Home > CGIAR Research Programs > Ongoing Projects > Governing Small Scale Fisheries for Poverty Reduction - A CGIAR-Canada Linkage Fund project

Governing Small Scale Fisheries for Poverty Reduction - A CGIAR-Canada Linkage Fund project

Developing a wellbeing framework for the assessment of small and medium scale fisheries in the global South
Project leader
Edward Allison
1 Jun 2009
31 May 2012
This project is fundamentally concerned with maintaining the flow of environmental goods and services to benefit human wellbeing, with improved human wellbeing proposed as a desirable outcome of ‘development’. The novelty of the approach is to address the challenges of environmental sustainability and resilience from a gender-sensitive wellbeing perspective, rather than from the more usual “resource-rent maximisation” perspective of fisheries economic policy.

The aim of the project is to develop a conceptual and practical understanding of the relationship between poverty, wellbeing and environmental sustainability in small and medium scale fisheries. With this insight it will enable wellbeing considerations to be incorporated into fisheries governance reforms, and correspondingly into the design of fisheries management instruments (such as closed seasons, gear restrictions, catch quotas and protected areas). This will ultimately increase the resilience of fisheries and fishing communities, particularly with respect to climate change and economic globalization, and improve the contributions that the fisheries sector makes to human development.

The conceptual understanding of wellbeing adopted by this project is based on the approach developed by the Wellbeing in Developing Countries Group of the University of Bath. This approach argues that wellbeing has both objective and subjective determinants. Absolute wealth and health are examples of objective wellbeing, while subjective wellbeing is an individual’s own perception of his or her wellbeing, generally formed in relationship to others. These characteristics of wellbeing provide a fruitful entry point into understanding the relationship between individuals, social relationships, institutions, and the natural environment and, as such, form the basis for the conceptual framework.

The project will pursue a three-fold approach: (1) a comparative analysis of theoretical perspectives drawing on a thorough review of current literature, (2) study of the insights from two developing country case studies (Ghana and Vietnam) together with a comparative case from Newfoundland, Canada and (3) examination of how wellbeing is currently incorporated into decisions relating to fisheries management.

Researchers are drawing on the three approaches of interactive governance, adaptive co-management, and resilience thinking. The results will include an integrated assessment framework for the analysis of current fisheries governance arrangements and management interventions from the perspective of how well they meet both human development and ecological goals—while also enhancing resilience in the face of global drivers such as climate change.

The assessment of governance approaches and management instruments will also consider aspects of gender in small-scale fisheries. Both men’s and women’s work are essential for the capacity of fishing households to buffer shocks and surprises whether economic, environmental, or from other sources. Fisheries governance that ignores women’s roles and leaves them out of decision making processes runs the risk of making those systems more brittle and less resilient in the face of change.

The project results will be used to inform policies and identify innovative approaches to tackle development challenges. In addition, with its focus on improving the governance of fishery systems and the effectiveness of fishery management, the project with help to ameliorate negative impacts of fisheries on fish stocks and aquatic ecosystems. This is particularly crucial at present, given the range of well-documented threats to marine systems. To this end, a key element of the project is its focus on improving both ecosystems and fishing communities simultaneously by bringing a gender sensitive wellbeing approach to governance reforms. This integrative approach is crucial to properly address tightly-coupled social-ecological issues.