9. Fisheries department support for women - recommendations
Existing extension service.
The fisheries extension service came into being during the early 1980s as a support for the Village Fisheries Development Programme (VFDP). The objective of the service was to provide local back-up in villages to help people maintain their vessels and engines and to market fish locally or nationally by giving training. The problems encountered by the VFDP and subsequent commercial fishing venture' in Vanuatu were reviewed recently by Preston1 and the difficulties of these ventures in relation to fisheries extension were highlighted earlier by Palfreman and Stride2.
The 'raison d'etre' of the fisheries extension service (to develop fisheries) has not changed - although many of the fisheries have. Many boats and canoes have hand reels for drop-line fishing, gillnets and cast nets are in comparative abundance, duty-free fuel - introduced as an 'incentive' for village men to take up fishing - is still provided; and ice-plants are repaired if skills, parts and budget allows.
In the consultant's view the current fisheries extension service's operations need to be re-appraised and the service re-organised, because:
1. Fishing remains a part-time activity for most fishers. A comparative few fish regularly.
2. The small drop-line fishery resource is not being harvested efficiently, in spite of the past efforts.
3. In most villages visited at least one person has the skills to repair and join nets (and if there was no-one, a visit to a nearby village would solve the problem) and readymade nets can be bought in stores in main centres. Encouraging the unrestricted use of gillnets through making them more available (e.g. being distributed by the Fisheries Training Centre) does not encourage sustainable use of resources.
4. The criteria to qualify for access to duty-free fuel are loose and are greatly in need of tightening. Opportunities for abuse exist (and are suspected) in that catch records submitted to obtain the fuel are 'made-up' and the fuel can be used in boats transferring goods and passengers and in generators. There is no support given the fisheries extension officers from the department's database operators/analysts to assess and validate information from the fishermen (entry and analysis of returns is some years behind).
5. The cost of establishing, repairing and maintaining ice-plants is probably not offset by large regular catches of fish. There are relatively few fishers and the estimated landings and revenue from artisanal and commercial fish sales is not large1. The subsistence fish catch is estimated to be at least four times greater than the artisanal catch (chapter 3) - yet it is not subsidised.
The fisheries extension service is said to be 're-orientating' towards reef management and development, yet does this step represent a façade for more export fisheries support? Trochus and greensnail (which represented the bulk of income from fishery exports in 1995) and sea cucumbers (for beche-de-mer production) inhabit reef areas. Is the extension service being enlisted to support 'blind' management of these fisheries?
Where the benefits go.
The Fisheries Department's administration and understanding of fisheries extension is inappropriate for the current fisheries activites and especially for women's fishing. Few of the service's activities assist communities as a whole, let alone women fishers. The extension service's predicament is an illustration of a department lacking in sound development policies and fisheries management criteria. Instead of directing programs at increasing national revenue per se, fisheries development programs should be aimed also at increasing community, household and inshore fisheries production so that not only are more people involved in fishing but the additional fishing activities engaged in encourage the distribution of more of the fisheries revenue in the communities.
The manner of spending income earned from harvested marine resources should be considered when planning fisheries extension programs. Reported spending patterns by PNG fishermen were found to be non-productive and may be typical of Vanuatu (and other western Pacific) fishermen. The study found that increased income from the sale of barramundi and lobster resources (PNG) hardly ever reaches the villages but is spent on alcohol, cigarettes and gambling in urban centres. 'This known pattern of spending preferences between women (who spend carefully - see chapter 8) and men... should provide planners with food for thought. If planners want the benefits of increased production to reach women and children as the most vulnerable group, ways must be found to ensure that women are direct beneficiaries of any expansion of opportunities in the fishing sector.' (ANZDEC3: p.8, Appendix 3).
In concert with other western Pacific nations, the Vanuatu Government policy planners targeted export and higher value fisheries as recipients of public spending. Is there any information on how much revenue from these highly subsidised fisheries came back to the communities, or to the Government? A cost-benefit analysis is likely to have shown that a greater benefit to the nation would have come from putting equal or greater emphasis on encouraging the use of inshore and freshwater resources. These are in reach of most communities and do not require expenditure on larger vessels (and their fuel), are often low-technology, enhance the nutrition, employment and income of a large geographic range of communities, and may alleviate the dependence on imported fish.
