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Poverty and Reefs

2.3 Enhancing interactions with direct influencing factors

The livelihoods of reef-dependent people not only rely on the resources that are available to them, but also to the wider environment in which they operate. In this wider environment there are a range of factors that influence the way people are able to access and use the resources available to them. Direct influencing factors include a complex range of factors resulting from history, politics, culture, religion, social relations, decision-making and negotiation. The reef ecosystems allow reef-dependent people to interact with those influencing factors in special ways that confer benefits upon them.

2.3.1 Policies

2.3.1.1 Conservation

The biodiversity of coral reefs has been a magnet for research and scientific interest and has raised the profile of coral reefs to global significance, recognized in international environmental policy and conventions (e.g. Agenda 21 of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), Jakarta Mandate of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA)). As a result, significant funds have been allocated specifically for coral reef conservation and management. Global Environment Facility (GEF) funds, which target biodiversity, have been used considerably by the World Bank, UNDP and UNEP for coral reef-related projects (e.g. UNDP-GEF coral reef biodiversity projects in the Maldives and in India, in the Gulf of Mannar and Andaman and Nicobar Islands). Millions of US dollars have been spent by the World Bank financing the development of a global system of marine protected areas to conserve biodiversity (Hatziolos, 1997). The International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN) recently received US$3 million at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), adding to its US$5 million received in 2001 to initiate reef management and conservation activities over the next four years, and has plans to raise a minimum of US$25 million to continue these activities over the next decade.

The international attention and support focused on coral reefs is also reflected in the national policies and funding of coral reef nations. In India, for example, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has established the Indian Coral Reef Monitoring Network (ICRMN), and over the last three years has allocated and distributed funds for monitoring activities in each of the four major coral reef areas.

Such attention has the potential to bring benefits to local communities, where conservation efforts embrace concepts such as sustainable and equitable livelihoods and coastal community development.

2.3.1.2 Indigenous rights

Coral reefs have also been the focus of attention on indigenous rights, through the recognition of traditional and indigenous reef-dependent communities and the importance and value of their rights and knowledge. The adoption of international standards of human rights has led to specific policies and legislation registering and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples. This has had significant relevance to those communities with customary or traditional associations with the land and sea, which define their rights over and use of reef resources (Box 19).

Recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples may confer greater participation in government-led policy planning and implementation. In the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) World Heritage Area increasing acknowledgement of indigenous rights and interests has led to greater involvement and participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities in planning, policy formulation, assessment and management of the GBR marine resources. For example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders have been involved in the co-operative management of dugong and turtles, and increasing numbers are being recruited as staff for the GBR Marine Park Authority (Benzaken et al., 1997). Similarly, in the Surin Islands, Thailand, participation of local indigenous people in the management of the national park has been promoted in response to the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People (UNESCO, 2001).

The recognition of the value of indigenous traditions and knowledge has also led to the introduction of formal courses on this subject in local schools. In Tokelau, elders teach traditional knowledge in primary and secondary schools (Ruddle, 1993).

2.3.1.3 Trade and fisheries development

Coral reef diversity and productivity offer opportunities for implementation of fisheries development policies, particularly those focused on expanding export markets, which in turn provide opportunities to small-scale reef fishers. A diversity of reef products attract the attention of lucrative export markets, and represent an important source of income to coastal communities, as well as export revenue for national economies (Section 2.2.3.3). In the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, fishery policy in the sixth 5-year plan supports the promotion of fishbased industries with specific reference to reef-based products, such as pearls and the sacred chank (Drewes, 1982).

The small-scale nature of coral reef fisheries also benefit from policies targeting the development of local artisanal fisheries, supporting trade diversity, or protecting and developing local production. In the Marshall Islands, for example, the second 5- year development plan promotes the development of existing small-scale fisheries in the outer islands, with the objective of increasing the supply of fish to urban areas on central islands and providing opportunities of increased cash earnings on outer islands (MIMRA, 1995). In certain Pacific Islands, import duty on imported fish and meat has been imposed as a means of reducing trade deficits and increasing support for local fisheries, where imported canned fish has frequently replaced the market for local fresh fish (Johannes, 1981). Thus, in the Solomon Islands, an import duty of 37.5% was imposed on imported canned fish, while in Western Samoa a 34% import duty was imposed (Johannes, 1981). In the Philippines and Thailand, implementation of the FAO ‘Action Programme on the Promotion of Fisheries in the Alleviation of Malnutrition’ led to fisheries development policies aimed at increasing the use of local fisheries products for the alleviation of malnutrition (Heel, 1986).

