Misali Island, Tanzania: An Open Access Resource Redefined

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"As with many of post-colonial East Africa's valuable natural resource areas, the fishery of Misali Island, off the West Coast of Pemba, Tanzania, could, until recently, have been defined as open access common property due to the government's inability to effectively enforce the official system of state ownership. Moves by local community members, government sympathisers and external agents have led to the establishment of a legally recognised communal property resource, centrally managed by a heterogeneous stakeholder group that both coordinates control mechanisms inside the area and advocates for the rights of users to higher-level organisations. "Towards the beginning of the decade the traditional users of Misali (an estimated 1640 fishermen from 29 different coastal communities around Pemba) were threatened with exclusion from their livelihood resource through the possible lease of the island to tourism investors. This prompted extensive lobbying of the government of Zanzibar, who agreed that the island would be proposed as a community-managed eco-tourism site in which sustainable, controlled off-take would be allowed to continue. "Stakeholder workshops and advocacy by government and foreign agencies led, in May 1998, to the designation of Misali Island and its surrounding reefs as a protected conservation area. This allowed for the enforcement of controls on extraction by a central Management Committee, made up of resource users, government and NGO representatives. The development of an eco-tourism industry to the island will, through new visitor charges, provide immediate benefits to fishers communities to offset revenues lost during the move towards sustainable resource use and provide the funds needed for long term protected area management. MICA (Misali Island Conservation Association), an NGO made up primarily of fishermen, has been formed as the organisation responsible for management of the resource, monitoring use of the resource by outsiders such as fishermen from Kenya and the neighbouring island of Unguja as well as distributing tourism revenue to member villages. "Many of the issues raised in the Misali project are of relevance to contemporary questions in common property studies: (1) What has been the trajectory of involvement of higher-level organisations (for example MICA, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources) in the management of the resource? How has the involvement of these organisations affected the cooperation between direct resource users? How has advocacy by these organisations changed the management of the resources on the ground?; (2)Does the degree of dependence of the different user groups on the resource affect their commitment to cooperation?; (3) What are the interactions between different user groups (Kenyan/Ungujan/Pemban fishers/tourists)?; (4) Are the user group boundaries becoming redefined as the property regime of the island develops? "This paper traces the evolution of the management regime on Misali Island. It examines some of the questions outlined above, their relevance to other case studies and considers the future management of the resources and its effects on the livelihoods of the users."



IASC, common pool resources, tourism, fisheries, protected areas, co-management, NGOs, open access, property rights, resource management