Managing inequality: the political ecology of a small-scale fishery, Mweru-Luapula, Zambia



This paper starts from the perspective that resource management approaches are based upon a body of environmental knowledge. By analysing fisheries management in Mweru-Luapula, Zambia, I argue that this body of environmental knowledge has 1) remained largely unchanged throughout the recent shift to co-management and 2) is to a great extent based upon general paradigmatic conventions with regard to common property regimes. The article outlines the historical trajectories of both resource management and the political ecology of Mweru-Luapula's fishing economy. Using a relational perspective – by looking at interaction of the local fishing economy with external developments, but also by examining socioeconomic relations between individual actors – this article exposes constraints and incentives within the local fishing economy that are not absorbed in the current co-management regime. These findings challenge both policy goals and community-based resource management itself. I argue that governance of small-scale fisheries – in order to close the gap between locally based understandings, policy and legislation – should always be built upon all dimensions (social, economic, ecological, and political) that define a fisheries system.

Keywords: co-management, common-property resource management, political ecology, Mweru-Luapula fishery, Zambia

How to Cite: Verelst, B. (2013) “Managing inequality: the political ecology of a small-scale fishery, Mweru-Luapula, Zambia”, Journal of Political Ecology. 20(1). doi: