From public open access to common property: the prospects and challenges of institutionalizing boundaries for self-governance and management of community irrigation dams in the Upper East Region, Ghana

  • Francis ZL Bacho
  • Samuel Bonye


The Hardian solutions to the excessive abuses of common-pool resources are still being contested. On the one hand public ownership is seen as a major draw back to the efficient and sustainable management of common-pool resources, and on the other the challenges of private ownership in addressing issues of equity and access. Self-governing community management groups are now seen as the panacea. The paper explores the mechanisms that the Water User Associations are using to address the critical issues of boundaries. It addresses three interrelated questions, i.e. how do communities: (1) delimit the territoriality of their irrigation schemes? (2) define authority spheres within the context of the traditional land ownership system? (3) define the limits of each individual user within the context of competing users such that conflicts are minimized? The central finding is that, although successes are not uniform across the board, the WUAs are employing ingenious mechanisms to define clear resource, authority and user boundaries to enable them set up workable systems for self-governance and the management of their communal dams in more sustainable ways. On the basis of the findings, it is recommended that for a lasting impact, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) will need to assist the emerging WUAs in this process of institutionalization.

Ghana Journal of Development Studies Vol. 3(1) 2006: 102-118

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eISSN: 0855-6768