Review of the IFAD-funded small grant on capacity building for implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries

By Richard Abila and Laura Sollazzo
Crocevia: Snapshot of the infographic on the VGSSF
The event was held to reflect on the lessons and outcomes of the small grant, providing an opportunity for the Grant recipients to share with IFAD and other stakeholders their stories from the field by highlighting what actually happened and what were the challenges and success factors.

Where did the grant idea come from?

IFAD’s involvement in this small grant responds to a specific request by farmers and rural producers organizations at the 5th Global Meeting of the Farmers Forum (FAFO) hosted by IFAD in February 2014 where a special session on small-scale fisheries was organised. Specifically, the FAFO requested IFAD to ''establish a global grant programme for direct support to organizations of farmers and fishers to increase their capacity in policy and economic areas and to strengthen their initiatives''. Towards this aim, IFAD forged a working relationship with civil society organizations, networks and platforms representing the interest of small-scale fishers at a global level. In particular, four organizations have been instrumental in driving this collaboration, namely; the World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fishworkers (WFF), the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP), the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) and coordinated by Centro Internazionale Crocevia, who were competitively-selected as the grantee of the small grant.

The need for the SSF Guidelines featured at the FAO 2008 Global Conference on Securing Small-Scale Fisheries held in Bangkok, as a means to harmonise international and national level policy interests with regard to small-scale fisheries. The FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) approved the development of the SSF Guidelines at its 29th session, while at the 31st session of COFI the SSF Guidelines were endorsed for implementation. Through this grant, IFAD has demonstrated a strong commitment in moving the SSF Guidelines forward from development to implementation phase. Small-scale fishing communities will only see the full benefits of the SSF Guidelines if they are at the fore-front in implementation and ensure their interests are taken into account in all key decisions.

The IFAD-funded small-grant was approved in August 2015 and has just completed its activities last month. The small-grant had four key objectives:

(i) promote awareness about the SSF Guidelines among small scale fishery workers, their communities and organizations and to mobilize their support for implementation;
(ii) initiate capacity building programs for the fishers organizations and position them as key actors in the implementation of SSF Guidelines;
(iii) identify priorities and indicators for monitoring the implementation of SSF Guidelines through bottom-up approach and;
(iv) enhance the skills and capacity of the implementing organizations and other small-scale fishery workers’ organizations for a more effective role in policy dialogue and decision-making processes.

What actually happened and what were the success factors?
Artisanal fishery project Mozambique - IFAD Image bank

The project concentrated on raising awareness about SSF Guidelines amongst organizations of small-scale fishery workers and their communities through actions at local, national and sub-regional and building capacity for implementation in pilot countries. This was achieved through three sub-regional workshops held in Thailand, Nicaragua and Uganda; and seven national workshops held in India, Brazil, Ecuador, Pakistan, Morocco, Myanmar and Tanzania. Participants included representatives of different interest groups in small-scale fisheries such as: Civil Society Organizations, marine and inland fishing communities, women and youth groups, indigenous people, co-operatives, government departments, inter-governmental bodies including FAO and IFAD; Non-Governmental organizations, research institutions and academia etc. The workshops enabled these key stakeholders to understand how they can contribute in policy making processes which affect the livelihoods of rural poor communities that depend on artisanal fisheries. It was especially noted that many government representatives were unaware of the importance of SSF Guidelines, a critical gap considering the role Government has to play in domesticating the Guidelines in national policies and regulations.

The project made efforts in recognizing the role of women in the fisheries sector and, as a consequence, women were well represented in all the workshops and had a chance to have their voices heard. In her presentation at the meeting, Ms Editrudith Lukanga, co-President of WFF, explained how the Tanzanian national network of women increased their visibility in the international arena. Ms Gabriela Cruz Salazar, President of the National Federation of Fishery Cooperatives in Ecuador (FENACOPEC) told us about the practical difficulties they face in trying to make SSF Guidelines recognized and adopted by some of Latin American countries, partly because Government officers do not understand the benefits. Many organizations in her country would be interested in adopting SSF Guidelines as a way of protecting small-scale fishers, however there are constraints in the fishing laws on demarcating boundaries between fishing communities and the private sector.

Booklets, posters and video presentations were produced and distributed in targeted countries for disseminating information on the Guidelines. A short infographic video on SSF Guidelines was produced with translated text in French, Spanish and Portuguese. To reach a wider audience, articles on the workshop were published in the small-scale fisheries newsletter, SAMUDRA Report.

A major challenge now is how to expand awareness about SSF Guidelines to many other countries and communities that were not reached in this intervention and who still are not aware of them.

What actually needs to happen to make the change?
  1. Mobilise the involvement of communities: this first step generates support through different methods adapted at the local and regional levels by advocating to governments and non-government stakeholders who were not informed of SSF Guidelines.
  2. National level processes: make use of a pool of actors that can guide and trigger the process of change at the local levels.
  3. Policy maker awareness: fishers groups go through guiding principles and ensure that the relevant policies can protect their interests and help build their capacities. SSF Guidelines talk to the people: it’s all about the fisher organizations to identifying themselves with the Guidelines.
  4. Enhance opportunities for civil society and indigenous people to engage at the international level, including international platforms supported by IFAD such as Farmers Forum and Indigenous Peoples Forum.
  5. Advocacy and building capacity are key to moving forward implementation of the SSF Guidelines by strengthening national level awareness campaigns and adapting them to the specific national contexts. 
  6. Country-level strategies and plans of action need to be developed which will articulate practical steps for implementing SSF Guidelines.
“Civil society organizations create possibilities to make this change happen” said Naseegh Jaffer, Secretary General of WFFP. Naseegh comes from the small scale fishery sector where he has been active with community development work for the last 30 years and was deeply involved in the civil society processes for development and adoption of the SSF Guidelines.

The IFAD small grant was complementary to the activities being undertaken by FAO globally in relation to the Guidelines. It has raised the profile of fishers organizations and enhanced their participation in the FAFO and other international fora. There is still a high degree of disconnect between SSF Guidelines and policy level engagement and it will take a while and more awareness raising for the Guidelines to make sense to policy makers. While this grant made valuable steps in awareness and capacity development, a lot more need to be done at the national level to make everyone’s voice heard and a trigger positive reaction within Government.

What was the “take home” message that emerged from this event?

Civil society organizations are pleading for more support from IFAD, FAO and other partners in support of SSF Guidelines implementation. They are asking for assistance of IFAD networks and projects to inform local leaders to bring up the importance of the Guidelines to higher levels.

Following the IFAD AAR on the small-grant, the expert pool on small-scale fisheries moved to FAO to attend the CFS 44 side event on SDGs and small-scale fisheries: meeting commitments and realizing the right to adequate food. This platform also contributed to advocating the importance of the SSF Guidelines especially in the developing world.