Managing without institutions : the role of communication networks in governing resource access and control
The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that the way groups or individuals tackle resource access and control problems does not always reflect identifiable institutional processes. This was tested through a case study of livelihoods and resource access problems of a Kenyan coastal community dependent on small scale fisheries. The structure of the study was based on the need to understand the context in which people live in order to interpret their behaviour. Each chapter sought to examine aspects of people's social and biophysical setting, paying particular attention to changes and causes of change. This involved a reconstruction of the community's historical relations with other groups in their area; socio-economic analysis of the livelihoods of different groups within the community; and social network analysis of people's actions in response to resource access and control problems. All groups within the community depended on a range of activities to provide food and income, but the role of fishing was dominant. Changes in local natural environments were shown to have led to a decrease in household productivity over the last five decades. This was attributed to colonialism, international development and cultural changes. This also led to increased effort in the sea, leading to overfishing. The overall socio-economic situation of the community was revealed as poor. Social network analysis showed that administrative and political actors were found to be more important than actors with a legal mandate to solve resource related problems. It was shown that formal institutions relating to natural resources stifled the process of problem resolution. Local people were found to use alternative processes, based on communication networks, to solve problems, thus supporting the hypothesis. The findings stress the importance of understanding local people's socio-economic and socio-political situation before developing resource management strategies. Resource managers could make use of social network analysis to identify and understand the roles of key people, groups and organisations.