Social capital key to better fisheries management?

Centre researchers go fishing in the social networks of eastern Africa

Netfishing in Mombasa, Kenya. Photo: O. Henriksson/Azote

Örjan Bodin and Beatrice Crona have investigated the role of social capital and leadership for better fisheries management in eastern Africa. They present their new findings in the forthcoming issue of the journal World Development in an article entitled Community-based Management of Natural Resources at the Community Level: Exploring the Role of Social Capital and Leadership in a Rural Fishing Community.
The study was conducted in a rural fishing village 50 km south of Mombasa, the second largest city in Kenya. The small village of 1000 inhabitants is located in a coastal area suffering from declining fish stocks, but display surprisingly little unified response to deal with the overexploitation.
- This is really alarming considering that a majority of the villagers depend on fishing for their livelihood. More than 40 percent of the households are directly involved in fishery extraction, and many others benefit indirectly as fishery-generated income tend to be spent mostly in local stores, says Beatrice Crona.
Low willingness to report rule breaking
Örjan and Beatrice look into the reasons behind the lack of response and conclude that even though their study indicate fairly high levels of social capital - quantified through a “social network analysis" - other important aspects of social capital were lacking in the village.

- Low willingness to report rule breaking and the lack of external contacts with financial institutions and markets among identified key individuals emerged as the two potential explanations for the observed lack of communal initiatives to deal with the overexploitation of fisheries, says Örjan Bodin.
Despite the fact that a number of key individuals had ties to markets, these consisted primarily of contacts for purchasing gear and very few connections for marketing or selling fish.
A number of alternative hypotheses to the lack of response are also presented in the new study. These include homogeneity among key individuals leading to poor recognition of the ecological changes, and the structural characteristics of their relational network, which revealed one person in a very influential position.
Overall, the study concludes that it is seems to take both high levels of social capital and good leadership to make effective community-based natural resource management happen.

See whiteboard seminar with Beatrice Crona explaining social network analysis:

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Source: Bodin, Ö and Crona, B.I. “Management of Natural Resources at the Community Level: Exploring the Role of Social Capital and Leadership in a Rural Fishing Community" World Development (2008) 36(12) ( Dec 2 2008 ).



Bodin, Ö. and B. Crona B.I., 2008, Community-Based Management of Natural Resources: Exploring the Role of Social Capital and Leadership in a Rural Fishing Community. World Development 36: 2763—2779.

What is social capital?
Social Capital is a concept used in various fields, from economics and political science to sociology and natural resources management. Broadly, it refers to social relations among individuals and the norms and social trust which they generate that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit.


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