Africa : Training programme
An African briefing
A recent ICSF training programme in Accra, Ghana, dealt with issues in fisheries, social analysis and organizational strategies for Africa
This report was written by Chandrika Sharma, Programme Associate, ICSF
The fisheries sector in Africa is an important source of food, employment, income and livelihood. The artisanal sub-sector is vibrant, providing employment and income to coastal fishing communities, and, in turn, contributing significantly to the local economy and to food security. However, developments over the past few decades are increasingly threatening the livelihood of coastal fishing communities as well as the health of the fishery resource base. Some of these issues were discussed at a recent ICSF training programme on Fisheries, Social Analysis and Organizational Strategies’, held in Accra, Ghana between 17 and 28 August 1988.
Africa has seen a rapid expansion in industrial fisheries, employing highly efficient and non-selective fishing technology, which has caused an exponential growth in fishing effort in the region. This is leading to overexploitation of fishery resources in many areas. The practice by countries in the region of entering into fishery agreements, thereby granting access to the often highly subsidized industrial fleets of the European Union (EU) and other distant-water fishing nations, is exacerbating this situation. With resource scarcity and degradation, conflicts between the artisanal and the industrial sector are increasing. Even as returns from fishing decline, the increased costs of inputs required to remain competitive are eating into the profit margins of small-scale fishers.
Similarly, the access to fish of women fishworkers from coastal communities, traditionally involved in marketing and processing fish, is also being affected by the expansion of the industrial processing sector, as well as by resource scarcity and habitat degradation.
Even though there are several such challenges facing the artisanal sector in many African countries, fishworkers in the sector in most of these countries, with the exception of Senegal, are not politically or economically well organized. Some sporadic efforts at political organization have been sparked off in recent years, as artisanal fishworkers try to defend their interests, as in Ghana, South Africa, Guinea Conakry, Madagascar and Benin. These initiatives are often supported by local and international NGOs. They are often quite localized and need strengthening at the national and regional level.
It is in this context that ICSF responded to a request by TESCOD (Technical Services for Community Development), an NGO working with artisanal fishing communities in Ghana, to organize a training programme for people working at the community level. This request was supported by organizations working with fishworkers in Senegal. It was decided to also invite organizations working with fishing communities in other parts of Africa. The purpose was to bring together such organizations to reflect on the common issues facing fishworkers in the region, such as resource degradation and inappropriate policies, and to strengthen networking and co-operation between them.
The objectives of the programme were to:
enable participants to develop an understanding of fisheries development and management, especially in the African context;
develop skills related to organizational work and social analysis; and
facilitate exchange of experiences and networking between organizations working with artisanal fishing communities in the African region.
Twenty-one participants from nine African countriesBenin, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Madagascar, Mozambique, Senegal and South Africaparticipated in the programme. The participants were from diverse backgrounds. Most of them belonged to NGOs working with fishing communities in their countries, such as those from Benin, Cape Verde, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Madagascar and Senegal.
There were two participants representing CNPS, a fishworker organization from Senegal. The three participants from Mozambique represented a government body, the Institute for Development of Small-scale Fisheries (IDPPE), which deals with small-scale fisheries in the areas of production technology and socioeconomic development.
The participant from South Africa belonged to an association, the Informal Fishing Communities, which is fighting, in the post-apartheid era, for recognition of the rights of traditional fishers to fish resources. The resource team for the programme included persons from within and outside Africa, with extensive experience in working with fishworkers and their organizations.
A questionnaire, to collect information on various aspects of marine fisheries, was sent to participants prior to the programme. Participants were requested to prepare reports, based on this questionnaire, on the fishery sector in their country, and changes within it. These reports were presented by the participants on the first day of the programme, and set the tone and agenda for the rest of the programme.
The 12-day workshop itself dealt with the following themes:
Fisheries development in the West African context
Global fisheries development in the context of the development debate
Framework for social analysis
Organizational strategies skills and strategies
International agreements of relevance to fisheries
Fishery management options
For most of these sessions, resource material was put together by the ICSF Secretariat and the resource persons, and made available to participants in both English and French. The sessions were organized in a participatory manner, and the experiences of the participants were brought in at every stage. There were several sessions of group work to stimulate discussion and reflection and to draw in the knowledge and experience of the participants. After every two-day session, the resource team met with a small group of participants selected by the large group, to obtain feedback and to incorporate their suggestions into the programme content and structure. Sessions were conducted either in French or English, with simultaneous translations.
The workshop provided an excellent opportunity for participants to identify the problems facing their fisheries and their communities. It provided an opportunity to reflect on the kind of development and fishery they would like to work towards.
They stressed that development should lead to economic growth with equity (including gender equity), an improvement in living conditions, and the sustainable use of environmental resources. They were clear that all that is modern and technologically advanced has not lead to development’. In the fishery sector this has been more than evident, given the overfishing and destruction that has been made possible by modem technology’. As a consequence, fish resources and fishing communities are both in crisis in most parts of the world.
The workshop also helped participants to develop a greater appreciation of traditional science and traditional systems of fishery management. It was recognized that traditional knowledge systems and technologies have developed over generations of interaction with the coastal ecosystem, but are often considered backward and inefficient. However, this may not be the case. In Senegal, for instance, fishers continue to prefer the traditional craft, the pirogue. Participants felt that traditional knowledge systems and local, community-based systems of fishery management have a great relevance today.
Participants were also emphatic about the need to question modern technologies and value systems, where production is for profit, not for need. The logic in the present system is to create more and more needs and wants, and to increase profits. People are consuming more than they need to live and survive, and, in the process, are destroying the resource base and jeopardizing their own future. They felt the need for a new value system based on caring and sharing, where the well-being of people is the focus, not on the wealth generated.
A sustainable development of the fisheries, said the participants, would require: strong organizations of fishworkers at all levels; local control and management of resources; regular consultations with all persons with a stake in the fishery; use of appropriate and locally specific technology; use of selective gear and practices by the artisanal fleet, i.e. exercising rights with responsibility; ban on industrial fisheries using destructive technology; promotion of sustainable forms of aquaculture only for local consumption, not for export; elimination of wastes at all levels, for example, by utilizing by-catch; promoting safety of fishers at sea by making use of available technology; micro-enterprises for fish-processing managed by community groups; and a regional approach to fishery management, since fish is a mobile resource.
The participants highlighted the need to work towards a sustainable fishery, where nature, men and women matter, and where fish is for life and livelihood. To work toward this ideal, participants identified three main areas they have to focus on: information and training, influencing government policy, and strengthening fishworker organizations.
On their plans for the future, participants were clear that they would work systematically towards a sustainable fishery, as discussed during the workshop, at the local, national and regional levels. The participants from West Africa agreed that they will work together on the following areas: strengthening fishworker organizations and their participation in resource management at the local and national level; strengthening networks at the regional level; strengthening regional marketing networks and the exchange of indigenous processing technologies.
Participants agreed to work towards a concrete plan of action for these goals. They proposed a small committee consisting of representatives from TESCOD (Ghana), ADIPEG (Guinea Conakry), CNPS and CREDETIP (Senegal) to lead and facilitate the process. The participants from the southern part of Africa were also keen to develop a network of southern African states, which could include Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, Angola and Namibia.
For the participants, the workshop was an opportunity to gain information, develop analytical skills to help in their work with fishing communities, and to develop a strategy to work together in the future.