Sub-theme 6. The drama of the grabbed commons
Grabbing Coastal and Marine Commons
The blue economy the expansion and diversification of economic activities in the coastal and marine realm – is high on the global political agenda and also informally pursued in many coastal regions and island countries around the world. Due to the social-ecological characteristics and the history of those systems, there are a high number of commonly held and commonly used resources involved. These coastal and marine commons have traditionally provided livelihood opportunities for millions of marginalised people with precarious customary rights to these resources that often overlap with state control and increasingly private property. With increasing opportunities to make a private business, for example, through tourism, oil and gas extraction, seabed mining, nature protection or sand harvesting, and with increased financial, technological and/or legal possibilities to claim private property rights, these commons are coming under threat, and enclosure is happening in many regions, particularly in the Global South. Under such conditions the likelihood that a privatisation process becomes a process of resource grabbing is high. This panel is inviting papers about diverse processes of resource grabbing of coastal and marine commons. Diversity might relate here to different resources, property regimes, and social economic contexts in various world regions. It also relates to the diversity in theoretical, disciplinary or methodological perspectives taken. We welcome both conceptual and empirical contributions to this session.
Panel 6.4. A
1. Ocean grabbing in the Pacific Ocean: costs, benefits and opportunities
University of the South Pacific, Fiji
The Pacific Ocean has experienced many waves of colonial expansion and strife. In the past two decades foreign conservation organizations have aggresively promoted large ocean protected areas from Kiribati to Rapa Nui and Cook Islands to Palau followed, more recently, by versions of marine spatial planning aimed at securing at least 30% ocean protected areas. Donors, philanthropy and foreign NGOs often dominate the approaches adopted by countries, often in the absence of appropriate local platforms for debate and research into the most appropriate uses of sovereign ocean space. This presentation explores the methods used, the reaction of countries and local populations, what is known of the impacts and potential risks and benefits.
2. Power and Institutions in the Governance of Tanzanian Marine Protected Areas
University of Freiburg, Germany
As areas of immense biological diversity, coasts provide livelihoods to billions of people worldwide and are critical sites to manage land-sea interactions. They are inhabited by diverse communities, in which artisanal fishing and harvesting practices are often integral to the social fabric and local livelihoods. At the same time, coasts are of increasing interest to agendas of economic development from local to global scales, evident in the rising relevance of the “blue economy”. In the context of competing social, economic, and environmental interests and associated processes of enclosure, coastal areas become highly contested spaces. This is also the case in coastal Tanzania, where rapidly growing conservation efforts are accompanied by pursuits to expand its blue economy, leading to a further encroachment on coastal commons. Whereas these current developments could offer opportunities for more just and inclusive modes of environmental conservation and propel the further advancement of sustainable development goals, they also bear the risk of exacerbating social and environmental conditions and compounding inequalities. This paper lays out i) why an investigation of the constitutive relationship between power and institutions in the context of commons governance is warranted; ii) in how far the case of institutions governing coastal marine protected areas in Tanzania is a suitable and timely subject for the study of this relationship; and iii) in which ways such an investigation could engage with broader discussions around governance arrangements that are desirable and attainable from a social and environmental equity perspective.
