A new idea for coastal fisheries: asking the right questions to enhance coastal livelihoods

  • Livelihood diversification is actively promoted in fisheries policy. For example, ”A new song for coastal fisheries – pathways to change: The Noumea Strategy” describes how alternative sources of income may need to be explored by coastal communities as the state of marine resources becomes increasingly uncertain. Fisheries departments continue to seek better ways to diversify rural livelihoods as a mechanism to break natural resource dependence and improve incomes and food security. This has resulted in many externally designed interventions. However, livelihood diversification projects that are not attuned to community capacity, local contexts, aspirations and opportunities are unlikely to succeed. This highlights the need for a participatory approach: by better incorporating the ideas, needs and problems of people in the village, more appropriate and realistic development innovations can be identified. But translating participatory approaches to something practical has remained a challenge: systematically, critically and rapidly assessing the potential risks, benefits and equitability of an innovation is notoriously difficult. In any new endeavour – especially those that are championed by community members – there is an optimistic tendency to underestimate the potential risks and obstacles to success. This “New idea” tool is for guiding conversations about a new livelihood activity and helping to answer the question “Is this a good idea?”


    Govan, H., Eriksson, H., Batalofo, M., Duarte, A., Sukulu, M., Lawless, S., Tilley, A., Van Der Ploeg, J., New Caledonia: The Pacific Community. 23 pp. (2020)