Ambivalent Enforcers, Rules and Conflicts in the Co-Management of Brazilian Reservoir Fisheries

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"About 12% of Brazil's total area, comprising nine states in the country's Northeast, is semi-arid. Droughts, which in the past have periodically wiped out large populations of local residents and driven millions from their homes, have been a frequent phenomenon well into our days. The damming of rivers and the creation of reservoirs has been and still is the state's major policy instrument against droughts. Today there are about 60,000 reservoirs with an inundated area of circa 800,000 ha in the so-called 'Polygon of Droughts.' Their main purposes are water storage for agricultural and domestic use during the annual dry seasons and prolonged periods of drought, river flow regulation to allow for irrigated cultivation of perennial crops, and fisheries and aquaculture. "While some claim that the hydraulic infrastructure provided in the past has been insufficient and almost insignificant in the face of existing necessities (MACEDO 1996), other have pointed out that engineering measures per se are not sufficient to resolve water scarcity and its effects on the rural economy (KEMPER 1996). What is needed, they argue, are institutional improvements in aquatic resources use and management. This has become even more pressing as the National Department of Works Against Droughts --DNOCS, the federal organisation responsible for constructing and operating large reservoirs as well as managing the natural resources associated with it, has been forced to steadily withdraw from those tasks over recent years, due to drastic cuts in finance and personnel. "Emphasis is now being given to participatory and integrated forms of catchment-wide aquatic resources management. In Brazil's Northeast, the Ceara Reservoir Fisheries Project -- PAPEC has been among the first to establish co-management of natural resources on a catchment basis. At present, PAPEC is considered a reference project for similar endeavours by various organisations on state and regional levels. Yet, its outcomes and sustainability are now endangered by conflicts among resource users who find it difficult to implement their own management rules and regulations. These conflicts have come as a surprise: A high degree of participation of users in resource management decision-making and the homogeneity of the user group suggested a less conflicting implementation of management proposals. The paper focuses on the analysis of the conflict and on the social and ecological dynamics influencing conflict management. It also describes and analyses the ambivalence in efforts shown and results obtained by resource users in enforcing rules set by themselves."



IASC, fisheries, water resources, resource management, institutional change, rules, scarcity, conflict, drought, co-management