Lake Chad is a vitally important wetland in the semi-arid Sahel corridor. It provides the basis of many thousands of livelihoods which depend on its seasonal fluctuations to renew fish stocks, farmland and rangeland. This paper describes how the institutions which govern access to fishing rights has evolved on the Nigerian shore of the lake. The paper aims to assess the applicability of different institutional approaches to fisheries management on the lake’s floodplain. These include: the ‘equilibrium or tragedy’ approach characterized by Hardin (1968); critiques of state attempts at regulating natural resources exploitation in the Sahel; models of institutional adaptation to resource scarcity; and approaches which perceive institutions for resource access as a crucial determinant of social and economic development. The western shore of Lake Chad has been under the jurisdiction of Borno State in its various guises since the end of the fourteenth century and is currently one of 36 states in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Although the administrative status of Borno has varied, it has been dominated by a Kanuri aristocracy for most of its existence. Traditionally, the Kanuri administration has played a crucial role in allocating access to farm land. In recent years, the ‘Kanuri administration’ has not only maintained its pre-colonial authority over farming on the lake shore, but has expanded it to cover new areas of the lake floor and the increasingly lucrative fishing opportunities which federal government has been unable to regulate. This success suggests that collaboration with the traditional administration is essential to the success of future natural resource management efforts.
Keywords: Lake Chad, natural resource management, land tenure, fisheries management, sustainable rural livelihoods
Sarch, M. Institutional Evolution at Lake Chad: Traditional Administration and Flexible Fisheries Management. In: Microbehavior and Macroresults: Proceedings of the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade, July 10-14, 2000, Corvallis, Oregon, USA. Compiled by Richard S. Johnston and Ann L. Shriver. International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade (IIFET), Corvallis, 2001.