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Tragedy of the inland lakes

Food systems

Increased pressure on communal fishing grounds is testing the traditional regulations among fishermen to preserve inland waters’ productive capacity and ecological values. Inland lakes of Benin are a typical case in point. With a mounting number of fishermen and pollution from densely populated urban areas the threat of overfishing and water degradation looms large.

This paper questions if customary rules of fisher communities can cope with current and future challenges. A survey among 839 fishermen elicits that agreements to control shared waters are virtually absent and remain unmonitored while mistrust and loss of faith in community members and governmental institutions result in low levels of organization.

Alarming are the high incidence of conflicts that end up violently, prevailing food insecurity and high illiteracy rate limiting employment opportunities to low wage labor. Solutions to identified constraints go beyond the individual, requiring collective action and a platform where fishermen can take matters into their own hands to curb a tragedy of the inland waters.

Keywords: Inland waters, fisheries, regulations, conflicts, Benin

This article was published in the International Journal of the Commons