There I am again – surfacing from the fieldwork with quite exiting results.
At the end of the main phase of my PhD research on fisheries in small reservoirs in September 2007, I invited the fishermen to feed back information. I did not want to pay my interview partners for different reasons. On the other hand, I did not want to leave without showing how much I appreciated how much time they invested to answer all my questions. So I decided to organize a meeting for each group, where I wanted to present some preliminary findings, show them how to use the newly gained information and link them up to organizations which could follow up. To work with the Net-Map tool allowed me to get a very good insight into who is influencing fisheries activities. Other parts of the research showed, that fish stocks are over-exploited and production potentials are not realized because of very unsustainable fishing practices. This is nothing new, however Net-Map allowed me to find out who the baddies are and even the reasons why they keep breaking the rules.
Together with staff from the regional Ministry of Fisheries, who would provide information that is more technical and with the support of the NGO Community Self Reliance Center, I opened a discussion on what is wrong with currant reservoir governance and how it could be improved. The preparation of this workshop caused some sleepless nights, since I knew that if I would feed back the wrong information I could turn these villages into war zones, with fishermen fighting fishermen and other water users. Rather the opposite was the goal, namely to bring fishermen to establish sustainable management for aquatic resources together. And it worked! When I came back to the communities half a year later, and called a meeting fishermen came in great numbers to report, that they now really try to avoid fishing with gear that catches juveniles, that they try to stick to the ban in rainy season to allow fish to spawn and to meet frequently to discuss their problems and solve them.
So what did we do? Well thanks to Net-Map it was clear that in one community some people felt passed over when it came to management decisions, which was the main reason why they did not accept the rules and even edge others to break them. Including those rule-breakers into the discussion and assigning tasks to them, converted them into the most enthusiastic guards for good governance. In the second community, fishermen were not willing to listen to the extension agent who tended to held endless, instructive monologues, without responding to actual problems. These fishermen just stated that by elaborating their problems in the guided discussion they understood how important it was to share problems and ideas to solve them. Two other communities, which share one reservoir, just needed a hint on how to overcome the barriers of separated leadership. By forming a dual leadership with the right people and the experience why it would be important to cooperate, the gap between the two communities could be overcome.
Well nothing new really, you might think now. I agree! However, the communities all had different problems, and Net-Map proved to be a tool that provides information on the conflicts rather quickly and easy. Even though it was not part of my actual PhD work to find ways to improve group formation, I am very glad to be able to contribute this piece of work. I would be most happy to discuss this further with practitioners to find ways to implement this into daily work.