Co-management and communities.
Another reason for a major change in the operation of the fisheries extension service is the department's advocacy for co-management in Vanuatu. This system incorporates customary marine tenure traditions and scientific advice. The department's research section has made sign ficant progress in this area to the extent that it requires the support of a trained extension service to both coordinate village-based data collection and give advice to the research section on village fishing situations. For the purposes of co-management, new skills and knowledge are required. Information on village marine management strategies and on practical local knowledge concerning resources must be obtained (current British O.D.A. project) and complementary biological knowledge and education on resource management needs to be provided4. According to Johannes (1994) an appropriate extension program not only transfer technology and explains conservation to villagers, it is also concerned with explaining fisher's customs and knowledge to government. In other words, there is a three-way link: fisheries « extension « research.
Women are part of communities. Their views and desires should be incorporate i into the planning and decision-making process, and because inshore fisheries management directly impacts much of their fishing they should be consulted.
Summary and new direction.
It is essential that the fisheries extension service rethinks its mission and aims to support women's and community (including co-management) fishing activities. These initiatives will increase income from fisheries throughout the country and also support conservation measures. Very few of the department's current and proposed activities will eventuate without the support of a re-modelled fisheries extension service' nor will the service be delivering support normally expected of fisheries extension.
The fisheries extension service should:
1. providing training and support for identified community projects:
Includes identified training and follow-up visits. Training would be at the Fisheries Training Centre or 'on-site', conducted by a small team of fisheries extension officers, depending on the project. Extension officers would also provide advice on projects to the managers of small-loans schemes.
Follow up the 1996 Rural Women's Fisheries Training course, yet offer appropriate training and ensure selection of candidates is done in consultation with fisheries extension officers.
Courses involving rural women should be run as often as practicable, in the villages: do not expect village women to travel to main centres.
2. encouraging resource sustainability through awareness instruction:
Environmental awareness education should be provided to communities. Actively campaign against the use of traditional fish poisons to harvest fish. ("When you want a breadfruit you don't chop down the tree; so don't kill the whole reef to catch fish for dinner" slogan: American Samoan Government). This work should be done in conjunction with the department's co-management initiatives.
Work with the research section and Department of Environment.
3. managing fishing effort in inshore waters:
Regulate the mesh-size, length and hanging ratio of nets used as gillnets, ring nets and seine nets.
Traditional fishing gear - record how to make it and use it; use trials (with village elders). This project would support the department's co-management initiatives.
4. demonstrating improvements in post-harvest handling and development of new products:
dried fish; salt fish; smoked eels and octopus; jerkey; bottled fish...
5. supporting the development of new fishery ventures:
Enhance opportunities for fish supply to key provincial markets or distribution centres - especially where population densities are high and fishing activity is low: e.g. for Tanna (fish from Futuna, Aniwa) and north Pentecost (fish from the south of the island). This activity could be supported by the Department of Health (to advise of areas most in need of fish nutrition?) and Department of Cooperative & Rural Business Deelopment to investigate relative demand.
Support the FAD program to enhance capture of inshore pelagics in certain areas: Tanna west coast;?the harbour at Lolowai, Ambae; off Efate..
6. providing support through networking:
Collate information on all fisheries businesses in Vanuatu, irrespective of size and initiating organisation. Extension officers should involve themselves (as dispassionate advisors) with the running of all of these businesses. Visit all areas of Vanuatu to assess needs and learn about existing fishing activities.
Encourage localised, low effort, fishing enterprises.
Have available fish marketing information, including prices of exported commodities - such as shark fin and beche-de-mer. Support management activities on beche-de-mer harvesting and processing (e.g. monitor and record buyers, traders and quantities of beche-de-mer - an essential task).
There are serious flaws in the department's internal administration and communication which directly impede the nation's fisheries management and development and will impact on development of an improved role for women in the fisheries sector. Specific examples are in:
1) Direction. The department has no mission statement, set of objectives, nor policy on fisheries. Deadlines are not set no duties clearly identified. An example of this is the lack of up-to-date statistics on any fishery including urban and rural market sales.
