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A case for gender equity in governance of the Okavango Delta fisheries in Botswana

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Fish is a major source of livelihood for the majority of people living around the Okavango Delta in northwestern Botswana. Gender dynamics and governance regimes determine differential access to, and control of, resources between women and men in the area. The purpose of this case study is to critically assess the embeddedness of gendered inequities in the governance of Okavango Delta fishery. Primary data was collected through focus group discussions and face‐to‐face interviews of 96 basket fishers from five villages along the Panhandle area of the Okavango River. The study found that past and present Okavango Delta fishery policy and programme interventions tended to entrench rather than minimize gendered disparities between women and men fishers' access to and control over fish resources, asset accumulation and employment opportunities. Basket fishers have intimate knowledge of flood variability, fish migration and habitat and use this knowledge to make decisions about when and where to harvest what fish species. Women fishers' ecological knowledge, interests and concerns however, have been excluded from current zoning and closed season regulations and co‐management structures. The paper concludes that past and current development interventions as well as the regulatory framework continue to entrench pre‐existing gender relations in the fishery sector which excludes, disempowers and marginalizes women fishers. We recommend innovative co‐management and local based structures which recognize the diversity of interests and interest groups.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Botswana, Okavango Research Institute, Maun, Botswana

Publication date: 2012-05-01

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