Coral reefs also provide habitats for stock enhancement programmes, which may be a part of fisheries and trade development policies aimed at increasing stocks of valuable reef products and promoting commercial extraction and associated financial benefits for local communities. Such programmes are common throughout the South Pacific, for example, in Tonga a Japanese-funded Aquaculture Research and Development Project aims to enhance stocks of giant clams, relying on local villagers to manage nursery stocks on their local reefs (Sone and Lotoahea 1995).

2.3.1.4 Structural adjustment

Coral reefs also play a role in supporting people as they cope and adapt to changing policies in other sectors. The impact of structural adjustment policies resulting in the displacement of people from their original livelihoods, may be absorbed by the coral reef fishery. For example, on the island of Niue, cut backs in government sector jobs resulted in a corresponding increase in fishing pressure on reef flats and slopes, as laid off government workers turned to the reef fishery to meet their income and other needs (Pasisi, 1995). Similarly, the impact of policies of land privatisation, which typically have disproportionate effects on disadvantaged groups by reducing their access to land resources, may again be assimilated by the multiple and accessible options offered by the coral reef resource. Local fisheries resources may even be the target of structural adjustment policies. In the 1950s in Sri Lanka, for example, government policy encouraged the creation of ‘fishing colonies’, which resulted in the movement of large numbers of people from the south to resource rich areas along the north-west coast (Stirrat, 1988).

2.3.2 Institutions

2.3.2.1 Markets and private enterprise

The diversity of coral reef products attract a diversity of market outlets, which are composed of an often complex system of traders and private entrepreneurs linking the fisher to the consumer (Figures 19 and 20). These trading institutions are vital for the livelihoods of many poor coastal communities, providing vital infrastructure support required to process, handle, transport and market reef products. For the small-scale reef fishers, private traders often provide access to high value export markets and are the only accessible source of credit available for poorer households. While such credit provision is frequently inequitable, indebting and bonding poor households to traders, for many it is critical for survival: providing access to fishing gear; absorbing short-term losses; and supporting households in times of crisis. In the Sri Lankan village of Ambakandawila, the local credit system provided a third of all credit and allowed local villagers to meet basic daily expenditures, as well as major expenditures for fishing gear, regardless of the availability of immediate income (Stirrat, 1988). For poor households in coastal villages of the Gulf of Mannar, private traders provide the only easily accessible from of credit, which becomes a safety net at times of crisis or during festival periods, when expenditure is high (Rengasamy et al., 2003).

Traders may also provide opportunities for fishers to access seasonal migratory fishing opportunities and thereby overcome seasonal lows in local fishing or activities in other sectors. During the south west monsoon, in Sri Lanka, traders arrange credit to cover basic accommodation and food requirements at temporary fishing camps on the north east coast and guarantee to purchase fish and transport to distant markets (Stirrat, 1988). On South Andaman Island, India, fish traders support the seasonal migration of 60–70 West Bengali fishers to the coastal community of Guptapara, to access the lucrative reef fishery for export markets (Singh and Andrews, 2003).

2.3.2.2 Government institutions

Coral reef and associated resources and the near-shore, small-scale fisheries they support, are the focus of various government institutions, concerned either with the conservation of the reef resource (environment departments and agencies), the management of the local fishery (fisheries departments and agencies), or for the development and welfare of the local fishing communities (development and social welfare departments and agencies).

Where such institutions’ objectives and activities reflect the needs and aspirations of the local coastal communities and the poor, they may bring a stream of different benefits. For example, in the Gulf of Mannar, the Fisheries Department, through local extension offices, has recently begun targeting women’s groups to improve their livelihood status, through the provision of training to introduce new activities or enhance existing ones (e.g. training in hygienic handling and processing of fisheries products). In the same place, the Revenue Department, has provided important benefits, through the provision of pensions and relief to widows of fishermen, on which some elderly widows are completely dependent to support themselves (Rengasamy et al., 2003).

Decentralised local government structures may also play a role in supporting local level management of resources. In Tamil Nadu, India, while small-scale fishing is typically open access, local associations or panchayats will regulate how people exploit the adjacent inshore area, through a system of rules relating to types and application of fishing gear. Rules apply equally to outsiders and local fishers, giving anyone the right to fish in a particular area as long as they abide by the local rules (Bavinck, 2001). Village panchayats also function to settle disputes over fishing activities within or between villages and provide a means of legitimising local level decisions relating to matters of common interest (Bavinck, 2001; Mukherjee, 1968).

