishment of offenders. Local conditions do not determine only the management model format, but also the possibilities for success and their evolution dynamics. The communities must respond to different levels of external and internal pressure, which reflect different situations: location relative to the principal consumer markets, degree of accessibility to the preserved lakes, variations in the levels of flood and drought, resource use history, and interaction with other regional actors (public offices and NGOs, unions, church) and other potential users. "To differing degrees, these communities have had to defend themselves from a series of 'invasions' by small fishers, organized in groups--often armed--intensified in the years 1998 and 1999. The success of the lake management initiatives in the region thus reflected the capacity to adapt the general model (inspired by the work of the Catholic church in the region) to the recent challenges. In the face of these challenges, the former resource- management model, which focused on guaranteeing subsistence to community families, is moving toward a model that combines the subsistence priority with commercialization of the fish resource."

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