Delft, The Netherlands, 28 Jan 2022

Christine Adhiambo Etiegni earns PhD for research on fisher folk participation for sustainable fishery management in Lake Victoria

Following PhD research at IHE Delft, Ms. Christine Adhiambo Etiegni of Kenya successfully defended her PhD thesis and was awarded with a Doctoral degree on 28 January 2022. Professor Kenneth Irvine is her promotor and Professor Michelle Kooy her co-promotor. Dr. Etiegni shared a few insights as she embarks on a new chapter of her life.

Thesis title: Fisher folk participation for sustainable fisheries: an illusion or reality for Lake Victoria (Kenya) co-management

My thesis in a nutshell

My PhD research focused  on how people who depend on natural resources for their livelihoods can be better involved in making decisions on how those resources are managed. In my case, I studied the fisher folk of Lake Victoria. I focused on the Kenyan side: Lake Victoria is shared with two other countries, Uganda and Tanzania. 

When it comes to natural resource management, the focus is often on formal institutions, which represent written laws, policies and regulations. But the way people use resources is influenced by informal institutions, which are often unwritten and include social norms, customs and traditions that shape human behaviour and practices. My research shows that the benefits of collaborative fishery management is diminished by clashing and contradictory approaches by formal and informal institutions. To overcome this, a redesign of Lake Victoria co-management is needed: this should consider  both formal and informal institutions to enable more sustainable fishing.

Memorable moments

The most memorable period of my PhD studies was when my PhD proposal was approved by the proposal committee. I had struggled with writing the proposal and I was not very confident about defending it well. However, the defence went very well and it was approved. It was only at that time that it became clear to me that my journey towards my PhD studies had begun, and I was very excited. Other memorable moments included the PhD seminars that were organized at IHE Delft. The seminars enabled me to learn from other PhD candidates, and also share my research to receive feedback and improve my work. 

Challenges during my PhD studies

When I was writing my PhD proposal, I had huge ideas and my promotors kept telling me that my research was too broad, and that I needed to narrow it down. I felt that I was losing all the ideas that I had. Narrowing down my research area was quite challenging, but in the course of my PhD research, I came to realise that my promotors were right: there was so much that I had to do within the topic that I finally settled on. Writing thesis chapters was also a challenge, especially having to deal with comments from reviewers.  Sometimes I felt like giving up on some chapters, but then I knew I needed the chapters if I was to have a thesis. I made the corrections, and at the end of it I have a thesis.

The influence of my PhD research

I hope my research will contribute to better management of fisheries resources  - this would mean that the livelihoods of fisher folk in my country will be improved. There would also be more fish to be consumed not only in Kenya, but also in the world since Nile Perch from Lake Victoria supports a large fish export market. Also, there are many lessons from fisheries management research that can be used to improve the management of other resources like forests, water, wildlife and more. 

What comes next

I am a fishery manager by profession, and my PhD findings help me improve what I have been doing to manage fishery resources in my country. I plan to continue working with Kenya Fisheries Service where I serve as a Deputy Director of Fisheries. The mandate of Kenya Fisheries Service is to conserve, manage and develop the fisheries resources in Kenya. 

I will also continue doing research, and contribute to the management of the commons. I am also planning to teach a few courses at a nearby university. This will also help me to continue doing research. I also hope to write a few more papers and attend conferences to make my research available to the world. 

If I could advise myself I started my PhD…

I would advise myself to create clear timelines that define what should be achieved by when, and I would advise myself to adhere to those timelines. Also, I would advise myself to balance my PhD studies and work, I gave my studies little time compared to work which resulted in an extended study period.

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