2) Communication. There are no regular-staff meetings, formal and informal intersection discussions, such that decisions (e.g. to travel, to attend meetings) are made ad hoc and there is no reporting of meeting outcomes. Better human resource management skills (e.g. negotiation and communication skills, team building, conflict resolution) would assist the extension section at least to achieve good interactions with the public.
3) Project management (e.g. timelines, milestones, delegation, responsibility). Extension staff had had no guidance on how to manage their programs and this inability has led to inefficiencies in the service. There has also been no clear mission statement for the section.
4) Working together. Sections need to be know each other's role and to establish good working relationships. For example, the research and extension sections should be working closely together and the extension service should be working closely with the Fisheries Training Centre (for example, to carry out follow-up visits after training). The recent situation where the selection of participants for the Rural Women's Fisheries Training Course was poorly coordinated and misplaced is an illustration of lack of coordination which resulted in considerable waste of resources and should never have happened.
The knowledge many officers have (such as of gear technology motor maintenance, boat repair) is inadequate for their new role in community fisheries development. The officers are aware of this, and cited insufficient knowledge of marine biology, reef ecology and environment issues, sustainable fishing practices, fisheries economic, and fish quality as examples.
Courses suitable for the officers can be provided by the Forum Fisheries Agency incountry. External courses are also available at Nelson Polytechnic (New Zealand) and the Australian Maritime College (Tasmania). The consultant suggests that FFA be contacted on this matter.
Some (e.g. Hunting-Fishtech5 say that female extension officers should be recruited; yet it is the consultant's view that recruitment of a female officer should be consistent with normal selection procedures, and is recommended as a long-term objective. During the time spent 'in the field' with the department's officers the consultant did not detect any gender bias from them, and women interviewed generally seemed at ease in answering questions - except when any of the village men were present. Then there were real problems, the women being reticent to answer most questions and their menfolk answering in their stead. Accordingly, fisheries extension officers should be made aware of women's issues in fisheries (gender issues training) and ensure they meet only with women in the villages or in some other 'neutral' manner.
The role of the Fisheries Training Centre should be re-modelled so that it:
continues to provide a back-up service (only) to offshore and artisanal fishers;
investigates and develops appropriate technologies for village post-harvest handling and product development;
investigates ways of reducing fishing effort through the use of traditional fishing gears (this work would support the current inshore fisheries comanagement project being undertaken in Malampa and Shefa provinces), and
develops appropriate low technology freshwater fish farming methods.
A post-harvest specialist should be based at the Fisheries Training Centre and his/her tasks should include:
researching traditional preserving techniques and improving on them (if necessary)
trialing the different preserving techniques with different products
running pilot training programs in fish preserving for selected women (identified by the extension officers)
running workshops on fish preserving in rural communities (i.e. 'on-site')
developing processing techniques for 'niche' products (smoked nawita, smoked eel, frogs)
identifying ways to keep freshwater naura and lobsters in good condition after harvesting
developing economic and appropriate packaging for fish products (for transport)
developing educational material on fish quality for inland communities (i.e. to protect them against vendors of low quality fish)
offer training to women in fish quality, paying particular attention to the transportation of product. The training should concentrate on shellfish (including lobsters), sardines, picot, mangrou, freshwater prawns, lobsters and eels.
develop a solar dryer and trial it with different products and different weather conditions
prepare information on shark fin removal and drying and demonstrate it
identify attachment or training opportunities for Ni-Vanuatu women in product handling.
A lack of adequate marketing infrastructure and transport of island-produced goods appears to be a serious problem. It hinders the extra-marketing of any items, let alone fish.
The marketing specialist should
identify markets for products
trace the different marketing chains in Vanuatu and identify where improvements in turn-over and transportation can be made
negotiate with air and sea freight services for better arrangements for product handling and transport. Work with the air service to educate villagers on appropriate packaging for air freight of sea products
consider women's situations and advise on siting of markets and improvements in marketing and product transportation relevant to women
arrange for attachment training in marketing for an officer
educating families/wantoks about what is a fair commission for handling and receiving.
The fish farming specialist should
advise on appropriate ways to farm freshwater naura, eels and mullet (and any other suitable product)
arrange for attachment training in fish farming for an officer.
