Overlapping identities: The role of village and occupational group for small-scale fishers’ perceptions on environment and governance
Resource users’ perceptions are crucial for successful marine governance because they affect community support, participation and legitimacy. Efforts have been made to understand how fishers’ attitudes, understandings and interpretations of the environment and its governance emerge in small-scale fisheries. However, many quantitative studies have focussed on how individual-level attributes like socio-demographics are associated with perceptions, ignoring a fundamental scale at which humans arrive at their views about the world – the social group. In multi-gear fisheries, fishers typically cluster in two overlapping types of group: occupational groups (defined by fishing gear) and village communities. Taking into account also individual-level variables, which group type is more associated with particular environmental and governance perceptions, e.g. about change in fish stocks, collective action or appropriate management actions? Through questionnaires in combination with multivariate and multi-model inference, this study reveals that, among fishers in two villages in Zanzibar (n = 172), village is more associated with perceptions than occupational group or any other factor. Further, individual attributes like education and age influence perceptions. The main finding implies that the role of social-cultural processes might have been underestimated in quantitative research on research users’ perceptions. This has consequences for policy and research and shows that both can be informed by statistical analyses that disentangles effects of different levels of group belonging.