Sub-theme 10. Local institution building and radical futures for the commons
Institutions and Power Relations in Urban and Peri-Urban Commons Management
Institutions are very relevant in commons management and determine how land is accessed, used, and controlled. Contemporary, urbanisation, population growth, and the promotion of neoliberal policies have altered the institutions and power relations in the management of the commons in urban and peri-urban enclaves in the Global South. Since the 1990s, land policies, reinforced by neoliberal theories, have emphasised the strengthening of the capacity of customary land administration to ensure smooth land delivery. The approach has been to either strengthen pre-existing chiefs, the council of elders, and local elites or empower village councils or community organisations to manage the commons. Moreover, studies have documented that such an approach has sustained colonial distortions in customary land administration in Africa and elsewhere. Some actors such as traditional council members and queen mothers are still not legally recognised in customary land administration. When land values appreciate in urban and peri-urban areas, traditional authorities redefine customs and evict indigenes from the commons with the support of state land institutions. This conduct often precipitates contestations and breaks down social relations. Therefore, this panel will discuss the issues emerging from the promotion of customary land administration as a nascent strategy to support well-functioning and transparent land markets in the Global South. Also, the panel will focus on the alternative ways the institutions and power relations within the customary land administration can be transformed to engage all actors to achieve inclusive and participatory urban and peri-urban commons management.
1. Contestations over neo-customary land in Ghana: Seeing events in peri-urban Kumasi through the lens of Paulo Freire
1Simon Diedong Dombo University of Business and Integrated Development Studies, Ghana, 2Univesity of the Witwatersand, Ghana
Humanisation is a state of being fully human through the enjoyment of human rights including the right to property. In customary land tenure in centralised areas of Ghana, indigenes are entitled to usufruct (land use) rights as the main source of their livelihoods. By any way that their access to these rights is constrained, dehumanisation, a distortion of being fully human occurs and according to Freire, oppression ensues and leads to a struggle for liberation. Exclusionary tendencies in neo-customary land tenure amid changes in customary land tenure in sub-Saharan Africa engender contestations by the indigenes. Using the Freirean ‘oppressor-oppressed’ framework underpinned by social justice and critical theory, this paper analyses these emergent contestations using a qualitative research approach with Pramso as a case study. Existing literature on contestations of indigenes in neo-customary land tenure was reviewed to complement in-depth interviews. The data was manually processed using colour coding and thematic analysis. The study finds traces of antidialogical actions and false generosity as key ingredients of oppression in the conversion and allocation of customary land. Indigenes’ quest for non-existent dialogue before and during the conversion was found to trigger them to agitate. Important lessons are drawn including; (1) there is inherent oppression in the neo-customary regime, and (2) lack of successful dialogue in the conversion of land makes indigenes’ agitations inevitable. In conclusion, the hope of addressing inequities and avoidance of full-blown conflicts in neo-customary land can stem from appropriate reflections and actions of indigenes and effective cooperation with traditional authorities.
2. Governance arrangements in urban fish food markets in Malawi
Michigan State University, USA
Does governance matter beyond fish production systems in communities? Markets, including marketplaces, are underexamined commons whose governance affects the distribution of benefits from natural resource commons as well as patterns of access and use of natural resources. In contexts like Malawi, urbanization has resulted in a centralized market system for fish products, where fish moves from landing sites to urban markets and is then distributed to peri-urban and rural markets in Malawi. The effectiveness of these markets as entry points for fish traders and creating employment opportunities are influenced by the structures within the markets, such as governance arrangements. Using an institutional approach, we explore governance dynamics within fish markets using data collected in 2022 through in-depth interviews, observations, key informant interviews, and a survey at Lilongwe Fish market, one of the central markets in Malawi. We find that governance arrangements relating to the structure and organization of the market and the role of market committees influenced who can sell fish, the type of activities that can be done, and the income levels of fish traders. Further, we found gendered patterns to governance, with female fish traders having limited access to physical selling space. Drawing on these findings, we highlight the important role that governance arrangements play in answering key questions of who benefits from participation in small-scale fisheries and how; and guide us in developing appropriate policies and programs to improve the effectiveness of fish food markets.
