This study was commissioned by the SFLP to respond to one of its thematic concerns. It has been designed and implemented using a participatory approach in the six countries. The interest aroused in the different countries reflects the relevance of the subject matter, which has been conveniently termed the contribution of fisheries research to livelihoods of artisanal fishing communities. The level of commitment of beneficiary countries from the preliminary reflections on the choice of methodology, up to the collection of data and its processing, is a good illustration of the fact that the work is a response to a topical need.
The process of internal validation implemented in all the countries proved very constructive and represented a real appropriation of the results of the study. Furthermore, one of the positive factors to be considered in the outputs of the study is that it was an opportunity to forge and enhance the skills and abilities of the teams to work in a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional team while analysing livelihoods.
From the study outputs it appears clear that research institutions indeed contribute to the improvement of livelihoods of fishing communities through the generation of technologies and information relating to their activities, the strengthening of their technical and institutional abilities, as well as the provision of all kinds of advice. Without doubt, it is at the PIPs level that research institutions have made the most significant contribution, generating knowledge and innovations that have allowed politicians to take decisions in the form of laws and decrees on regulation, exploitation and management of fisheries research.
In spite of this contribution, it has been shown that fisheries research does not recieve an appropriate level of attention in all countries. The priorities born of structural adjustment policies have constrained some Governments to relegate fisheries research to a more peripheral status. The field now subsists largely on external funding for financing. Furthermore, fisheries research has taken a lot of time to adapt and promote a truely development centred research agenda. All these are factors have limited the contribution of fisheries research to livelihoods in artisanal fishing communities. The situation has been further exacerbated by the poorly developed capacities of professional fishing organizations which, up to recent times, have been unable to handle tasks of supplies of factors of production (materials and fishery inputs), funding of activities (credit) and marketing of products.
The outputs of this study that were validated by the workshop held in Cotonou, Benin, from the 12 to 14 June 2002 (participants listed in Annex 6), constitute a basis for the strategic planning of actions in the artisanal fisheries sector and more particularly the contribution of research. Hence, several actions to improve the livelihoods of the communities have been identified, and focused recommendations formulated. Apart from the dissemination of these findings among other countries which were not involved in the study, it is incumbent upon SFLP, in collaboration with all countries, to explore possibilities of implementing the priority actions. The usefulness of this study therefore resides in the operationalization of the actions identified as follow ups to this study.