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Research Review: Bodin and Crona's Management of Natural Resources at the Community Level

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By Bethany Cutts - Posted on 12 November 2010

Research Review: Bodin and Crona, 2008. Management of Natural Resources as the Community Level: Exploring the Role of Social Capital and Leadership in a Rural Fishing Community. World Development 26(12) 2763-2779.

Links to our work: When I read this article, I thought immediately of Chantelise and her project on groundwater management in Baja and Sonoma County wine regions. I also thought of the grant I recently submitted with colleagues at the University of Alaska’s Institute for Social and Economic Research. I think both Chantelise and I are involved in research that answers Bodin and Crona’s call for more comparative work on collective management of natural resources in natural resource dependent communities.

In this paper, Bodin and Crona link literatures on social capital and social networks to examine structure, and agency in a rural fishing community in Kenya. They examine both the structure of the network overall as well as the characteristics of actors in positions of influence. They build on literature that suggests social capital exists as a pool, but that it relies on people in positions of power and influence to catalyze action; to effectively activate the stock and allow resources to flow. Their work combines descriptive network measures with qualitative data. In this case, strong social capital has developed a norm against reporting and monitoring. There are few direct contacts to formal economic markets, which limits the potential for the village to incorporate market incentives into resource management. Additionally, community leaders are the unwilling and/or hesitant to acknowledge declines in the fisheries and to assign control over change to the local populace. Despite high levels of local ecological knowledge, social capital, and awareness of mechanisms for dispute resolution, the resource is not being managed in an economically or environmentally sustainable way. This may be drive, at least in part, by low levels of network centrality among formal dispute resolvers and elected officials. The village chairman, a structure in the informal governance process, is the only link to the formal governance structure and therefor has a large amount of power in agenda setting and initiating collective action.

• Agency (catalysts in the community)
o a sum of 5 network centrality measures drawn from 3 networks (Support/Knowledge sharing; Gear sharing; Trade network)
o Rank in top 10 for sum of (individual degree, eigenvector, and betweenness centrality in support/knowledge network; individual degree centrality in gear and trade networks – where indirect ties are less obviously beneficial)
• Social capital
o Bridging social capital: degree to which occupational subgroups are closed off from one another (fragmentation)
o Bonding social capital: average links per node (modified density measure)
o Bonding versus bridging social capital: ratio of ties within occupational subgroups and between subgroups (E:I ratio) *
• Presence of mechanisms for conflict resolution and monitoring
o ability to identify a mechanism
o reported willingness to monitor and report rule breaking in a hypothetical scenario
• Ability of the community to initiate actions for sustainable fishery management
o opinions of identified leaders regarding sustainability of current fishing practices

Most occupational groups seem to have a higher numbers of both bonding than bridging ties.

Villagers reported high levels of trust in the chairman, sub-chief, as third parties able to solve conflict over natural resources and as the authority to whom they would report rule-breaking. Using the agency metric, neither were among the key actors identified in the literature. The village chairman was identified as a key actor in both social network centrality measures and the conflict mediation exercise.

The most surprising result is that despite, high levels of social capital, is that only 43% of all surveyed respondents would report rule breaking unless an individual was committing a serious crime. The authors hypothesize that this is due to the key actors. The population of key actors over-represents Bajuni tribe (over the Digo tribe) and deep seas fisherman (over other occupations). Although no one was satisfied with the current state of local fisheries, 10 of 12 key actors downplayed or dismissed the possibility that current fishing practices are unsustainable and likely to collapse. They were technological optimists and tended to see the villagers inwillingness to report rule breaking as a barrier to less technological forms of behavior change.

For discussion: The strong non-reporting norm is interesting. Has anyone seen research on how changes in social norms occur?

*note: this is confusing in the paper as early is seems like subgroups are defined by network structure, but tables 4 and 5 seem to indicate that they are independently defined