Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association

The relationship between community-based organizations and effective management of coastal and marine resources in the WIO region

Lead Institution: University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM)
Project Country:
Investigators: Rosemarie Mwaipopo
Project Summary:

This study examines the relationship between Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) and the
effective management of coastal and marine resources. The discussion centres on the idea of
‘effectiveness’ and how it can be understood in the context of coastal and marine resources. In order
to do so, the study explores the roles CBOs play in relation to natural resource utilisation and whether they
have an ability to act effectively as community-based managers of these resources. The study focuses on
CBOs in Tanzanian and Kenyan coastal areas of the Western Indian Ocean Region.
In the last three decades there has been a shift from centralized state controlled management systems
to more participatory and inclusive processes that consider resource users’ ability to contribute to
management processes through a range of arrangements (forms of ‘co-management’), developed in the
wider context of devolution and decentralisation. CBOs have been heralded as important grassroots
organisations that can contribute to co-management in the WIO Region, however, relatively little has been
documented about whether CBOs have the capacity for effective natural resource management.
Evaluating the effectiveness of local institutions and practices and the extent to which they have been
able to manage resources is difficult.1 The notion of effectiveness has its roots in theory developed for
organisations (private, non-profit) in industrialised countries.2 This raises substantial questions about
how one applies ideas of effectiveness to CBOs in the WIO Region, and considers their role in coastal
and marine resource management given that many of them are relatively new, quite small, and unlikely
to have formalised organisational management practices. Indeed, two central questions the Research
Team started with were whether and how it is possible to understand and evaluate effectiveness in a
manner that is appropriate to small community groups in the WIO Region. Difficulties over applying
notions of effectiveness to the groups in question are also reinforced by the constraints on members’
ability to systematically analyse their own effectiveness due to lack of skills, training and exposure.3 This
is in addition to the contested nature of the devolution of management functions in relation to coastal
and marine resource management in which, although collaborative management has been significantly
advanced, yet many powers are retained within conventional resource management authorities and/
or there are tensions within and between these authorities and other actors in the coastal zone. Also
significant is a wider context of social economic dynamism in coastal areas, which can mean that CBOs
need to grapple with changing conditions over relatively short periods of time. Each of these factors
can undermine CBOs capacity to develop and function sustainably. Against this background, what is
evident, however, is that the nature of community-based structures working for resource management has
evolved with time, contributing to peoples’ learning. This has introduced new versions of responsibility
and participation as the state and people learn both from a range of different actors and from their own
involvement in community initiatives in both Kenya and Tanzania.
The relatively recent emergency of CBOs in Kenya and Tanzania, and their increasing recognition as forms of
grassroots organisation of relevance to coastal and marine resource management suggests that it is imperative
to take a view of effectiveness that places emphasis on process as well as outcomes rather than utilising forms
of typological classifications rooted in thinking on organisational management relevant to industrial countries.
Applying such classifications could carry the danger of ‘straight-jacketing’ community groups into a model
that doesn’t take into account their embryonic and informal nature, their diversity and changing character, and the dynamic context (ecological, social, political, economic) in which they are situated.4 In addition to formal recommendations, our conclusion reflects on these issues in the light of our research findings.

What were the problems the project intended to address?:

Despite some excellent practice and leadership by Community-Based Organizations in relation to resource
management, internal CBO capacity is very limited and the external political economy imposes severe constraints on CBOs ability to act as effective natural resource managers
Coastal and marine resources management programmes in WIO are often oriented to either community-based management
or co-management in partnership with government. This scenario reflects global trends and acknowledges the importance of full community participation in natural resource management and the need to return benefits to local people
affected by a management activity.
Community-based management has been identified as a specific governance mechanism only recently in the WIO and is therefore relatively poorly documented and understood compared for instance, to countries of South East Asia where non-governmental and community based management has been practiced for many years. It is in recognition of this poor documentation and the general limited knowledge on this approach in WIO that in 2007, WIOMSA commissioned a research project to address the effectiveness of community-based organizations in the management of coastal and marine
resources in the WIO region.
The project was initiated to examine the relationship between Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) and marine
and coastal resource management. It aimed to explore the roles CBOs play in relation to natural resource utilization and whether they are able to act effectively as community managers of these resources. The research focused on carefully selected CBOs and representative natural resources located in six study sites on the coastal of Kenya (Msambweni, Malindi and Tana) and Tanzania (Rufiji, Kilwa and Mafia).

Project Objectives:

• To establish the types of CBOs that exist in the coastal areas of Kenya and Tanzania and consider
how they have developed.
• To capture the internal dynamics and capacity of different CBOs
• To identify the connections between CBO activities and natural resources present in Coastal and
Marine areas (paying attention to issues of scale as relevant to coastal resource governance)
• To examine whether CBOs can mediate community diversity and dynamics to act as a force for
integration around coastal resource management.
• To highlight the relationship between different CBOs and external institutional structures and
governance processes.
• To examine the knowledge held and practices undertaken by members of a CBO (individually or
collectively) that can be understood to constitute ‘natural resource management.

Study Sites:

1. Mwaipopo R., Fisher E., Wanyonyi I., Kimani P., Tunje J., Msuya F., Bashemerewa V., 2011. The relationship between community-based
organisations and the effective management of coastal and marine resources in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region. A publication of the Marine Science for Management Programme of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association. Zanzibar. Xii+85pp.