Governance Issues, Potentials and Failures of Participatory Collective Action in the Kafue Flats, Zambia

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"Fisheries, wildlife and pastures are under massive pressure in the Kafue Flats, which is one of the largest floodplains in southern and Central Africa. This wetland ecosystem that once harboured abundant common-pool resources that was managed by local common property regimes is now being threatened with overexploitation. During the last 30 years there has been severe pressure and overuse of these common-pool resources. A historical and New Institutionalist analysis of the situation of common-pool resources indicates that overuse of fisheries and the mismanagement of wildlife stem from the erosion of traditional institutions by the state. Institutional weakness resulting from economic decline in the country is of major concern as the institutions can no longer effectively enforce regulations in the area, a situation which has led to a de facto open access constellation for common-pool resources. There have been several attempts to mitigate this problem based on conservation attempts and designed to include local level governance in the management of common-pool resources with mixed results. The paper discusses three cases: the first is the WWF-Wetland Project and the Administrative Management Design (ADMADE) initiative, was designed to deal with the management of Lochinvar and Blue Lagoon National Parks and the adjacent Game Management Area through the involvement of local chiefs and local communities. The second case refers to the Partners for Wetlands Project, which included local people represented by their chiefs as well as the public and private sectors from large agricultural enterprises on the eastern side of the Kafue Flats (Mwanachinwala Conservation Area project in Mazabuka). Both attempts yielded poor results due to misconceptions of traditional representation of local communities and misinterpretation of local economic and political incentives for participation and sense of local ownership. Although the ADMADE programme appears to be escalating, its implementation continues to receive considerable resistance from those opposed to chiefs and later from the chiefs themselves. In the third case, the paper examines a participatory co-management process in the fisheries, which started in 2004, based on initiatives by local staff of the Department of Fisheries, local interest groups and researchers. A broad local debate on how to manage the fisheries sustainably and develop locally based by-laws for joint management of fisheries gives potential for success and appears promising for the future of fisheries in the Kafue Flats. Despite many difficulties, it is an example of local collective action to scale up governance of common-pool resources."



co-management, institutions, collective action, common pool resources, flood management, governance and politics, participatory development