image004As part of the official calendar of the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA 2022), FAO and others supported the organisation of a Small-Scale Fisheries Summit from 2 to 4 September 2022 in preparation of FAO's 35th Committee of Fisheries (COFI) convened the following week to hear about the bi-annual World Fisheries and Aquaculture Report 2022 and give orientations for future work. Mundus maris contributed an Africa focused session to the SSF Summit.

With COFI nearing, in collaboration with the International Planning Committee on Food Sovereignty (IPC) and its Working Group on Fisheries, FAO had organised a SSF Summit in Rome. As of 3 September the summit opened to more organisations gathering some hundred participants. They represented small-scale fishers and aquaculturists, indigenous peoples, civil society groups supporting their work and other interested parties and gathered to prepare their participation at the COFI meeting from 5 to 9 September at FAO HQ in Rome. It was to be the first in-person encounter of selected SSF representatives with COFI members in four years, interrupted by the pandemic. 

From the early morning participants we chatting in groups and milling around to greet old friends and collaborators, meet new acquaintances and exchange the latest news.

Convened in the vast area of the former central slaughter houses in Rome, now a cultural and meeting center a little bit off the beaten tracks of officialdom, the place offered nice, functional facilities and a relaxed atmosphere. Simultaneous translation was offered for English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Turkish to put participants at ease as much as possible for expressing themselves.

The entire morning and part of the afternoon of Saturday, 3 September, was dedicated to feed back results of the preparatory work of the IPC in plenary and give room to statements from a series of representatives of small-scale fisheries organisations from different parts of the globe. One entire session was dedicated to report on the different case studies led by the International Collective in Support for Fishworkers (ICSF) and advances in recovering the exhausted resources of the Mediterranean under the leadership of the General Committee for the Mediterranean (GFCM) and WWF.

The IYAFA Secretariat had sent out invitations for financial and in kind support through workshops. Mundus maris responded by proposing a workshop with focus on implementing the SSF Guidelines through the work of the SSF Academy. The Secretariat suggested to enlarge the scope with a broader perspective on African experiences, which we happily accepted.

Small-scale fisheries are under intense pressure across the continent. Yet, participation and dialogue processes are shown time and again to be crucial for successful cases of defending the rights and livelihoods of artisanal fishers, men and women. They struggle in the face of multiple challenges, from resource scarcity and the need for equitable arrangements towards recovery, access to land, markets, credit and social services.

The session offered some first hand experiences with strengthening capacities of SSF in Senegal to provide operational support to the SSF Guidelines through the SSF Academy. Some introductory slides together with a short video illustrated early results of work of the Academy. The moderator also gave room to the self-presentation of Africa-based organisations, notably AWFISHNET (African Women in Fisheries Network) presented by Nedwa Nech from Mauritania, and CAOPA (African Confederation of Artisanal Fisheries Professional Organizations) by its president Gaoussou Guèye from Senegal.

All speakers emphasised the need for men and women active in SSF to know about their rights and the importance of making information and access to knowledge available in local languages. Thus, Gaoussou Guèye underscored the usefulness of the Wolof version of an introductory video to the Guidelines for CAOPA’s work in Senegal, which had been produced with help of Mundus maris. Other tools shortly presented were teaching aids on the ecosystem approach to fisheries for fishers and their organizations together with a new android app (FishBase Guide available free of charge in the Google Play Store) that visualised minimum, optimum and maximum size when typing in a vernacular or common fish name. That new tool could be used equally for teaching purposes, by fishers to maximise catch by targeting the optimum size or by women fish traders to position their products more easily up-market.

The focus was on experiences with promoting the implementation of the SSF Guidelines. Cornelia E Nauen moderated the session. It was one of the four parallel sessions in the afternoon, one of which focused on financial support and naturally drew most participants. The session with a focus on Africa counted a mixed public with relatively few African participants, but nevertheless witnessed some lively discussions providing food for thought. One cautioning comment about new well to do consumer groups in fast urbanising Africa who will likely prefer supermarket-style purchases to traditional marketing channels will require more attention. The early signs of a trend turning women entrepreneurs in the post harvest sector to labourers in processing plants is already observable in some places.

The introductory slides on the SSF Academy experience can be downloaded here. Learn more about IYAFA and the activities on the dedicated website of FAO here. The photo gallery of the SSF Summit can be directly accessed here.