, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 487–499 | Cite as

Examining the Role of Social Capital in Community Collective Action for Sustainable Wetland Fisheries in Bangladesh

  • H. M. Tuihedur Rahman
  • Gordon M. Hickey
  • Swapan K. Sarker
Original Research


Internationally, the decentralization of property rights is becoming an increasingly common policy intervention for sustainable natural resource management. In the context of decentralized wetland fisheries policy in Bangladesh, this paper examines the role that social capital plays in cooperation building and collective action among diverse households seeking to obtain fisheries property rights. It considers how some households are able to develop collective action in the form of a community-based organization to access wetland fisheries, and why other households are not. Using the Local Level Institution (LLI) study technique, our analysis highlights that the financial capacity of community members plays a crucial role in accessing resources when the government’s decentralization policy also seeks to generate State revenue through fees. In this situation, information access and communication with external agencies were found to be prerequisites for earning the wetland fisheries property rights, with local leaders able to take advantage of their position to dictate collective decision making. This situation resulted in undemocratic decentralization and devolution of wetland fisheries rights, undermining transparency, accountability and the equitable distribution of natural resources.


Formal and informal institutions Decentralization Leadership Sustainable natural resource management Sustainable livelihoods 


  1. Adger NM (2003) Social capital, collective action, and adaptation to climate change. Economic Geography 79(4):387–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adhikari B, Falco SD (2009) Social inequality, local leadership and collective action: an empirical study of forest commons. European Journal of Development Research 21:179–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Agrawal A (2001) Common property institutions and sustainable development of resources. World Development 29(10):1649–1672CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Agrawal A (2003) Sustainable governance of common-pool resources: context, methods and politics. Annual Reviews of Anthropology 32:243–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Agrawal A, Gupta K (2005) Decentralization and participation: the governance of common pool resources in Nepal’s Terai. World Development 33(7):1101–1114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Agrawal A, Ostrom E (2001) Collective action, property rights, and decentralization in resource use in India and Nepal. Politics and Society 29(4):485–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ahmed I, Deaton BJ, Sarker R, Virani T (2008) Wetland ownership and management in a common property resource setting: a case study of Hakaluki Haor in Bangladesh. Ecological Economics 68:429–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ballet J, Sirven N, Requiers-Desjaedins M (2007) Social capital and natural resource management: a critical perspective. The Journal of Environment & Development 16(4):355–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Becker GS (1962) Investment in human capital. The Journal of Political Economy 70(5):9–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Becker CD, Ostrom E (1995) Human ecology and resource sustainability: the importance of institutional diversity. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 26:113–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bodin O, Crona BI (2009) The role of social networks in natural resource governance: what relational patterns make a difference? Global Environmental Change 19:366–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Boeije H (2002) A purposeful approach to the constant comparative method in the analysis of qualitative interviews. Quality and Quantity 36:391–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cardenas J (2005) Real wealth and experimental cooperation: experiments in the field lab. Journal of Development Economics 70:263–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Casson MC, Giusta MD, Kambhampati US (2010) Formal and informal institutions and development. World Development 38(2):137–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dale A, Newman L (2008) Social capital: a necessary and sufficient condition for sustainable community development? Community Development Journal 45(1):5–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dale A, Sparkes J (2007) Protecting ecosystems: network structure and social capital mobilization. Community Development Journal 43(2):143–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Darke P, Shanks G, Broadbent M (1998) Successfully completing case study research: combining rigor, relevance and pragmatism. Information Systems Journal 8:273–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dasgupta A, Beard VA (2007) Community driven development, collective action and elite capture in Indonesia. Development and Change 38(2):229–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Davis G (2004) A history of the social development network in The World Bank, 1973–2002. In: Paper No. 56 / March 2004, Social Development, The World Bank. Available via DIALOG. https://documents.worldbank.org/…/history-social-development-network-world-bank-1973-2003-history-social-development-network-world-bank. Accessed 25 Nov 2011
  20. de Soto H (2000) The mystery of capital: why capitalism triumphs in the west and fails everywhere else. Black Swan Books, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. Fabricius C, Collins S (2007) Community-based natural resource management: governing the commons. Water Policy 2:83–97Google Scholar
  22. Flyvbjerg B (2006) Five misunderstandings about case-study research. Qualitative Inquiry 12(2):219–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gerring J (2004) What is a case study and what is it good for? American Political Science Review 98(2):341–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Grootaert C, Basetelaer TV (2002) Understanding and measuring social capital: a synthesis of findings and recommendations from the social capital initiative. In: Forum Series on the Role of Institutions in Promoting Growth, Directed by The IRIS Center, Washington D.C. Available via DIALOG. https://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTSOCIALCAPITAL/…/Social-Capital-Initiative…/SCI-WPS-24.pdf. Accessed 25 Nov 2011
  25. Grootaert C, Narayan D (2000) The local level institutions study: local institutions, poverty and household welfare in Bolivia. In: The World Bank Social Development Family Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Network. Available via DIALOG. http://elibrary.worldbank.org/doi/pdf/10.1596/1813-9450-2644. Accessed 25 Nov 2011
