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Supporting and Enhancing Development of Heterogeneous Ecological Knowledge among Resource Users in a Kenyan Seascape

Beatrice Irene Crona, Department of Systems Ecology


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The heterogeneous nature of even small communities has been acknowledged, yet how such heterogeneity is reflected in local ecological knowledge (LEK) among groups of resource users in a community is poorly studied. This study examines the ecological knowledge held by fisher groups using differing gear and operating in different subsystems of a coastal seascape in south Kenya. Knowledge is compared to that of nonfishing groups and is analyzed with respect to the scales of ecological processes and disturbances affecting the ecosystem to identify mismatches of scale between local knowledge and ecological processes, as well as points of convergence upon which emerging scientific and local community information exchange can build and develop.

Results reveal significant differences in the level and content of ecological knowledge among occupational categories with respect to the scale and nature of ecological interactions in the seascape. Nonfishing related groups were marked by consistently low levels of knowledge and understanding of all seascape components and processes. Gear-defined fisher groups appeared linked, through fishing methods, to specific functional groups defined by trophic level, although acknowledgment among users of trophic links and ecosystem effects were not always apparent.

Knowledge appeared to be largely related to maximization of resource extraction rather than reflecting deep understanding of ecological processes and causal links. Demographic changes and erosion of traditional management systems may partly explain this. Based on the results it is suggested that future investments geared at enhancing socioeconomic standards, e.g., through investment in improved gear, run the risk of further propelling the system down the poverty trap through habitat degradation and stock depletion, if not simultaneously combined with support for development and enhancement of existing LEK.

Key words

heterogeneous; local ecological knowledge (LEK); seascape; Kenya; East Africa; artisanal fishery

Copyright © 2006 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087