3. Institutional transformation and Local Institutional development from lifecycle perspective: the cases from India
1Department of Economics, Christ University, Bangalore, India, 2Presidency University, Bangalore, India
Institutions have emerged to solve problems and concerns faced by humans while they interact with their ecosystems. As the world is transforming, so are the institutions. They cope, adapt, and mitigate the risk associated with institutional implementation. This leads to cost as ell as a benefit. One way to see if the institutions are sustainable is from the aspect that, institutions that could correct the market failure or serve useful purposes are considered effective ones but all such effective institutions need not be efficient. In this background, the study examines the life cycle of institutions using selected cases as well as study access is the transformations in institutions are sustainable. The study uses the case study method. We compare 5 case studies, from various ecosystems subsistence aquaculture, inland fishery, agro-ecology, Paani Samithi system, and CAMPCO. Qualitative data is used to illustrate how the life cycle approach influences economic agents and transformations are analyzed using primary data collected from the field using a local institutional development approach.
Keywords: Institutions, Transformations, Sustainability, Institutional life cycle.
4. Changing Face of Institutions and Actors in Commons Management in Peri-Urban Ghana under Neoliberal Age
University of Bern, Switzerland
The widespread implementation of neoliberal land policies aims to strengthen pre-existing land institutions, formalise land rights, and marketize customary lands has facilitated the alterations in the institutions and the actors in peri-urban commons management in the era of land commoditisation. Studies show that implementing neoliberal land policies has sustained colonial distortions in African customary land administration. In Ghana, actors such as traditional council members and queen mothers are not legally recognised in customary land administration. When land values appreciate, traditional authorities redefine customs and evict the indigenes from the commons without the state’s interference. This paper, therefore, investigates the formalisation of customary land rights and the ways institutions and actors change in commons management when land values appreciate in peri-urban Ghana. The study used New Institutional Economics (NIE) from the perspective of Social Anthropology as a theoretical lens and qualitative research method to examine the problem in two communities in peri-urban Ghana. The insights from the study indicate that the formalisation of customary land rights has created institutional pluralism in commons management, and the formalisation of customary land rights has strengthened the position of chiefs in land delivery. The chiefs leverage state institutions and higher traditional leaders to legitimise their claims over customary lands during land commoditisation, resulting in the eviction of their subjects from their ancestral lands. The paper recommends that to protect the livelihood of peri-urban dwellers and sustain the commons we want; participatory land administration should be encouraged in peri-urban areas in Ghana.
5. Geographical indication ‘Penja pepper ‘: how to deal with power asymmetries?
Geographical indications, that could be a support for rural economy in sub-Saharan Africa, are still little developed and face major governance challenges. The first central Africa GI, which is the Penja Pepper Geographical Indication (PPGI) in Cameroon, imply the cooperation between major economic actors and numbers of smallholders. Though, in addition to internal governance issues, this GI has to deal with technical and agronomic ones. Based on the intersection of two theoretical approaches to the commons, one socioeconomic, in the tradition of Elinor Ostrom’s work, and the other socio-political integrating the question of power relations, and build on primary data from semi-directive interviews, we analyse strategies developed by commonors to overcome these challenges for all the producers . We show that the setting-up phase PPGI is built on a collective action associating the different actors of the sector and an inclusive process trying to give to the maximum of smallholders the right to use this new resource. But, facing governance issues and climate change effects, smallholders are more affected than dominant producers. The rules are mainly design around the improvement of the product quality and quantity and so poorly consider social issues. In case of strong asymmetries of power, focusing on access rights is not sufficient to build a GI as a tool for territorial development. There is a need to explicitly consider access to the benefits of the resource.