Managing social-ecological systems for resilience: Fisheries in the small reservoirs of northern Ghana

Jennifer Sigrid Hauck

Abstract

 

People in northern Ghana face an increasing number of challenges such as social change, political neglect, globalization and a lack of income generating alternatives. On top of this difficult situation they have to adapt to an increasing number of extreme climatic events that threaten the income from rainfed agriculture, their most important livelihood strategy.

Hundreds of small multi-purpose reservoirs were built during the past 60 years to help the rural population deal with the difficult environmental conditions by enhancing flexibility and diversifying income sources. Fisheries in these reservoirs were assumed to be a rather incidental benefit. Growing uncertainty and difficulty in organizing a livelihood make it necessary to consider all of the possible uses of small reservoirs, including the use of small reservoirs for fisheries. This study aims to contribute to the resilience of the rural poor in the Upper East Region of Ghana to environmental disturbances through improved understanding of the potentials of fisheries in small reservoirs. Resilience is thereby understood as the potential to create opportunities for doing new things, for innovation and development, even, or especially, during times of disturbance or crisis.

Results are based on empirical findings from three case studies. The first of three analytical steps focused on how fishing in small reservoirs and selling the catch influences the opportunities for doing new things, for innovation and for development. The second step analyzed the ecological potentials of the small reservoirs to provide aquatic resources. The third dimension of the analysis used the concepts provided by social network analysis to check the social potentialities for innovation and development necessary to realize the ecological potential of the reservoirs for improved human well-being.

Results show that for most of those involved in fisheries, the income from these activities is among the three most important livelihood strategies and the income from fishing is lifting about 15% of the economically active male population in the study communities out of absolute poverty. Furthermore, the income from fishing and selling fish can be used to invest in other livelihood strategies, such as farming and gardening. The analysis of the fishermen’s local ecological knowledge shows that the small reservoirs have a natural fish production. Considering that there are a vast number of reservoirs not yet used for fishing, this means that many communities have a source of income and protein at their feet. With some training and access to gear, the resilience of many thousands of families could be increased, simply by using the naturally occurring aquatic resources in the reservoirs. Technical solutions to enhance fish production further are available at low cost. Unfortunately, the data base did not, however, allow an exact prediction of the reservoirs’ potential fish production.

This is exactly the starting point for an adaptive co-management approach, which is designed for the work under high uncertainty. Yet the approach has a number of pre-requisites that need to be fulfilled in order to manage reservoirs for increased production. Results of the social network analysis show, however, that the implementation of a new management approach would be challenged by a lack of political will and funding. The analysis further reveals clashing traditional, governmental, and participatory management strategies, as well as generational conflicts, bad leadership and distrust. These problems are fortified by strong competition for water amongst the various water users, and low capacity of the communities to organize water use and maintenance of the infrastructure.

Three development scenarios at the end of this study show that if no steps are taken to improve the situation, the scope of fisheries as a livelihood strategy to increase resilience remains limited. Yet if cooperation between science, politics and local stakeholders can be established to overcome problems of management, fisheries in small reservoirs have a great potential to strengthen the resilience of the local population.

Complete version (4,5 MB) Hier können Sie den Adobe Acrobat Reader downloaden

back

© Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Bonn | Published: 08.12.2010