However, despite the obvious scope for providing benefits to local communities, the actual benefits arising from relevant government institutions is highly variable, depending on their financial and human resources and objectives. These benefits are frequently low in many developing countries amongst the poorer members of the community, who typically lack access to formal structures and processes. For example, in Northern Mozambique, the infrastructure of relevant government institutions at a local village level is extremely weak and in most cases non-existent (Wilson et al., 2003).

2.3.2.3 Traditional management systems

In many communities of the world, complex and deep-rooted associations between the communities and their natural environment have manifested in a diversity of beliefs and traditions (Section 2.2.5.2), which are widely encountered in systems of traditional management. Where coral reefs form part of the local environment, they are an integral part of these traditional management systems, which define ownership, access and use of near-shore coral reef resources through systems of beliefs, rules and social norms. In this way, traditional management forms the framework for social relations and negotiation, and defines the form and extent of access to local resources (Box 20). For those communities or family groups possessing the access rights or tenure over a reef area, traditional management may provide numerous benefits: promoting equity, sharing, and local monitoring and management of resources.

The control of traditional management extends beyond the activities of a single community, it also governs interactions with neighbouring communities and outsiders. Provided the relevant rules of conduct are followed, access may be permitted to exploit the resources of a neighbour. Throughout Oceania, it was common for permission to fish in a neighbours fishing ground to be granted in exchange for a portion of the catch. This was an important way to obtain reef products absent in your own fishing ground or unavailable due to bad weather (Johannes, 1978). It also defined social relationships and boundaries between neighbours. In the Solomon Islands, coastal rightsholding groups exchanged access to their marine resources with inland forest or ‘bush’ right-holding groups, enabling each group to exploit important resources outside their traditional territory (Ruddle et al., 1992).

Traditional management systems, through direct intent or simply as the byproduct of another purpose, are often associated with sustainable livelihoods. On some Pacific Islands, management measures intending to conserve the resource and ensure future sustainability were clearly the outcome of an awareness of the limited nature of the resource and the isolation of the population (Ruddle et al., 1992). The Nenema people of northern New Caledonia, for example, condemned wastage and thus avoided catching in excess of what could be consumed (Teulieres, 1992). Other traditional management measures included a variety of restrictions on fishing practices, e.g. areas were declared as taboo, forbidding fishing for ritual reasons and to ensure a large catch for a feast or celebration, or because the area had been over-fished (Johannes, 1978). In Indonesia, the traditional practice of ‘Sasi’ functioned to ensure reef species were allowed to reproduce, grow and accumulate and that heavily exploited areas of reef were allowed to regenerate (Thorburn, 2001). In Tamil Nadu, India, local village gear restrictions are motivated by a desire to minimize harm to the community in three ways: harm to the fish stock; harm to the majority style fishing (or potential gear conflict); and harm to the social cohesion of the community (Bavinck, 2001).

In contemporary times, where traditional management is recognized and supported by government and legislation, it may be the basis for negotiating with outsiders over access rights in return for fees or royalties and in this way act as a means of income generation. In the Solomon Islands and in Fiji license fees, royalties or ‘goodwill’ payments are made by commercial bait fishers to the traditional owner of a fishing ground in order to access the right to fish for bait (Rawlinson, 1995). In Maluku, Indonesia, families have pledged traditional ownership rights over reef areas as collateral for loans from entrepreneurs, who then gain access to exploit commercially valuable fin and shell fish resources (Ruddle, 1993). In the village of Thavukadu in the Gulf of Mannar, a fee is imposed on outsiders to operate shore nets adjacent to the village or use the village fish landing site. These fees are kept as a common fund and spent on village festivals or common expenses (Rengasamy et al., 2003).

Recognition of traditional management by local governments has also empowered local level involvement in policy formation and implementation, extending beyond the physical boundaries of the reef resource. In Oceania, active traditional management systems have facilitated the involvement of local communities in steering the course of externally initiated activities, such as industrial bait fishing, the cultivation of seaweed, pearl oysters and giant clam, diving-based tourism, as well as inland logging and mining developments (Hviding, 1994). For example, in the Solomon Islands, coastal rightsholding groups have resisted inland logging and mining developments in forest rights-holding territories over concern for damage to reef resources through river-borne sedimentation (Ruddle et al., 1992). In Vanuatu, the Fisheries Department both recognises and encourages the traditional management practices of local villages, which has enabled the development of a co-operative approach to the management of the Trochus resource, and resulted in a positive relationship between the government and community (Jimmy, 1995). But the potential for applying and combining the significant and valuable indigenous ecological knowledge and traditional management systems with formal scientific approaches to management and development is vast and as yet mostly untapped (Johannes, 1994).

