Coping with uncertainty : women in the informal fish processing and marketing sectors of Lake Victoria, Kenya


This study deals with women s coping mechanisms in the informal economy with the informal fish processing and marketing sectors of Lake Victoria as a case. In this thesis, the most important source of information has been interviews with informants conducted during field work in Lake Victoria, Kenya. The informal fishing industry of Lake Victoria is characterised by instability due to a competitive and mainly unregulated economic environment. I ask which strategies the fishmongers employ in order to cope with this uncertainty. I focus on the fishmongers coping mechanisms in two local institutions, namely the jakambi institution and the rotating credit association. The jakambi institution refers to the relationship between a fishmonger and the captain of a fishing boat. As a jakambi to a fishing crew, the fishmonger is a priority-given customer. Becoming a jakambi is thus a way of securing regular fish supplies. Through membership in rotating credit associations the fishmonger obtains access to several types of goods, including cash credit, which otherwise may be difficult to obtain. As theoretical tools I employ contributions from the rational choice approach, introducing contributions from the social capital approach as a theoretical complement. When focusing on women s coping strategies in the jakambi institution, I discuss whether it is economic capital or social capital in the form of social connections that make a fishmonger succeed in the institution. Furthermore, I focus on trust and power relations between fishmongers and fishermen involved in jakambi relationships. I discuss the reasons for the successful performance of rotating credit groups. The discussion revolves around whether the functioning of such groups can be adequately explained by referring to instrumental aspects like members dependence on joint goods and the group s control capacity, or if such an explanation also must include a discussion on moral economic behaviour. I argue that a satisfactory explanation must not only focus on instrumental aspects, but also must analyse the role moral economic behaviour and trust among members play in the functioning of the groups. An important finding is that in order to enter both a jakambi position and a rotating credit group, it is necessary to have both social capital and economic capital. This indicates that there is an interplay between these forms of capital. The fact that the acquisition of social capital in many cases will require investment of economic capital, has often been neglected in the broader social capital literature. Another central finding is that a negative consequence of social capital in the form of social networks is exclusion. In order to become a member one must, in addition to have social capital in the form of social relations to group members, possess some economic capital. I argue that the poor lack the economic capital required to mobilise their social capital. This indicates that social capital in the form of social networks is not a coping mechanism for the most marginalised in a community

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