Human capacity development in fisheries
Repairing nets at the end of the day. Human capacity development includes building useful skills
The concept of human capacity development is relatively new, dating from the 1980s and early 1990s; however the problems that capacity development tries to tackle are not new. A special focus on human capacity development is especially important now because of significant advancements in recent years affecting fisheries, including:
But if these changes are to be acted on and incorporated within fisheries management practices, they require enhanced skills and human capacity. Furthermore, the failure of much fisheries management based purely on fish stock assessment science, often lacking sufficient consultation with fishing communities or analyses of the social, economic and political forces that interact to affect levels of compliance, has led to a broader definition of ‘fisheries managers'.
Now there is a greater recognition of the importance of participation by fishing communities and resource users themselves in management, through co-management approaches. This requires that fishing communities acquire new levels of capacity to meaningfully participate in such a management process and define management objectives as well as how these objectives might be achieved.
Based on the above, the FAO Advisory Committee on Fisheries Research (ACFR) Working Party on Human Capacity Development in April 2004 agreed to the following definition for ‘capacity development': "the process by which individuals, groups, organizations, institutions, and societies develop their abilities - both individually and collectively - to set and achieve objectives, perform functions, solve problems and to develop the means and conditions required to enable this process."
This definition serves to highlight two important attributes of capacity development. Firstly, that it requires a consideration of capacity development at different levels where each level represents a level of analysis and, importantly, a possible entry point for involvement aimed at capacity development. Secondly, it is a process and not a passive state and must build on existing core capacities.
Levels of capacity development
The "enabling environment" represents the societal context in which development processes take place. Capacity may be reflected in the form of good economic policies, high levels of commitment, a lack of conflict or methods to resolve it, etc., which support an enabling environment, whereas low accountability, high levels of corruption, etc. may serve to minimize an enabling environment. Initiatives to develop capacity at this level tend to focus on issues of good governance.
The "sector/network" level represents the need for coherent sector policies and strategies, as well as coordination across sectors. Interventions may focus on issues such as policy reform or service delivery as a way of increasing capacity at the sector level.
The "organizational" level of capacity focuses on institutional structures, processes, resources and management issues, and has been a key concern of much donor assistance in the form of technical assistance, budgetary or infrastructure support or support for institutional linkages.
The "individual" level in the capacity framework refers to those individuals operating within the other three levels, or being affected by them. Overall capacity is therefore not just the sum of individual/institutional/sector capacities, but also the opportunities and incentives for people to use and extend their skills within an enabling environment. Capacity development takes place not just within individuals, but also between them and in the institutions and networks they create.
Importantly, capacity development efforts for more sustainable fisheries management require more than fisheries-specific skills (e.g. fisheries science, fisheries management, fisheries law, fisheries technology etc), but also wider non-fisheries skills such as conflict management, general management, good governance, community mobilization, information and communication skills.
Past approaches to capacity development (both in fisheries and other sectors) have tended to focus primarily on technical support through training in science, research and development, and on the institutional capacity of government recipients of aid, particularly where institutional weakness was seen to threaten overall project success. Less attention was paid to sector/network and enabling environment levels or to non-sector specific skills.
A number of key lessons drawn from previous activities include that:
Capacity development efforts must involve participation at all levels in order to be successful. This woman is monitoring shrimp as part of a technical and managerial training programme in Mexico
A strategic framework
As a result, and based on other key considerations, the FAO ACFR Working Party has proposed a ‘Strategic Framework' for human capacity development focussing on eight key elements, as outlined in the table below.
ACFR endorsed the Strategic Framework on Human Capacity Development in Fisheries in October 2004 to present at the 26th session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in March 2005. It is hoped that this will create greater awareness on the subject and encourage the use of the contents of the Strategic Framework.