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Overview and final report of a study
conducted in West Africa
(Cameroon, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria and Senegal)

Karim Hussein and Jean Zoundi


Background and rationale

In September 2001, the Sustainable Fisheries Livelihoods Programme (SFLP) commissioned this study of the contribution of research to the sustainable livelihoods of artisanal fishing communities. The study covers six countries in the region: Cameroon, Nigeria, Mali, Guinea, Senegal and Mauritania. It was based on the following observations: that linkages between artisanal fishing communities, policies and institutions and research are generally weak; and that research does, nevertheless, have an important contribution to make in improving livelihoods through the generation of knowledge and technological innovations.

The overall study was coordinated by two international specialists in research-resource user linkages and national studies were implemented by the national fisheries research institute in each country, through multidisciplinary research teams involving representatives from research institutes, government policy departments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private sector consultancies. Each country team produced four interim reports covering the core study themes: (i) identification of key livelihood groups involved in artisanal fisheries; (ii) evaluation of the existing potential of fisheries research at the national level (including social science research on fisheries) and eventual contribution to livelihoods, and analysis of existing linkages between research and fisheries resource users; (iii) study of the effects of policies, institutions and processes (PIP); and (iv) identification of key lessons and activities to improve research-user linkages so as to increase the contribution of research to artisanal fishers’ livelihoods. The methodology drew on core Sustainable Livelihoods (SL) principles (e.g. partnership, participation; multidisciplinary analysis and macro-micro level linkages) and involved a process of validating results with a range of actors at national level.

This overview presents some key issues that emerge from the six detailed country studies, highlights lessons identified, and identifies priority recommendations to improve the contribution of research at the national and subregional levels.

Key issues

Livelihood groups in artisanal fishing. The study revealed the great diversity in livelihood groups that use or depend on artisanal fisheries resources for a living. These range across upstream and downstream aspects of production - from fisherfolk through to traders and boat mechanics. There is some gender specialization of tasks and varying degrees of migration - the most important aspect of which is the need to migrate in order to follow a moving resource. Attempts to analyse the degree of vulnerability of each group reveal a wide range of factors affecting vulnerability in each context. Surprisingly perhaps, while in certain contexts fishers have the potential to gain the highest surplus, they have to make the heaviest capital investments and are often the most vulnerable group. The Nigeria study attempted to reflect this by developing a quantitative analysis of the costs of vulnerability.

Research providers. In each country, it is clear that a wide range of actors is involved in fisheries research. These include public sector research institutes, State funded universities, international NGOs, the private sector and development programmes. Some strengths in fisheries research are identified: incorporation of research themes on artisanal fisheries following participatory processes; existence of formal and in some cases informal frameworks for collaboration between the different actors in the sector; and changing status of research institutions that encourage researchers to be more innovative and oriented towards development (e.g. Mali and Senegal). However, partnerships between actors are patchy. Further, in most cases there is a deficiency in capacities for socio-economic analysis and limited experience in participatory research. In all countries national research institutes are hampered by a major funding crisis that also undermines the contribution of agricultural research more broadly to development and improved livelihoods across the developing world.

Policies, institutions and processes. The existence and effectiveness of mechanisms for fisheries research to contribute in the area of PIP vary. Nonetheless, the study shows clearly that fisheries research has the potential to make a strong contribution: enabling policy-makers to make informed decisions, formulate appropriate laws on resource use and contribute effectively to wider processes (e.g. international negotiations of fisheries resources). However, public research institutions have taken a long time to adapt to the requirements of a development orientation and general factors in the PIP context have constrained their ability to contribute to improved livelihoods: e.g. structural adjustment has led States to reduce their investment in research, such that it becomes ever more dependent on dwindling international funds.

Lessons and implications

Ten principal lessons are identified:

1. Despite deficiencies noted, there has been a positive evolution in thinking and approaches in research institutions covering fisheries in the last decade (e.g. addressing PIP issues; move towards a development orientation).

2. Promotion of local rules for fishery resources management with high involvement of local communities.

3. Producer organizations in artisanal fisheries are generally weak when compared to those that exist in other natural resources sectors, such as agriculture and animal production.

4. Fisheries research has contributed substantially to the improved livelihoods of fisheries communities and to addressing issues in the policy and institutional context (e.g. providing information and innovations to policy makers).

5. It will be possible to capitalize more on the contribution of socio-economic research, for example in strengthening the capacities of fisheries communities.

6. Several countries do not place high priority on fisheries research, and their sectoral allocation of resources prioritizes other areas of production. Furthermore, there is a general financing crisis faced by agricultural research.

7. Fisheries research institutes have found it difficult to develop effective demand-driven approaches to research.

8. There are very few examples of direct partnerships between research and fisheries communities or their representatives.

9. There is a general lack of mechanisms, or frameworks, for communities to learn from research - much due to failures in extension.

10. Incoherence of some government policies may be having negative effects on artisanal fishers’ livelihoods (e.g. support in principle for the profession of artisanal fishing, but promotion in practice of increased industrial fishing).

Actions needed

Fifteen actions needed to improve the contribution of research to artisanal fishers’ livelihoods are identified. Priority actions are grouped under four headings:


Drawing on the analysis of the country studies presented in this report, the authors make seven recommendations to the SFLP in order to improve the contribution of research and bring about changes in practice:

1. Publication of this overview report and broad dissemination in hard copy to research institutions, policy-makers and development actors in all 25 countries involved in the SFLP. This report should also be made available through the web.

2. Dissemination of study results in the 19 programme countries that did not participate in this study through subregional workshops involving representatives from research, extension, artisanal fisheries resource users, NGOs, private sector). This activity can be undertaken through or with the support of subregional and international networks.

3. Provision of funds in study countries for pilot activities to support partnerships between research and communities for the participatory development of innovations.

4. Training for research institutions in participatory approaches in countries where such a need is expressed.

5. Improve capacities of research institutes to communicate results effectively, even through new media (e.g. radio).

6. Strengthen country-level capacity for analysing the impacts of fisheries research.

7. Encouragement to governments to foster national debate on improving the orientation and sustainable financing of fisheries research.

Immediate follow-up

Drawing on the analysis and recommendations above, five suggestions are made for immediate follow-up to this study, identifying actors responsible and strategy.

Subregional level

i) Publication and dissemination of this overview report (by Regional Support Unit (RSU) before end September 2002).

ii) Share lessons from the study in the 19 other countries covered by the SFLP through two to three subregional workshops (by RSU before end October 2002).

iii) Identify priority actions to implement, as part of country-level programme initiatives, according to classification of priorities at Programme-wide level (by RSU before end December 2002).

National level

Editing, publication and distribution of a hard copy of the detailed national reports (by NCU in each country before end July 2002).

Drafting and dissemination of Advisory Notes to decision-makers.

Organization of national multi-stakeholder workshop to consider the implementation of recommendations and the responsibilities of each actor (by National Coordinating Unit (NCU) in each country before end October 2002).

This synthesis report, the six country reports and Advisory Notes for decision-makers, provide tools that can be used to guide changes in the organization of fisheries research. They might also serve to underpin proposals for actions to enhance the role of fisheries research both in policy and at the level of the livelihoods of artisanal fishing communities.

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