This year's Conference of the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) was convened entirely online from 5 to 8 July. Jointly organised together with the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of the Erasmus University Rotterdam it offered numerous parallel sessions grouped as seed panels, harvesting panels, workshops and roundtables.

The principal Mundus maris contribution focused on "Inclusive adult education as an avenue for greater social justice in small-scale fisheries in Senegal". It was presented by Maria Fernanda Arraes Treffner, chief facilitator of the SSF Academy and Cornelia E Nauen, president of the non-profit association. To contextualise the challenge to small-scale fishers in the country, it is useful to recall that according to estimates of reconstructed catches by independent scientists collaborating in the Sea Around Us Project official statistics underestimated real extractions up to four times in the past and still by about 1.6 times more recently. Small-scale fishers and women and men engaged in the local and regional value chains account for the vast majority of employment, but have seen their revenues shrink as resource degradation engendered by overfishing and climate change pushes exploitation costs up and selectively threatens women with poverty. Women are estimated to make up half the work force and play important roles in different phases of the value chain, but their contributions tend to be underappreciated and under-paid.

To counter these developments, Voluntary Guidelines to ensure sustainable small-scale fisheries (SSF) in the context of food security and poverty eradication have been adopted in 2014 by the Committee of Fisheries of the FAO.

The Guidelines are based explicitly on human rights and are primarily directed at governments, but also to a lesser extent to professional organisations of fishers, civil society organisations, researchers and other stakeholders.

In Senegal, a significant part of the economically active population is involved in various fisheries value chains. The efforts by government and others to implement the guidelines on the ground are supported by the Small-Scale Fisheries Academy, inaugurated en 2018.

The Academy is a safe multi-actor platform for respectful dialogue, joint learning, co-creation of knowledge and innovation for the recovery, protection and sustainable use of marine and coastal resources and in support of prosperous artisanal fisheries and stable food systems.

The underlying concept is based on de Sousa Santos’ knowledge ecology in combination with a communication strategy enabling positive change. This in turn builds on Paulo Freire’s notion of dialogue and visualisation techniques in adult education inspired by Linda Mayoux’ Gender Action Learning System (GALS). Methodological background information and reports of the first pilot activities are available here.

The objective of the academy is to train trainers who can strengthen the capacities of men and women in their communities for developing innovations and active participation in governance processes thus demarginalising their communities thanks to greater collective action and advocacy.

The methods that have so far been tested with some success focus on forms of visual design that enable active participation independent of formal education levels of learners. That is particularly important for including women on an equal footing. The starting point is to create the conditions for engagement by enticing Academy learners to design what they consider the ingredients of a happy life and to enrich their drawings in dialogue with family and neighbours.

In an interplay between individual and group work they are then invited to design a pathway towards such a happy life with an objective achievable within one year and to reflect and identify what could be quarterly intermediate steps. This reflection also leads to visualising obstacles and opportunities on the way and who could be helpers along the road.

The method also proves its worth, for example, in addressing the otherwise tabu topic of gender relations. It allows to bring some of the difficulties into the open that prevent women from having a voice and realise their potential. It actually turned out during practice that some of the most notable advances in their individual economic results were realised by women. The approach thus enables emergence of new leadership competencies and stimulates others. A short video illustrates the approach through an example.

Likewise, bringing in additional expertise not available in the community lays the foundation for more preparedness in relation to new challenges, such as climate change.

Enrichment with distance learning support under pandemic conditions is currently being tested.

We propose that such bottom-up capacity strengthening through inclusive adult education is a necessary complement for social justice and the successful implementation of more global policies as represented by the Sustainable Development Goals and the Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines.