What does the fisherman want? Report on the survey among fishers around Lake Nokoué and Porto-Novo Lagoon in Benin

B.G.J.S. Sonneveld, Frejus Thoto, Donald Houessou

Research output: Book / ReportReportProfessional


The study analyses a survey of 839 fishermen active in Lake Nokoué and the Porto-Novo Lagoon in Benin. The survey aims to analyse the regulations among fishermen of sharing the common water resources and evaluates whether these customary rules can cope with new challenges. The survey elicits information on household characteristics, food security, ownership, organisation, regulations governing shared water resources and constraints for development. Food insecurity prevails among 32 per cent of the fishermen while a high illiteracy rate restricts employment opportunities to low-wage labour. Fishermen are true entrepreneurs who organise labour when needed, have access to credit and invest in the improvement of their fisheries. The shared water resource management is not functioning well, given the high incidence of conflicts, half of which have ended in violence. Comparing the current situation in the inland lakes of Benin with Elinor Ostrom’s eight pre-requisites for sustainable and equitable development of common pool resources, we observe that five out of eight required conditions are not met. It is recommended that the fisher community repairs this comission, specifically, by: defining clear group boundaries; implementing a monitoring system to follow members’ behavior; organising a joint responsibility for governing the common resource in nested tiers from the lowest level up to the entire interconnected system; using graduated sanctions for rule violators and; finally, making sure that the rule-making rights of community members are respected by outside authorities. Yet, the degree of organisation among fishermen is low, caused by mistrust and loss of faith in the functioning of government institutions.There is, however, a clear recognition that collective interventions coordinated by public institutions are needed because the constraints indicated by fishermen like water pollution, the functioning of markets and overfishing, require interventions that go beyond the control of the individual. The creation of a platform with a solid collaboration between fishermen and local authorities should pave the way for future sustainable solutions.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherAthena Institute, Amsterdam Centre for World Food Studies
Number of pages68
ISBN (Electronic)9789991974514
ISBN (Print)9789991974514
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018

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