Towards Blue Growth

A consultation workshop on East Africa recognized that, if applied well, the principles of the SSF Guidelines can advance small-scale fisheries in the region

This report is by Editrudith Lukanga (, Executive Director, EMEDO, Tanzania and Co-President World Forum of Fish Harvestors and Fish Workers (WFF)

The East Africa Consultation Workshop on improving small-scale fisheries in the context of food security and poverty eradication, hosted by the FAO Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa, was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during 1518 September 2015. The workshop was attended by 38 participants from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, and included representatives of governments, regional organizations/regional fishery bodies (RFBs), civil society organizations (CSOs)/non-state actors, NGOs, research institutions, academia, other relevant actors as well as FAO staff and resource persons.

The overall objective of the workshop was to facilitate the understanding of the principles of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines) and their application in order to support sustainable small-scale fisheries and ‘blue growth’. During the workshop, participants examined the current status of small-scale fisheries in the region, shared experiences through country and topical presentations, and discussed priorities and actions for implementing the SSF Guidelines at regional and national levels.

The workshop noted that small-scale fisheries employ the bulk of fishers and fishworkers in the region and contribute substantially to food security and livelihoods through their role in providing nutritious food and generating local and national incomes. Inland fisheries are particularly important in many countries of the region. There are many aquatic resources, including freshwater and marine resources that are shared by two or several countries, and the regional aspects of small-scale fisheries are hence important.

The workshop noted the many already ongoing initiatives, good practices and opportunities for supporting small-scale fisheries in the region. Some important activities had already taken place (for example, consultation meetings in Tanzania and Somalia, and a regional meeting for non-state actor organizations convened by the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources and the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (AU-IBAR/NPCA). Yet, there are many challenges and constraints to address before secure and sustainable small-scale fisheries are a reality. Accordingly, the workshop called upon all stakeholders to promote the application of the principles of the SSF Guidelines at all levels. The role of CSOs was particularly emphasized and the need to collaborate with governments stressed.


The workshop acknowledged the comprehensiveness of the SSF Guidelines as well as the need to take a holistic and human-rights-based approach to small-scale fisheries governance and development. The links between the SSF Guidelines and the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security were also acknowledged and their relevance to fisheries noted.

The workshop recognized that the implementation of the SSF Guidelines should be anchored at the local and national levels but that regional attention and support would also be required to address trans-boundary fisheries-related issues. The role of the African Union (AU) and the work done by AU-IBAR/NPCA on developing an African Policy Framework and Reform Strategy for Fisheries and Aquaculture was appreciated. This strategy includes a thematic area on sustainable small-scale fisheries development, with specific reference to the SSF Guidelines. The importance of the Lake Tanganyika Authority (LTA) and the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO) was acknowledged, as also the need for strengthened collaboration among concerned countries with regard to other shared resources.

The workshop proposed key priority areas of action to be considered further in national and regional implementation planning processes included:

