Across South and Southeast Asia, the livelihoods of coastal small-scale fishers are among the most insecure and vulnerable. They are dependent on an increasingly depleted and degraded resource, due to overcapacity, resource access conflicts and inadequate resource management. These communities make important but often poorly recognized contributions to the food security and development of many millions of people and to national and regional economies.
A renewed interest in and support of fisheries management and sustainable livelihood enhancement is urgently needed in order to forestall severe poverty and to halt ecosystem degradation to the detriment of fishers, fisher communities and entire coastal populations and economies. The key problem areas that need attention are (i) the lack of mechanisms and capacity for joint management of the fisheries between the fishers and government authorities; (ii) the great vulnerability of small-scale fishers and their families in view of the risky occupation and exposed habitation; (iii) the loss of income from fish and fishery products due to poor handling, preservation and processing practices and inequitable returns from marketing systems; (iv) the need for alternative incomes to supplement the livelihood when fishing activities have to be reduced for sustainable resource management and; (v) the access to microfinance to diversify income, adapt fishing equipment to new management regulations and to reduce vulnerability.
Addressing the problems faced by small-scale fishers in the participating countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam) has been identified as a priority for FAO, donors and national governments alike. Further, in these countries, support to communities has been identified as a key activity in helping to achieve national poverty reduction economic and gender targets outlined in their Poverty Reduction Strategies and in support of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
In response to this need, FAO has developed a Regional Fisheries Livelihood Programme (RFLP). The Kingdom of Spain is the donor with a total contribution amounting to USD 19.549 million, over a project period of four years.