Crowding-out lower-level authorities: Interactions and transformations of higher and lower-level authorities in Kenya's polycentric fisheries

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© 2021 Elsevier Ltd Polycentric governance has gained prominence in the environmental sector because of the potential for multiple, overlapping decision centers to address complex, multiscale socio-ecological challenges. These decision centers may interact with each other through cooperation, conflict and conflict-resolution, competition, co-existence, and may result in transformations such as consolidation/fusion, and replacement. However, not all of the interactions among decision centers and transformations have been investigated. This study examines the interactions and transformations of higher and lower-level authorities in Lake Victoria's polycentric fisheries in Kenya using the Government Impacts Framework through qualitative research methods. We find that confusion over framing of fisheries and fishing drives functional and geographic overlaps between higher and lower levels. Higher-levels drive overlaps to replace lower-level functions. Lower-levels drive overlaps to resist the higher-level's intrusion in their jurisdiction, leading to conflicts. Lower-levels also resist attempts at conflict-resolution. Resource scarcities and a complex bureaucracy prevent information-sharing between higher and lower-level authorities. Finally, cooperative overlaps between higher-level authorities increase oversight over lower-level authorities. In combination, these interactions and transformations, driven by overlaps, crowd-out lower-level authorities from fisheries management to concentrate policy development and implementation with higher-level authorities, even as illegal and overfishing continue. We conclude by identifying questions on drivers and functions of overlaps for future research on polycentric systems.

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Environmental Science and Policy

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