The Influence of Patron-client Relations on Fisheries Co-management in Bangladesh

Ferdous, Rehnuma (2023). The Influence of Patron-client Relations on Fisheries Co-management in Bangladesh. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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In many countries of the Global South, a co-management approach has been introduced within fisheries to improve resource sustainability and human well-being. Very often, the introduction of co-management is top-down in design and supported by donor-funding, not necessarily taking appropriate account of existing institutions. The introduction of fisheries co-management does not, however, occur within an institutional vacuum. Multiple institutions already exist that affect how fisheries are managed and governed. These include longstanding patron-client relations. In the fisheries sector, the livelihoods of many fisherfolk are strongly dependent on a patron’s economic, social and enforcement-related support and, in exchange, fisherfolk provide their patron with labour, money and votes at the time of elections. Little is known about how these strongly embedded social and power relations within fishing communities interact with and influence fisheries co-management. This study undertakes a critical institutionalist analysis and adapts the Power Cube framework to answer the research question ‘how do patron-client relations shape the structure, functioning and practices of co-management?’ This is investigated using Bangladesh as a case study. The government of Bangladesh introduced co-management in some water bodies under different donor-funded projects. In Bangladesh patron-client relations in the fisheries management are not new, rather they have been practiced over centuries, and are not always reciprocal and pecuniary in nature but are strongly socially and culturally embedded. Internalization of values, norms, rules and expectations of patrons by the fisherfolk and women have contributed to the continuation of these longstanding relationships.

A multiple case-study research design was undertaken, and qualitative data were collected at two waterbodies in Bangladesh where co-management projects were introduced. The findings suggest that the Panchayat (village organization) Murubbis (senior non-fisherfolk males), who are also the patrons in the studied areas bent the election rules of the introduced institutions, the CBOs and used Panchayat rules and ideas to reshape these introduced institutions and adapt them to existing social and cultural systems. This reshaping of introduced institutions was done in both strategic and unconscious ways. Strong logics of conflict avoidance, maintaining social order and culture, and retaining control of the waterbodies under CBOs worked behind assembling different elements of institutions. Institutional components used in bricolage practices in hidden and invisible ways excluded fisherfolk and women members from leadership positions and shaped their views, beliefs about participation and acceptance of the status quo. This gave Murubbis control over decisions of fisheries co-management activities, and the space and opportunity to adopt strategies that supported their interests, for example maintaining elite networks and practicing separate rules for credit distribution. These hidden actions provided them with maximum financial and social benefits. The case confirms that pre-existing institutions can significantly influence introduced co-management approaches, sometimes in ways that are damaging to resource management and the livelihoods of more marginalized community members. Pre-existing institutions in the form of patron-client relations are particularly influential as there are strong power dynamics within them, they are strongly embedded in society and the economy, and influence every aspect of life in fishing communities, reflecting broader power dynamics within society. This study also contributes to power-cube literature by integrating institutional analysis in the second dimension-level of the original Power Cube framework to enable examination of horizontal power relations and their influence on the composition and functioning of co-management

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Government, International Development Department
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
S Agriculture > SH Aquaculture. Fisheries. Angling


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