Governance, Decentralization and Co-Management: Lessons From Africa Public Deposited

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  • Today, decentralization and democratic participation are presented as necessary conditions to achieve poverty alleviation and ensure the sustainable use of our diminishing natural resources. In small-scale fisheries, similar ideas predominate and decentralization has become the new management paradigm through the concepts of community-based and co-management. In this paper, we present the conclusions of a series of governance analyses recently completed in five African countries (Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria, Malawi, and Zambia). Relying on a new analytical framework which emphasizes the different nature of governance reforms and reflects in particular the distinction between deconcentration, devolution and decentralization, these governance analyses propose to assess the various co-management programmes implemented in these countries. From these reviews, it appears that the (mainly-donor funded and often top-down) fisheries governance reforms implemented in Africa have been successful in challenging the previous (centralized) governance system. However, the reviews also suggest that, contrary to their intent of empowering primary resource users, the inabilities of local governments, deconcentrated agencies and fisherfolk to take up their newfound mandates has frequently resulted in the division of influence among local power brokers and in the instrumentalization of the co-management process. From a conceptual point of view, the analysis highlights the limits of the conventional approach to co-management and questions in particular the view that participation is the key-element to ensure successful decentralization. Instead, the document highlights the crucial importance of downward accountability as the main ‘driving belt’ ensuring an efficient representativity of the local communities, and underscores the importance of recognising the political economy dimension of co-management.
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  • Béné, Christophe, Belal Emma, Malloum Ousman Baba, Solomon Ovie, Aminu Raji, Isaac Malasha, Mamane Na Andi and Aaron Russell. 2008. Governance, Decentralization and Co-Management: Lessons From Africa. 11 pages. In: Proceedings of the Fourteenth Biennial Conference of the International Institute of Fisheries Economics & Trade, July 22-25, 2008, Nha Trang, Vietnam: Achieving a Sustainable Future: Managing Aquaculture, Fishing, Trade and Development. Compiled by Ann L. Shriver. International Institute of Fisheries Economics & Trade, Corvallis, Oregon, USA, 2008.
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