Surveys Undertake surveys of freshwaters and reef areas. Define areas of species occurrence and, if possible, suggest resource size (relevant to community fisheries). The department could offer support to ORSTOM which is preparing an atlas of Vanuatu fish resources. There is an inherent problem in suggesting the development of a fishery (e.g. eel or mullet grow-out farming, mangrove crab abundance) if there is no information on the resource.
Ouantify subsistence and artisanal fishing
Work with the Statistics Office in preparing relevant questions for the national census. Perform village surveys in selected areas including household consumption studies performed in coastal rural, inland rural and urban centres. Collaborate with the Department of Health.
Collect artisanal fisheries landing information.
Record v hich reef fishes are inclined to be ciguatoxic, monitor the prevalence of ciguatoxic fish and determine whether it is matched to species, size of fish, season and region. Provide information to the public (information unit). Seek out information on local knowledge about ciguatera - including traditional cures (said to exist in some islands: Akimichi6 and general comments).
Determine the distribution and seasonality of freshwater eels. Perform similar studies on freshwater prawns, including their life cycle in different islands.
In the resource sense, it is important to be aware that subsistence fishing is also exploitation and can have significant harmful effects. Studies should also consider the effects women's fishing and gleaning have on inshore stocks, including juvenile fishes.
The work of the information section should be expanded so that its tasks include:
making representation to the Curriculum Studies Section of the Education Department to develop more emphasis on marine studies in secondary school curricula;
each year (through provincial fisheries extension officers) visiting the junior and secondary schools to inform final year students of career possibilities in fisheries.
More women could be encouraged to enter the fisheries profession (e.g. as extension officers).
developing environmental awareness information. This work should be done in collaboration with the Department of Environment. Environmental issues (such as over-harvesting and wasteful capture methods) should be pointed out to communities. Although women are criticised for using destructive fishing methods such as poisons and iron bars in their harvesting, these issues may be ignored in education programs on sustainable fishing practices.
developing an arrangement with the public media whereby women's fishing activities are highlighted.
Encourage a collaborative and integrated approach to support women's involvement in fisheries. Working together saves resources and encourages best outcomes. National support and a national policy should come from discussion between ALL parties, and the Fisheries Department should take the initiative in orchestrating it. Working and consulting with the departments of Environment, Cooperative & Rural Business Development and Agriculture & Livestock are particularly relevant, and should be both informal and formal (e.g. bi-monthly meetings).
Several recent authors7,8 pointed out that the actions concerning women's development have suffered and still do, from a 'lack of capacity in long term development plans and formulation of policy' and that more manpower and technical assistance are needed to the existing organisations They state that groups already working on women's issues should work together to 'formulate policies and plans and implement, monitor and evaluate strategies and work programs for women.'
Knowledge of marketing and business are skills many women lack. Training is needed in marketing strategies and income control, book-keeping skills, simple economics (e.g. supply-and-demand) and accounting. Depending on the situation and the type of training being offered, the most efficient use of money is for the trainer to go to the communities. Such training reaches many people, is much cheaper (e.g. one fare) and is done in 'real' situations.
The Vanuatu Credit Union League, the Department of Rural Business & Cooperatives and the Department of Industry offer courses in business management and associated skills, and these courses can and sometimes do, have women participants. The Fisheries Department should advocate strongly with NGOs and government departments for there to be extra attention paid to women in these areas. The department should encourage a more applied and relevant approach by the NIXON especially. There is no justification for a split in programs such that only 'home care' and traditional female role courses are offered to rural women. Business opportunities and money management advice must be offered to all women in Vanuatu and not just to those with a higher education or who live in areas already accessible to the market place. Training programs should be developed specifically for women in ALL situations, be responsive to training requests from women (even after guidance).
Personal development opportunities should also be made available to women to augment their business skills. Being better or more effective at communication and negotiation, able to manage conflicts, and more confident are abilities sorely needed by many Ni-Vanuatu women wishing to enter or remain in commercial activities dominated by men.
Cooperative activity itself is an effective way whereby women can handle extra work loads (e.g. processing of mangrou) and carrying out fisheries businesses. The Fisheries Department should work with the Department of Cooperative & Rural Business Development on developing fisheries business activities.
