Crafting Our Own Rules: Constitutionality as a Bottom-Up Approach for the development of By-Laws in Zambia


This paper details the process of bottom-up crafting of by-laws to the state fishery laws in Zambia, the initial empirical case informing the development of the constitutionality concept. It explores the historical, political as well as environmental and economic conditions on which the process of sense of ownership of the institution building process came to be. The role of the researchers as well as the process of crafting new rules in a situation of an absent state but which is ideologically present as the owner of the resource are discussed. Furthermore, we underline that for this process the issue of bargaining power in communities that are very heterogeneous is a major challenge to a fair process for the crafting of institutions. The paper explains the main factors leading to what Haller et al. have labeled “constitutionality” addressing these power disparities. However, a clear examination of the process of the by-law crafting, including the content of the by-laws themselves, reveals that newly crafted institutions developed by local actors a) go beyond pure resource governance issues to include other areas related to fisheries (health and sanitation), b) address vital gender and power relations, and c) show high innovation potential to interrelate governance issues that are locally important but not addressed in fragmented state governance.

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    The notion of ‘local’ is complex, referring as it does not just to members of an ethnic group but also to people engaged in a place and stable social relations over time. This included, e.g., Lozi fishermen in permanent camps, who had migrated to the area decades ago.


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Correspondence to Tobias Haller.

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Haller, T., Merten, S. Crafting Our Own Rules: Constitutionality as a Bottom-Up Approach for the development of By-Laws in Zambia. Hum Ecol 46, 3–13 (2018).

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  • Fishery commons
  • By-law development
  • Participation
  • Gender
  • Zambia