Mt. Marsabit, Kenya: an Assessment of the Governance System
Robinson, Lance W.
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It is been observed that local level commons “are embedded in a multi-level world” in which resource boundaries and social boundaries rarely coincide. Resources under common property tenure exist side by side with resources under other forms of tenure within larger landscapes. Moreover, different types of land, water, and other resources overlap and interact in space, as do the decision-making processes which correspond to each. This interaction of resources and management in larger spaces is the focus of a growing interest in landscape level approaches, and it has been suggested that polycentric governance arrangements are the most appropriate. The Governance Assessment Framework for Landscape-Level Ecosystem-Based Management (LLEBM) is a tool which has been developed for institutional diagnosis at landscape level. We used this framework to structure a case study on Mt. Marsabit, Kenya, with our assessment considering the emergent governance system which corresponds to the Mt. Marsabit landscape ecosystem. Our research found that institutional linkages within the governance system, while strong amongst government departments through the district-level committees, only very weakly connected other kinds of important actors to key decision-making processes. The nature of institutional linkages had profound implications when considered in conjunction with key aspects of governance: those parts of the governance system for which legitimacy and accountability were strongest were only very weakly connected to the key coordinating bodies and to the parts of the governance system having the strongest ability to mobilize resources. For landscape approaches in contexts for which authority is distributed across jurisdictions and sectors, and polycentricity is a given, institutional linkages are needed to connect key dimensions of effective governance such as use of knowledge, capacity to generate resources, fit, learning, legitimacy, accountability, and responsiveness. In the case of Mt. Marsabit, these characteristics existed to varying degrees in the different organizations and institutions that constituted the governance system. The weakness of institutional linkages in certain parts of the system, however, meant that the positive attributes of particular components never became attributes of the governance system as a whole. Of the various linkages that help to make a governance system a truly functioning system, it is those which give community level actors a voice at higher levels and where key decisions are being made that are most critical for enabling effective landscape level governance.