  26. Grootaert C, Oh GT, Swamy A (1999) The local level institutions study: social capital and development outcomes in Burkina Faso. In: The World Bank Social Development Family Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Network. Available via DIALOG. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTSOCIALCAPITAL/Resources/Local-Level-Institutions-Working-Paper-Series/LLI-WPS-7.pdf. Accessed 25 Nov 2011
  27. Harwell MR (2011) Research design in qualitative/quantitative/mixed methods. In: Conrad CF, Serlin RC (eds) The SAGE handbook for research in education, 2nd edn. SAGE Publications, Inc, California, pp 147–163Google Scholar
  28. Islam N, Shimeles A (2007) Poverty dynamics in Ethiopia: state dependence and transitory shocks. In: Working Paper in Economics No. 260. School of Business, Economics and Law, Goteborg University, Sweden. (www document). Available via DIALOG. https://gupea.ub.gu.se/bitstream/2077/4730/1/gunwpe0260.pdf. Accessed 25 Nov 2011
  29. Khan SMMH, Haque CE (2010) Wetland resource management in Bangladesh: implications for marginalization and vulnerability of local harvesters. Environmental Hazards 9(1):54–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Krishna A (2002) Enhancing political participation in democracies: what is the role of social capital. Comparative Political Studies 35(4):437–460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Krishna A (2003) Partnerships between local governments and community based organizations: exploring the scope for synergy. Public Administration and Development 23:361–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Krishna A (2011) Gaining access to public services and the democratic state in India: institutions in the middle. Studies in Comparative International Development 46:98–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Larson AM, Ribot JC (2004) Democratic decentralisation through natural resource lens: an introduction. European Journal of Development Research 16(1):1–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mamun AA (2010) Understanding the value of local ecological knowledge and practices for habitat restoration in human-altered floodplain systems: a case from Bangladesh. Environmental Management 45:922–938CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Ostrom E (1990) Governing the commons: the evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ostrom E (1994) Constituting social capital and collective action. Journal of Theoretical Politics 6(4):527–562CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ostrom E (1996) Crossing the great divide: coproduction, synergy, and development. World Development 24(6):1073–1087CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ostrom E (2003) How types of goods and property rights jointly affect collective action. Journal of Theoretical Politics 15(3):239–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ostrom E (2009) Building trust to solve commons dilemmas: taking small steps to test an evolving theory of collective action. In: Levin SA (ed) Goods and global goods games. Springer, Berlin, pp 207–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pretty J (2003) Social capital and the collective management of resources. Science 302:1912–1914CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Pretty J, Ward H (2001) Social capital and the environment. World Development 29(2):209–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rahman MM, Begum A (2010) The strategy of empowering poor for wetland resources conservation in Bangladesh. Journal of Human Ecology 31(2):87–92Google Scholar
  43. Rahman HMT, Hickey GM, Sarker SK (2012) A framework for evaluating collective action and informal institutional dynamics under a resource management policy of decentralization. Ecological Economics 83:32–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rahman HMT, Sarker SK, Hickey GM, Haque MM, Das N (2014) Informal institutional responses to government interventions: lessons from Madhupur National Park, Bangladesh. Environmental Management 54(5):1175–1189CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Rao V, Woolcock M (2003) Integrating qualitative and quantitative approaches in program evaluation. In: Bourguignon FJ, da Silva LP (eds) Evaluating the poverty and distributional impact of economic policies. The World Bank, Washington DC, pp 165–190Google Scholar
  46. Rastogi A, Thapliyal S, Hickey GM (2014) Community action and tiger conservation: assessing the role of social capital. Society & Natural Resources 27(12):1271–1287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ribot JC, Lund JF, Treue T (2010) Democratic decentralization in sub-Saharan Africa: its contribution to forest management, livelihoods, and enfranchisement. Environmental Conservation 37(1):35–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Schultz TW (1961) Investment in human capital. The American Economic Review 51(1):1–17Google Scholar
  49. Sultana P, Thompson P (2008) Gender and local floodplain management institutions: a case study from Bangladesh. Journal of International Development 20(1):53–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Swamy A, Grootaert C, Oh G (1999) Local level institution and service delivery in Burkina Faso. In: Local level institution working paper 8, The World Bank. Available via DIALOG. http:www.worldbank.org/INTRANETSOCIALDEVELOPMENT/882042-1111748261769/20502269/LLI-WPS-8.pdf. Accessed 25 Nov 2011
  51. The World Bank (1998) The local level institutions study: overview and program descriptions. In: The World Bank Social Development Family, Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Network. Available via DIALOG. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTRANETSOCIALDEVELOPMENT/Resources/LLI-WPS-1-English.pdf. Accessed 25 Nov 2011
  52. Uphoff N (1993) Grassroots organizations and NGOs in rural development: opportunities with diminishing states and expanding markets. World Development 21(4):607–622CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Uzawa H (2005) Economic analysis of social common capital. Cambridge University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Voss C, Tsikriktsis N, Frohlich M (2002) Case research in operations management. International Journal of Operations and Production Management 22(2):195–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Woolcock M (1998) Social capital and economic development: toward a theoretical synthesis and policy framework. Theory and Society 27:151–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Yin RK (2003) Case study research: design and methods, 3rd edn. Sage Publications, CaliforniaGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. M. Tuihedur Rahman
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gordon M. Hickey
    • 1
  • Swapan K. Sarker
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental SciencesMcGill UniversitySte-Anne-de-BellevueCanada
  2. 2.Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, School of Agriculture and Mineral ScienceShahjalal University of Science and TechnologySylhetBangladesh
  3. 3.Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine (IBAHCM), College of Medical, Veterinary & Life SciencesUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK

Personalised recommendations