3. Ghana’s offshore petroleum industry: A blue economy of racial/colonial primitive accumulation in Black Africa
1University for Development Studies, Ghana, 2University Windsor, Canada
This paper builds on our work on the agrarian political economy of Ghana’s natural resources-based industrialization plans, which revolve on its offshore petroleum industry and gold-mining. Intrinsic to the operation of this industry is the dispossession of prior-users of ocean and land, which the industry appropriates. Based on primary ethnographic data collected in the coastal communities close to the offshore petroleum industry, we document the real-life stories of prior-users about their experience with dispossession, stories told by fisherfolks and peasants whose social reproduction is organized on both sides of the terraqueous earth. Within the agrarian political economy perspective of industrialization, this dispossession is the violence of primitive accumulation, which is the inherent pains of petroleum-led industrialization Ghana must be ready to bear. However, drawing on the emerging literature on the renewal and advancement of Cedric Robinson’s Black Marxism, we argue that the dispossession of the prior-users in Ghana’s offshore petroleum industry is the continuity of racial/colonial primitive accumulation. Natural resources-led industrialization in Black Africa is, therefore, a mirage. In the spirit of Black Marxism, we canvass for a “resistance/activist turn” by scholars working on Ghana’s offshore petroleum industry. At once intellectual and political, this turn not only involves the refocusing of their research on the dynamics, prospects, and challenges of prior-users struggling to reclaim their rights of access to ocean and land commons. But it also means they should blend scientific research with scholar-activism.
4. Global Infrastructuring of Labor; Lamu-Port a Success Case?
1University of Nairobi, Kenya, 2Bonn International Center for Conflict, Germany
Keywords: infrastructure, organized violence, social order, labor, and Lamu Port.
In this paper, we intend to examine the emerging large-scale infrastructure project-Lamu Port, looking at how it is changing labor relations in the coastal region and affecting the already marginalized labor in Kenya. The port is expected to be a tourism hub and economic zone, creating millions of jobs and addressing marginalization in the Coastal region. We intend to apply the concept of social order in relation to organized violence, looking at how global capitalists such as Chinese conglomerates shape labor in the African frontier spaces and how such capitalists affect land use and labor laws. Through interviews from key informants-government representatives, and civil society, including a questionnaire survey from the residents in Lamu. We are interested in investigating how the locals are being infrastructured in this ongoing mega-development project. Our results intend to show a major facelift of infrastructuring in the coastal region, pointing out how such infrastructuring produces and reproduce the history and future of labor in Lamu county, Kenya.
5. Coastal grabbing reinforces conflicts: evidences from Southeastern Bangladesh
1Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), Bremen, Germany, 2University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany, 3Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Chittagong, Bangladesh, 4MARUM /GLOMAR, 5Center for Sustainable Development, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, Bangladesh
Bangladesh embraces the blue economy and invests in a number of marine and coastal mega-project developments. Already marginalized coastal communities are facing challenges due to related marine and coastal grabbing and transformation processes. This study explores impacts of coastal mega-projects on small-scale fishers on the Southeastern coast of Bangladesh. Applying the process tracing method, the study finds small-scale fishers are experiencing displacements, obstacles in access to resources, livelihood loss, marginalization and inequitable distribution of benefits and costs in the context of ‘grabbing the commons’ by state or private companies. Compensation and adaptation for small-scale fishers are insufficient. Risk of eviction reinforces grievances and inherent conflicts among the coastal marginal people. The capacity to maintain a healthy social-ecological system in the phase of grabbed common remains challenging. Critical re-thinking of potential governance responses is recommended to ensure blue justice and equity for the coastal smallholders in this ‘blue party’.
Panel 6.4. B
1. Inside the Expanded Blue Economy Ambitions: Dynamics of Fisherfolks Traditional Institutional Arrangements and Rights in Shimoni Sea Scape and Lamu, Kenya
Kenya, in a bid to achieve vision 2030; the long-term development blueprint seeking to transform the country into a newly industrializing, middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens, is seeking to exploit resources, including those from coastal and marine environment. The blue economy, a sustainable ocean-based economic model, has been prioritized for its great potential to contribute to growth of the country’s GDP, in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and delivering smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth. As the anticipations of these large-scale transformations come into play in marine and coastal spaces, the interaction, and feedbacks with local structures, fisherfolk traditional rights and the cultural expressions that have supported governance of coastal commons have resulted in interesting dynamics. This paper, using the Lamu port project in Lamu county and the anticipated projects in Shimoni sea scape in Kwale county, will discuss emerging dynamics and transformations of local and traditional institutional arrangements as a solid governance infrastructure in the implementation of the blue economy. It will then explore the implications of these changes and transformation on coastal commons, and the ability of the fisherfolk communities to govern the resources.
