Exploring Pathways for Social-ecological Transformation in the Cau Hai Lagoon, Vietnam
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The concept of transformations is used in this dissertation to engage with questions surrounding what profound social and ecological changes mean for small-scale fisheries communities, and the implications of such change for governance. Transformation is defined here as fundamental reorganization of the ways that societies interact with, and make decisions about, environments and natural resources. Recent research has yielded diverse assessments of transformations that are mindful of the consequences of environmental change and that consider the root causes of unsustainability. Yet there continues to be conceptual ambiguity in how transformations are understood, and much remains unknown about how to support processes of transformation. This research pursued three main objectives: (1) refine a framework for conceptualizing and assessing social-ecological transformations at the community level; (2) empirically characterize social-ecological changes and transformations and their implications for fishers’ livelihoods; and (3) assess opportunities within small-scale fisheries governance arrangements to enable and support transformations. The third objective in particular aligns with a burgeoning literature documenting examples of positive transformations and means of advancing transformations. The research was situated in the Cau Hai lagoon, Vietnam where co-managed territorial use rights for fisheries (TURFs) have been introduced to respond to a declining fishery and to improve wellbeing of fishers. The lagoon supports a multi-species capture fishery and low intensity aquaculture. While more than 30 types of fishing gear have been documented in the lagoon, aquatic resource use is generally recognized within three broad categories: mobile gear fishing, fixed gear fishing, and aquaculture. Research followed a case study approach that emphasized community-based mixed methods. Data collection included 123 semi-structured interviews, 12 focus groups, 68 social network surveys, and participant observation. Research participants included fishers, government representatives at multiple levels, and other actors involved with fisheries governance. The core of the dissertation is composed of three stand-alone manuscripts. The first manuscript defines a framework and approach for assessing social-ecological transformations that is based on the notion of social-ecological system (SES) identity. The analysis teases out changes in SES identity in the Cau Hai lagoon through fishers’ perspectives on shifts in social and ecological system components. The manuscript builds on earlier evidence that a transformation is underway in the Cau Hai lagoon and argues that it is important to address implications of transformations, rather than only focusing assessments on precise timing of transformation phases. Notably, there are diverse ways that fishers have experienced and been affected by social-ecological change in the Cau Hai lagoon. It is important to be fully aware of locally contested interests and acknowledge competing priorities for fisheries management and human wellbeing. These findings set up the importance of the following two manuscripts that investigate how to improve implementation of co-managed TURFs. The second manuscript investigates the network of actors involved in co-management in order to identify enabling conditions for implementing co-managed TURFs. The research combined social network analysis of 16 co-managed TURFs in the Cau Hai lagoon with in-depth interviews and focus groups. The findings point to three governance lessons: (1) it is critical for TURF zones to function in complementary ways, rather than as isolated silos; (2) co-management agreements need to be designed with horizontal relationships in mind so that spatial proximity of TURF zones is matched with actor proximity within networks; and (3) as fisheries management responsibilities are decentralized through co-management, TURF leaders need capacity for collaboration. These insights underscore the very pragmatic need to build capacity for fishing association (FA) leaders to communicate with each other and with government counterparts. The third manuscript introduces building blocks as an approach to assess deliberate transformations. Two FAs are assessed to inductively identify building blocks that were instrumental to their success in implementing fisheries management plans. Five building blocks were identified: fisher approval of ecological conservation, co-operation among fishers, support from local government, secure FA funding, and effective leadership. It is argued that such conditions should be replicable in other FAs in the lagoon – given their similar contexts – thus supporting broader transformative change. The notion of building blocks offers a novel research approach that can be used elsewhere to support deliberate transformations that are in progress. Collectively, the three manuscripts make theoretical and practical contributions to literature on social-ecological transformations. In spite of recent academic enthusiasm for the need for transformations, this research points to some reasons for caution about the outcomes of efforts for transformations. Transformations are unlikely to be wholly beneficial for communities – some groups and individuals will benefit more than others. Nonetheless, much work is needed to link transformation theories to approaches for actualizing transformations. This dissertation offers novel approaches to focus on fine-grained instances of success rather than obstacles and traps. It shows how thinking about transformations can reveal important dimensions of community involvement in social-ecological change (i.e., bottom-up) and reveal important normative and practical issues.
Cite this work
Mark Andrachuk (2017). Exploring Pathways for Social-ecological Transformation in the Cau Hai Lagoon, Vietnam. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/12570