Cooperatives have an important role in the economy of Vanuatu9, and they are potentially useful in promoting community projects. Most of the c. 150 cooperatives are in the outer islands, and they are involved in retailing and trading. The consultant encountered a strong cooperative in northern Ambae, where garden produce, fish, copra and retail items were marketed. Strong cooperatives are also in Pentecost, Ambryn and Tanna (The Department of Cooperative & Rural Business Development acts as an advisory service to the cooperatives. Some cooperatives have accumulated substantial funds and are well-organised9. Fishers in Sanma and Malampa provinces are presently forming a cooperative.
Women participation in cooperatives is lower than males, but women are the main users of the cooperatives8. They are also better managers and secretaries and are more committed to the running of the cooperatives than are their male counterparts. However, only 7% of the 135 cooperatives (in 1993) were managed by women (43% of membership was female).
Lack of having 'enough' money is one of the biggest constraints facing women who want to become more involved in commercial fishing activity.
The Department of Fisheries should urge the Department of Finance, the Development Bank, the DWA, other financing organisations and potential donors to investigate means whereby credit can be made available to women through a small-loans scheme. 'Pay later' schemes have been identified by the WBU as most appropriate for women.
The failures and successes of past schemes in Vanuatu and other Pacific Island nations should be assessed before drafting a program and seeking donors. The Vanwood program may be an appropriate one to trial as it appears that the risk of failing to pay back loans is minimal. This is a program based on small groups of women, all undertaking different businesses. Originating in India and operating in Fiji, the microcredit scheme is being considered by the DWA and the Development Bank. The concept is that five women form a group, of which two are given loans. When they have repaid their loans, the next two women receive a loan, and when those are paid off, the last woman receives a loan. Under the scheme there is no necessity for borrowers to have money in a bank, and the women receive guidance in money management as part of the loan. By all accounts this lending programme is working well in Fiji, as it is based on peer (societal) pressure. The consultant understands that money is available for the scheme through the United Nations' Plan of Action Against Poverty.
It would be appropriate if whatever scheme is used it is managed by a neutral organisation rather than by a women's interest group - such as an accounting firm operating under strict guidelines, or the Development Bank. The scheme should be widely advertised by the Fisheries Department. The department's assistance in advising on potential of businesses and clients should be an important part of the loans scheme's structure (and again, would involve fisheries extension officers).
1 Preston, G.L. (1996). Masterplan for the sustainable management and development of Vanuatu's inshore fisheries resources. Food and Agncultural Organisation of the United Nations, Technical Cooperation Programme. TCPNAN/4552, technical report no. 2. pag. var.
2 Palfreman, A. and R. Stride (1996). Evaluation of fisheries extension service and training centre project in Vanuatu. Evaluation Project No. 6/ACP/VA/OOS. Mimeo., pag. var.
3 ANZDEC (1995) Ltd Consultants (1995). Fisheries management project feasibility study. Final report, December 1995. Asian Development Bank TA no. 2258-PNG.
4 Johannes, R.E. (1994). Co-operative fisheries management: major changes in training required for government fisheries personnel. SPC Traditional marine resource management and knowledge information bulletin, no. 4: 7-10.
5 Hunung-Fishtech (1990). The role of women in coastal fisheries of Papua New Guinea. Report for the Commonwealth Secretariat, September 1990. Hertfordshire, U.K.
6 Akimichi, T. (1990). Inshore fisheries and marine resource management in Vanuatu: an anthropological study. pp. 195-140, in Report on a technical and socio-economic baseline study for fisheries development in Oceania, with special reference to reef and lagoon resources and to aquaculture. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
7 Bowie, C. (1995). Voice blong ol woman. "The women 's voice ". Report of the rural women's needs assessment. Vanuatu National Council of Women. 183 pp.
8 Mackenzie-Reur V L. (1995). Statistical profile on the situation of women in Vanuatu. ESCAP. Vila. 67 pp.
9 Fairbaim, T. (1992). Reef and lagoon tenure in the Republic of Vanuatu and prospects for mariculture development. pp. 153-168, in C. Tisdell (ed.), Giant clams in the sustainable development of the South Pacific. ACIAR Monograph no. 18.