Governing the commons through customary law systems of water governance

Gachenga, Elizabeth
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The resilience of customary law systems of natural resource governance in many parts of the world lends credence to Ostrom’s theory on the governance of commons. Ostrom argued that resource users who enjoy relative autonomy in the design of rules for governing and managing common-pool resources, frequently achieve better economic (as well as more equitable) outcomes than when experts do this for them.2 In support of this theory and acknowledging that most common pool resource governance regimes are based on a customary law system, Bosselman has sought to demonstrate a link between customary law systems and positive outcomes for sustainable development.3 Using a case study of the customary law system of water governance of the Marakwet community of Kenya, this paper tests and builds on the design principles and tools developed by Ostrom, to study normative institutions in a dynamic environment.4 The paper proposes an analytical framework that helps identify the features that strengthen customary institutions and ensure their adaptability and resource sustainability. This exercise illustrates the parallels between commons governance and customary law governance of natural resources.
Peer reviewed article
Customary law systems, Water governance, Natural resource management, Marakwet, Commons, common pool resources, Law, natural resource governance, irrigation system, sustainability, sustainable development, Property, Water