2. To trade or not to trade: boom and bust of Saint Louis pelagic artisanal fisheries
1Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), Germany, 2University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, 3University of Leiden, Netherlands, 4AGADES, Senegal
Aquaculture is often seen as the saviour in relation to providing important high quality nutrition and to the capture fishery sustainability crisis. This paper, providing detailed case study information, looks at the boom and bust of small scale pelagic fisheries in Saint Louis Senegal. The last 15 years the fishery mainly provided input for the international fish meal and fishoil industry. However, since 2017 the catches have declined constantly. This rather short business cycle cannot be described as being sustainable, nor did it solve any food and nutritional insecurity problems existing in Senegal. Rather the opposite, the process might be described as nutrient and capital grabbing. The paper describes, first, the nutrient flows out of Senegal, due to the emergence of the fish meal industry. Second, it analyses the changes that have taken place in the contractual arrangements of Saint Louis pelagic fisheries, to understand the capital grabbing observed. It started with the early arrival of the first purse seiners in the 1970s They were independent artisanal fishers, owning their boats, being wealthy people and leading to a certain degree the supply chain. Their wealth was built on abundant resources, in territory, which now has become Mauritanian waters. The fleet has exploded to various hundreds of purse seiners, who are mostly financed through international capital and who used to feed the Mauritanian, largely Chinese owned, fish meal industry, before fish stock started to decline. The previously independent sector has become highly indebted and patron client relationships are the norm. The paper describes this complex process and aims to deepen understanding using theories of institutional change.
3. Multiplicity and Fluidity of Positions and Actors across the Coast: The Unmaking of a Coal-fired Ultra-mega Power Project in South India
Neoliberal development poses enormous challenges to the coastal communities in India. Using the case study of a proposed 4000MW coal-fired ultra-mega thermal power project in Tamil Nadu, India, this paper tries to unravel the micro-politics of the acquisition of coastal commons and how it became a contested space for different actors. This paper seeks to analyze the multiplicity, temporality, and fluidity of positions by different actors in the proposed project. It disaggregates along different axes such as forms of ownership and use of land, perception of benefits from the project, and subjective experience of people along the coast. It also examines the role of the state in producing consensus for the project and how this explains the complexity of positions taken. The complexity of people’s views and responses to the project over time has resulted in the delay of the project and perhaps the stalling of the proposed development project itself.
The research used multi-sited ethnography with on-site (locals) and off-site (non-local) fields in order to elucidate multiple perspectives on the issues under study. I undertook a transect walk, engaged in participant and non-participant observation, conducted focus group discussions (FGDs), and had in-depth interviews with key informants along with content analysis of the documents related to the policy and project.
4. Privatising the Coastal Commons: Making Fisher Livelihoods Invisible
1Madras Institute of Development Studies, India, 2Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India
Since the emergence of Blue Revolution 2.0 in India and aquaculture more specifically the coastal ecosystem is undergoing changes that are largely in the interest of non-local capital; coastal communities (especially, artisanal fishers) are at the receiving end as they lack the capital to compete Moreover, the import of ‘cheaper’ labourers from ‘outside’ to work on aquaculture farms means local fishers also do not avail of employment. This paper focuses on coastal aquaculture in Pamban Island in Tamil Nadu state of south India. It focuses on how Kadayar and Mutharaiyar fishers are marginalized in the process of aquaculture expansion and the privatization of the commons. Aquaculture farms have ruined the freshwater commons, resulted in vegetation changes within these commons, encroached shoreline and shrunk approach roads, all affecting in particular the livelihood of women in fishing communities. Using a political ecology approach, this paper explores the growth of coastal shrimp aquaculture and processes of accumulation by dispossession. It also centre-stages the role of the state in regulating (or not) land use practices that allows aquaculture to flourish.