Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries
in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication

A newly formed African Advisory Group helps implement the SSF Guidelines


This text is based on a review of documents and an interview with Mr Alieu Sowe from the World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers (WFF). Mr Sowe is part of a recently formed African Advisory Group on small-scale fisheries issues, which in turn is part of a Global Strategic Framework to support the implementation of the SSF Guidelines.

Bringing voices from the African region to global forums

Recently, the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC), took the initiative to form an African Advisory Group in support of the implementation of the SSF Guidelines. The African Advisory Group is composed of representatives of global and regional civil society networks having small-scale fisheries organizations in the African continent as their members.

The group sets out to work with all the regional processes relevant to the implementation and monitoring of the SSF Guidelines in Africa. Its goal is to “ensure a coherent implementation of policies, strategies and actions in support of the SSF Guidelines implementation at regional level”.

The African Advisory Group will exchange information with an already existing Advisory Group on global level, which is part of a Global Strategic Framework facilitated by FAO to help implement the SSF Guidelines.

A group born from a long and fruitful partnership

The newly formed group is not coming from nowhere. In fact, FAO and the IPC have a long history of collaboration, where the IPC has played an important role in ensuring that small-scale producers were present at the negotiation table when both the Voluntary Guidelines on Tenure and the SSF Guidelines were written.

In the IPC, there is a working group on fisheries. This working group builds capacities among grassroots organizations in small-scale fisheries, receives feedbacks from the grassroots, raises awareness on global issues, and brings the voices of small-scale producers to decision-making spaces. Given the IPC’s engagement in small-scale fisheries, it was only natural that they played a key role in establishing both the global Advisory Group, and now the ditto. Similar regional advisory groups are planned or under way.

“We have a role and responsibility to participate in dialogues!”

Click to enlarge
Mr Alieu Sowe, WFF, Gambia. © Alieu Sowe

Mr Alieu Sowe, who is a member of the African Advisory Group, representing the World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers (WFF) is enthusiastic about what the new group will be able to achieve.

– There is a need for responsibility from the governments in Africa to understand and acknowledge that the fish resource belongs to the people! We know this, and we have a role and responsibility to participate in dialogues, to tell them to take this responsibility.

Mr Sowe knows from his previous experiences with WFF and IPC that it is very possible for actors in small-scale fisheries to hold governments accountable:

– In recent years, fishers have been schooled in how to review bilateral agreements and claim their rights. Before, the governments were developing laws etc. without involving the fishers. But now many governments know and acknowledge that fisher representatives must be involved in co-manage the resource.

In the last 10 years, he has seen improvements in how the government manage the fisheries, the fish trade, the resource management, the infrastructure at landing sites, the storage and building of boats, etc. He mentions Kenya, Senegal, Ghana, and Tunisia as examples of countries where positive examples can be spotted.

The SSF Guidelines is the difference between being heard or ignored

The commitment to support implementation of the SSF Guidelines is something Mr Sowe and his fellow group members are truly passionate about. Mr Sowe underlines how he sees the SSF Guidelines as a crucial tool that can indeed make the difference between being heard or ignored.

– The SSF Guidelines have helped us to express our needs and organize ourselves for a better small-scale fisheries sector. We would not be taken seriously without the Guidelines! They [the policy- and decision-makers] would just see us as fishers acting out of our own personal interest without them.

He goes on by describing how the SSF Guidelines have helped strengthen and institutionalize the participation of fishers and fish workers in decision-making at local, national and international levels, increasing their voice, visibility and participation.

– We fishers and food producers get to raise our voices, and they [the policy- and decision-makers] see us and take note of us. Our participation helps the countries understand where to move next in the small-scale fisheries sector.

As concrete examples of small-scale fisherfolk’s increased participation, he mentions that they can now access global forums like the UN Food Systems Summit, the Conference of the Parties (COP) on climate change, the meetings of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and more. WFF, WFFP, the IPC, FAO, the Global Strategic Framework with its Advisory Group, and now the African Advisory Group all play a role in making such participation happen.

The road ahead for the African Advisory Group

The members of the African Advisory Group have started planning for the road ahead. Among other things, they will set out to get a better sense of the current status of small-scale fishing communities and organizations, map the state of implementation of the SSF Guidelines, and identify institutions and processes relevant for the group to engage with.

Mr Sowe also expresses an ambition to do more grassroots’ advocacy on the SSF Guidelines, set up trainings, translate the SSF Guidelines into local languages, and more. The group has also discussed the possibilities of doing capacity building for women and youth to teach organizational and marketing skills and involve women and youth more in doing advocacy.

The group members have agreed to convene on a regular basis rotating the responsibility to host the meetings between the member organizations. How often they will meet physically is hard to say as long as the Covid-19 situation persists, but Mr Sowe foresees that it will be a few times per year. In the meantime, the group is staying in touch through a discussion group on WhatsApp.

Click to enlarge
In the photo: Beatty Ogilvy Salome Hoarau, FPAOI, Seychelles; Maïsha Ishingwa Patricia,
AWFishNET, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Sylvie Sombiya, LVC, Democratic Republic
of the Congo; Naseegh Jaffer, WFFP, South Africa (member of the global Advisory Group);
Carmen Mannarino, Masifundise/WFFP, South Africa; Alieu Sowe, WFF, Gambia; and Anita
Legkowa, IPACC, Botswana.

The members of the African Advisory Group

The current member organizations of the newly formed group are:

  1. The World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP)
  2. The World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers (WFF)
  3. The Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC)
  4. La Via Campesina (LVC)
  5. The Federation of Indian Ocean Artisanal Fishers (FPAOI)
  6. The African Women Fish Processors and Traders Network (AWFishNET)
  7. Réseau des organisations paysannes et de producteurs de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (ROPPA)
  8. The African Confederation of artisanal fishing professionals (CAOPA)
  9. Plateforme Régionale des Organisations Paysannes d’Afrique Centrale (PROPAC)