1. Stakeholder Analysis and Visioning
This WP was tasked with achieving an overall understanding of the stakeholders involved in fisheries throughout the coastlines of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, with a view to then engaging representatives of those stakeholder groups in a process of developing a vision for the future of fisheries in both states.
Six NGO Partner organizations worked in close collaboration with the FIMSUL Consultants and achieved a detailed district-wise analysis of fisheries stakeholders and their livelihoods.
For the Visioning Process, the six partner NGOs assisted in implementing the two phased visioning process. In Phase 1, area-based “pre-visioning” consultations were held in 7 areas along the coast of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry with participants from all 13 coastal districts as given in the graphic below:
· Stakeholders in the sector are preoccupied that the fisheries sector faces an impending crisis and that there is they have a limited range of strategies at their disposal for addressing this crisis.
· Primary stakeholders in the sector are demonstrating considerable adaptive capacity in dealing with the changes they face, both in how they make use of fisheries resources, how to resolve conflicts and how to ensure continuing benefits from fisheries.
· Poverty in the fisheries sector has specific characteristics. Dependence on fisheries and the lack of defined rights both to fisheries resources and to living space on land creates inherent vulnerabilities in the sector.
· While fisheries is a vibrant sector generating significant flows of income, distribution of these benefits is uneven and subject to significant seasonal and day-to-day variation. Many fishing communities have insecure rights to the areas where they live, and poor housing conditions, g, poor access to basic services, and overcrowding still characterise many villages.
· Human development indicators for fishing communities are still low, although post-tsunami reconstruction efforts have introduced significant improvements in some areas.
· Those improvements that have been generated through investment and welfare measures over the last decade are at risk of being undermined by the depletion of the resource which underpins the sector, both through over-fishing and environmental degradation.
· Levels of indebtedness (an inherent feature of fisheries everywhere), are perceived as being on the rise. Competition forces fishers into progressively higher levels of investment in new technology in order to maintain income levels. Competition for fish catches at landing places and in the market is driving a similar rise in investment costs for those involved in fish marketing.
· Specific sections of the fishing community are particularly vulnerable to higher levels of poverty. Women involved in fish marketing have to be increasing mobile and increasingly able to mobilise larger amounts of capital to maintain their activities. Those who cannot, either because of their age or because of cultural or physical constraints on mobility, are at a distinct disadvantage in the new market context in fisheries. Marginal, often non-fishing community, groups involved in “niche” fisheries in backwaters and lagoons are also extremely poor and marginalised.
· Fisheries stakeholders are handicapped in their participation in wider development in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry by their history of relative isolation, their lack of transferable skills and assets, their strong cultural attachment to fisheries as a livelihood, and their relatively recent recognition of education for their children as an important human asset. The importance of education is now widely recognised for future generations but this has not yet been converted into more diversified livelihoods and mobility outside of the sector.
· While welfare support plays a role in helping fisheries stakeholders adapt to changing circumstances, it is social capital within fishing communities that plays a central role in ensuring livelihood stability and continuity. This community capital is a strength to be fostered.
· The role of women in supporting the livelihoods of fishing households is also critical, with women making strong contributions to their household economies and having considerable influence over household-level decision-making. This key role at the household level is not, however, reflected in community-level decision-making from which they are still largely excluded.
· Efforts to manage fisheries, both by communities and government, tend to be focussed on managing conflicts in fisheries rather than addressing key issues of unlimited access to the resource. There is a perception that government should play a greater role in addressing management issues, but currently the primary role of Departments of Fisheries is in welfare provision.
· Stakeholders across the sector express rising concern about current patterns of coastal development and the threats this represents to marine resources, the environment in general and fishers’ rights to fisheries as a livelihood and to vital living space on the coast.
· Levels of organisation in the sector are developing but are still weak and there is a need for mechanisms that address the needs of the sector as a whole rather than the interests of specific sub-sectors. Lack of effective leadership and institutional representation in the sector leads to weakness in representing the interests of the sector in wider policy and planning processes.
· The issue of definition of the “fishing community”, and by extension, the rights of the fishing community, is important and the association of those rights with access to welfare of one sort or another makes this issue particularly sensitive.
· Interventions for livelihood development in fisheries communities should focus initially on enhancing and diversifying fisheries stakeholders existing activities. Mobility of fishers to sectors outside of fisheries is liable to be a generational process that will depend on better access to education.
· Most interventions in support of “livelihoods” in the sector seem have tended to be focussed on technical solutions, have generally only assessed short-term technical and economic viability, have failed to assess key market issues when developing livelihood options, and have rarely proven to be sustainable in the long-term. Proper evaluation of such initiatives is generally lacking, making it particularly difficult to assess their effectiveness and learn lessons from their experience.
· There is widespread dissatisfaction among fishers at their perceived dependence on welfare payments and a desire to for the fishing community to be less dependent on handouts.
· Making the sector stronger and more responsive to changes in the wider economic, social and natural environment will require a set of wide ranging interventions across the sector aimed at facilitating change. Capacity to lead and manage this change process will need to be developed both among stakeholders and the institutions that have responsibilities for the sector.
· Interventions to define and secure rights in fisheries. These need to address, through a process of negotiation and consultation key issues regarding the inclusiveness (and exclusiveness) of rights, and the responsibilities that are associated with those rights, for fisheries stakeholders and for institutions and agencies that support them.
· In order to facilitate this process, and develop means of implementing it, governance arrangements for fisheries need to be improved, with mechanisms developed for better representation of the interests of fisheries stakeholders and better communications and knowledge management between and among stakeholders and concerned institutions.
· Such arrangements should also aim to provide better representation of the collective interests of the sector in relation to wider development and planning issues on the coast.
· Interventions need to strengthening the capacity of stakeholders and concerned institutions to contribute to these governance arrangements will also be key.
· A more process oriented approach to supporting fisheries livelihoods is key. Future initiatives need to;
o value the strengths and capacities of fisheries stakeholders (their strong social capital and cohesion, the continuing strength of some community institutions, their competitiveness, the strong position of women within the household);
o build their capacity to make appropriate choices about their livelihoods and implement them better, taking full consideration of market issues;
o concentrate on establishing an appropriate network of services and institutional support, such as finance and technical training and advice (rather than offering “one-shot” technical solutions);
o build adaptive capacity to enable fisheries stakeholders, and the institutions that support them, to respond to future change (as opposed to focussing on technical responses to current, short-term issues);
o involve a range of institutions and agencies across sectors so as to address the multiple dimensions of fishers’ livelihoods;
o pay more attention to evaluating longer-term impacts of interventions so that effective approaches can be identified in future.
· Interventions to support livelihoods need to be more process oriented, and less focussed on technical solutions to immediate problems. This will involve interventions to support:
o better access to quality education;
o ensuring appropriate welfare support and social safety nets;
o improving the skills of supporting institutions and agencies to facilitate and catalyse change (rather than providing ready-made solutions to limited problems).