Transitions toward co-management: The process of marine resource management devolution in three east African countries

J.E. Cinner, Timothy Daw, T.R. Mcclanahan, N. Muthiga, C. Abunge, S. Hamed, B. Mwaka, A. Rabearisoa, A. Wamukota, E. Fisher, N. Jiddawi

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Communities are increasingly empowered with the ability and responsibility of working with national governments to make decisions about marine resources in decentralized co-management arrangements. This transition toward decentralized management represents a changing governance landscape. This paper explores the transition to decentralisation in marine resource management systems in three East African countries. The paper draws upon expert opinion and literature from both political science and linked social-ecological systems fields to guide exploration of five key governance transition concepts in each country: (1) drivers of change; (2) institutional arrangements; (3) institutional fit; (4) actor interactions; and (5) adaptive management. Key findings are that decentralized management in the region was largely donor-driven and only partly transferred power to local stakeholders. However, increased accountability created a degree of democracy in regards to natural resource governance that was not previously present. Additionally, increased local-level adaptive management has emerged in most systems and, to date, this experimental management has helped to change resource user's views from metaphysical to more scientific cause-and-effect attribution of changes to resource conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-658
Number of pages8
JournalGlobal Environmental Change-Human and Policy Dimensions
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2012


  • Co-management
  • Coral reef
  • Fisheries
  • Governance
  • Social-ecological systems

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