Securing resource rights of artisanal fishing communities

By Harold Liversage, regional land advisor, and Steven Jonckheere, land and natural resources associate for IFAD in East and Southern Africa

Over 40% of the Mozambican population lives in the coastal zone and are reliant on this zone for their livelihoods. Artisanal fishing is central to the livelihoods of most poor rural coastal communities. Most of these communities are small, isolated, poor and semi-subsistence in nature and generally combine fishing and fish marketing with subsistence agriculture. Some are seasonal, but the majority are permanent communities. Artisanal fishers include both those who mainly fish for subsistence purposes and those who link to markets. Men are mainly involved in fishing and women in gathering molluscs and bivalves but also in crop, mainly subsistence, farming. Both may be involved in the sale of fish but women tend to acquire fish for home consumption. They also provide important support services to fishers.

Overlapping interests and resource uses are often a major source of conflict along the Mozambican coastline. Competition for water, land and other resources used by artisanal fishing communities comes from migrating artisanal fishers, industrial and semi industrial fisheries, mining, gas and oil exploitation, tourism, conservation, large-scale commercial farming and forestry. While various policies and legislation provide for the recognition of artisanal fishing resource rights, in practice recognition is relatively weak. Different issues occur in the north, centre and south of the country.

The majority of conflicts between the artisanal and industrial and semi-industrial fishers are due to the competition for the same fishing grounds or common resources. The three and one mile exclusion zones for industrial and semi-industrial fishers are often not respected and enforcement is not always done effectively. The presence of trawlers close to the shore inevitably leads to conflicts because of the destruction of fishing gear. It has also sometimes harmed the substrate and fish stocks to the detriment of the sustainable use of the resource.

Furthermore, millions of dollars are currently being invested in oil exploration, predominantly along the coastal zones of the north. The development of oil and mineral industry presents both risks and new opportunities for artisanal fishing communities. Already certain large oil companies have indicated their intention to fully comply with international standards for sustainable social, environmental and economic development.

Tourism has also been encouraged by the Government of Mozambique as a means for the rapid development of the economy and marine coastal resources. As part of this process the Government has delegated the management responsibility of certain areas of the coastal zone to private tourism developers. In some instances these developers have tried to exclude artisanal fishers from certain areas but there have also been cases of mutually beneficial partnerships and co-management arrangements being established. Given the importance of coastal and marine environment for the country, several actions are being undertaken to ensure development is sustainable in this region, including the creation and strengthening of coastal and marine conservation areas. Recently there has been a shift away from excluding artisanal fishers from these areas to inclusive co-management.

In addition, Mozambique has experienced, over the past decade or more, a significant increase in investor demand for land.  It is estimated that just under half of land granted through concessions (47%) has been allocated to foreign investors. While communities have the right to delimit their lands and the Land Law requires that they are consulted prior to the granting of a land concession, community delimitation is still limited and consultations are often not adequately carried out.

Finally, logging for valuable hardwood species has had a serious impact on Mozambique's forests and local livelihoods. The country’s legal framework supports traditional uses of forest and forest resources, the harvesting of timber and non-timber forest products, and the creation of community-based forest enterprises. However, the regulatory framework tends to favour national and international companies over small and medium businesses, and rural populations tend to operate informal forest-product-based businesses and engage in unsustainable exploitation practices. This includes logging of mangrove forests for construction.

On 31 March the Government of Mozambique and IFAD launched the Strengthening Artisanal Fishers’ Resource Rights Project (Projeto de Reforҫo dos Direitos de Acesso aos Recursos pelos Pescadores Artesanais – PRODIRPA). The overall goal of PRODIRPA is to improve the livelihoods of artisanal fishing communities by strengthening their security over and management of natural resources. Key principles that will inform the project’s interventions are: (i) community empowerment in natural resource management; (ii) linking macro and local level natural management planning processes; and (iii) multi-stakeholder co-management of natural resources. PRODIRPA will complement the IFAD-supported Artisanal Fisheries Promotion Project (ProPESCA). While ProPESCA will focus on the economic development of fishing communities, PRODIRPA will provide support for strengthening artisanal fishers’ resource rights. Improving and securing artisanal fisher’s access to natural resources is central to safeguarding their livelihoods and increasing their food security.