By Leila Emdon
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), tenure refers to the rules that “define how rights to land and other natural resources are assigned within societies” as well as “rights to use, control and transfer these resources” FAO 2012).
Tenure defines and distinguishes between ‘who is a user and, therefore, who has rights in the resource and who does not’. This requires legal and sociological assessments such as asking questions like: Is there historical use, by whom and how? What perceptions of rights are common in the area?
“Tenure is about more than resource management. It relates to basic human rights; it has symbolic value and is about self-determination and should be guided by subsidiarity as a governance principle.”
This also requires constructive political processes and examining the socio- economic and cultural attributes such as wealth, heterogeneity, land tenure, stability, class and caste of the group impacts resource use and practices, thereby tenure.
Governance of tenure emerges from local context and processes; local law is hence a determinant of the tenure system. If no tenure arrangement exists (or it is ineffective or unacceptable), then a new system must be appropriate to the cultural and historical situation and capacities of the fishery.
As stressed in FAO (2005), “When designing management measures, it might be appropriate to consider those which provide exclusive or preferential access for small-scale fisheries.”
Coastal and marine spaces are often characterised by complex systems of ‘sea tenure’, which are important to map and use in decision-making around MPA practice.
With regards to MPA success it has been proven that biological and social success in MPA practice is closely interlinked through:
- Providing for adequate time to understand local tenure systems and for developing genuinely consultative and participative processes (including for conflict resolution) around MPA practice;
- Ensuring that international commitments to recognizing rights of ILC, including participating in decision-making, is reflected in legislation, policy and practice at the national level;
- Recognizing and supporting different governance types, including community-led management and co-management;
- Capacity building support designed to enable communities to establish, claim and strengthen their rights and fulfil their responsibilities, including with respect to other sectors, and;
- By recognising that there are power differentials within communities that need to be addressed.
MPA practice has to move towards greater equity and participation, both as an end in itself, and as a means to more sustainable conservation and management.