  • Governance of tenure in small-scale fisheries and resources management (chapter 5 of the SSF Guidelines): Securing tenure for small-scale fishing communities with regard to fishery resources and land needs to be ensured. Land-use legislation to contain provisions for consultations with all stakeholders, specifically including small-scale fisheries actors, and land-use plans should be developed with the involvement of small-scale fishers and fishworkers.
  • Existing zones and preferential access arrangements for small-scale fisheries need to be protected. Participatory enforcement mechanisms should be developed, building on existing good practices in the region.
  • The capacity and organizations of small-scale fisheries actors need to be strengthened so that they can effectively participate in decision-making processes relating to small-scale fisheries governance. Also, structures for co-management and shared decision making need to be established/strengthened at all levels.
  • There is a need for harmonization of policy frameworks and fishery regulations on shared water bodies and for shared fishery resources. Management plans should be developed accordingly and experiences from other parts of Africa shared.
  • Inter-ministerial collaborationas well as coordination with other actorson small-scale fisheries governance and development is needed. A first practical step towards establishing a structure for such collaboration and coordination at the national level could be for the fisheries authority to request an inter-ministerial technical consultative meeting.
  • The application of the ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF) as a model for developing small-scale fisheries management should be promoted. Social development, employment and decent work and gender equality (chapter 6+8 of the SSF Guidelines) should be addressed.
  • Access to amenities, facilities and services for small-scale fishing communities should be improved as part of fulfilling basic human and social needs. Existing regional information should be analyzed to improve this. Linkages with relevant government agencies, mobilization of community action and lobbying by CSOs in this respect will be required.
  • The current focus of fisheries management should be shifted to a more people-focused approach to small-scale fisheries governance. Small-scale fisheries actors should be part of relevant processes, fisheries management structures should allow for their effective participation and small-scale fisheries organizations strengthened to ensure true representation at all levels.
  • The availability of financial services and insurance schemes for small-scale fisheries actors should be enhanced, based on assessed needs of small-scale fisheries, strengthening fisher groups, and facilitating communication regarding the use and need for financial instruments between fisheries actors and banks. Relevant good practices, including the development of small and medium enterprises, should be shared across the region.
  • The poor standard of living (often), lack of decent working conditions and discriminatory policies need to be addressed, including through the professionalization of small-scale fisheries, compliance with existing labour instruments and guidance, such as safety at sea, occupational safety and health (OSH) regulations, and capacity development of fishers. At the regional level, harmonized operationalization of safety-at-sea/security instruments, including adoption of ILO Work in Fishing Convention, and IMO standards for training, should be promoted.
  • Efforts should be made to build entrepreneurial capacity for alternative and complementary livelihood opportunities to help reduce the vulnerability of small-scale fisheries actors and mitigate their reliance on fisheries as the main source of income.
  • Compliance with, and implementation of, existing gender instruments needs to be strengthened, including through empowerment of, and affirmative action for, women. Value chains, post-harvest and trade (chapter 7 of the SSF Guidelines) should be addressed.
  • Improved landing, processing and marketing infrastructures (including access roads) and enhanced data collection and information systems need to be established for promoting equal market access for small-scale fisheries actors. Fishery-related trade laws need to be reviewed and harmonized in the region.
  • Fish value chain actors should be actively involved in decision-making processes and representative forums, inclusive of all small-scale fisheries value chain actors, need to be established.
  • Women, and vulnerable and marginalized groups should be fully engaged in a dignified and respected manner, and their contribution to small-scale fisheries recognized. Access to market information and amenities, capacity buildingincluding on technical skills and social awarenessshould be provided to these groups.
  • Appropriate infrastructure for small-scale fisheries needs to be developed, post-harvest losses reduced to a minimum and value addition enhanced. Bottlenecks and opportunities should be identified and capacity building with respect to fish handling, processing, value addition and marketing promoted.
  • Enabling regulations, guidelines and harmonized fish product quality standards should be promoted to provide an enabling environment. Disaster risks and climate change (Chapter 9 of the SSF Guidelines) must be addressed.
  • Small-scale fisheries actors need to leverage existing climate-change strategies within their countries to have access to funds and insurance for climate-change adaptation, and their needs should be integrated in disaster-risk and climate-change studies, policies and action plans.
  • To realize the proposed actions, broad collaboration and support are needed from governments, national and regional organizations including RFBs, and other actors. This will require raising awareness and political will. The workshop identified the next steps to promote collaboration and make progress on SSF Guidelines implementation at the national and regional levels. Some were identified as immediate follow–up in 2015 such as raising awareness and dissemination of the SSF Guidelines at all levels, and introducing SSF Guidelines as agenda in other meetings and events; workshop results to be presented at AU-IBAR/NPCA ‘Think tank meeting on governance and management of small-scale fisheries in the African context and its contribution to the African agricultural transformation agenda’; RFBs to submit the SSF Guidelines to statutory bodies for consideration, adoption and monitoring of implementation; translation of the SSF guidelines into national/local languages by the governments or simplified version as appropriate; sharing the guidelines by CSOs; organize World Fisheries Day celebrations to promote the principles of the SSF Guidelines.

Beyond 2015:

  • Workshop participants should organize, in collaboration with partners and small-scale fisheries actors, national workshops to raise awareness on the SSF Guidelines and to initiate the establishment of national-level multi-stakeholder platforms.
  • The AU-IBAR/NPCA should report on the workshop results and follow-up actions at the national level at the next Conference of African Ministers of Fisheries and Aquaculture (CAMFA) meeting in 2016.
  • The AU-IBAR/NPCA in collaboration with the FAO, should organize consultative workshops in other African regions along the lines of this Eastern African workshop. The AU-IBAR/NPCA should also continue to support SSF Guidelines implementation at the continental level, including regional activities identified by the workshop, as appropriate and required, and continued engagement in the non-state actor platform.
  • RFBs should support the celebrations of the World Fisheries Day at the regional level by organizing a follow-up event with a view to evaluate progress and further disseminate information on small-scale fisheries.
  • RFBs should support experience sharing and communication among stakeholders and actors in the region.
  • Governments, RFBs and CSOs should investigate possible partnerships and develop proposals for funding by development partners.
  • Governments and RFBs should report on progress with regard to SSF Guidelines implementation to the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) and the Sub-Committee on fish trade.
  • Governments should initiate or continue the alignment of policies with the principles of the SSF Guidelines and develop national plans of action to ensure their implementation.
  • CSOs should support the strengthening of small-scale fisheries actor organizations at local and national levels across the region.
  • The ‘Too Big To Ignore’ (TBTI) research network should engage with small-scale fisheries stakeholders in the region. Governments and other stakeholders are advised to communicate research needs to the TBTI.
  • Ongoing and planned regional and national projects (like SMARTFISH) should be encouraged to integrate or continue their efforts to promote the SSF Guidelines implementation in their work plans.
  • FAO should continue to provide technical support, including with regard to raising awareness and implementation planning processes, and the development and dissemination of information and communication materials.

For more
AU-IBAR – Fisheries Policy Framework and Reform Strategy, NEPAD,%20sub-themes,%20aims%20and%20objectives.pdf
The Conference of African Ministers of Fisheries & Aquaculture (CAMFA)