2.3.3 Organisations

In the same way that the biodiversity of coral reefs has attracted recognition in international policy, it is also the target of a multitude of initiatives and NGOs at international (e.g. International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), World Conservation Union (IUCN)), regional (e.g. UNEP Regional Seas Programmes), national and local levels. These organisations may have powerful voices in decision-making, and where this coincides with the needs and aspirations of local resource users, this may bring positive impacts.

In South Asia, the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) works together with government institutions, universities, NGOs and local reef stakeholders to co-ordinate and build capacity to inform management for the sustainable use of coral reef resources. This has led to increasing participation of local communities in monitoring and an increasing recognition amongst institutional stakeholders of the wide range of reef stakeholders and their diverse needs, aspirations and priorities.

The reef fishery is also the focus of local organisations, such as fisheries co-operative societies and unions, which may provide a voice to local small-scale fishers and promote their interests, both with regards to the reef resource and other issues of welfare and equity (Box 21). In many instances, fishing co-operatives were set up to manage the marketing of fish products on behalf of the fishers, in order to reduce the control of independent traders and to allow fishers to receive better returns for their catch. For example, in India the Gujarat Fisheries Central Cooperative Association provided credit and loans, supplied low cost equipment, assisted with fish processing and marketing, provided knowledge on new technology in fishing, and looked after the welfare of its members (Hajra, 1970).

2.3.4 Social relations

2.3.4.1 Gender and age

Reef flats and shallow reef lagoons are accessible on foot, without the need of a boat and so provide an opportunity for women, children and the elderly to access the reef and directly engage in harvesting activities, or reef gleaning (Box 22, Figure 21). This is a significant factor distinguishing reef-based fisheries from other near-shore fisheries, which are typically recognised as being an adult male domain, with women and children restricted mainly to shore-based activities and often excluded from food collection and commercial harvesting activities, in particular where this involves the use of boats (Bavinck, 2001). Consequently, women may be some of the most marginalised groups in a fishing community (Campbell and Beardmore, 2001). However, in a coral reef fishery the diversity of options for exploitation and the physical accessibility of the reef opens up opportunities for direct participation by women and consequently increases their independence and the importance of their role in the community. It also provides a place for children to play and learn important skills and knowledge for fishing activities later in life (Figure 22). This is the custom in the South West Island of Tobi, Palau, where for 3–4 years young boys will use simple hand lines with a loop and bait at the end to learn the art of fishing and the behaviour of different fish species on the reef flats (Johannes, 1981). Similarly, in the Surin Islands, Thailand, young Moken boys spend much of their time playing, swimming and diving in shallow reef lagoons and in doing so build crucial skills for their future daily subsistence (UNESCO, 2001).

Women are not only involved in reef gleaning, they also undertake coral mining activities, make and mend fishing gear, and are frequently involved in fish processing and marketing. In Wakatobi National Park, Sulawesi, women typically dominate coral mining activities for which there are few alternative income-generating opportunities available, in particular for widows (Elliot et al., 2001). In Papua New Guinea, island women process lime from corals (Lokani, 1995), and despite it being illegal women in Sri Lanka often extract coral for lime production, due to its accessibility and the pressure to generate additional income (Ekaratne et al., 1998). Women also participate in making and mending fishing gear (in India, Hajra, 1970 and Mukherjee, 1968; in the South Pacific, Tuara, 1995).

Fish processing and marketing are activities often dominated by women and offer an important survival strategy for households with access to few other physical assets (such as boats and gear), for elderly women, widows or wives of infirm men. Small-scale reef fisheries support the involvement of local women traders and their involvement can give them greater control over the household income and in negotiating for loans or credit. Their role is not only important in providing income for their families, it also underpins the local village economy (Heel, 1986).

In certain fishing communities on South Andaman Island, India, up to 70% of women were involved in fish vending, which represented an important opportunity for the recently migrated households, with limited financial and physical resources (Singh and Andrews, 2003). In the Gulf of Mannar, India, the role of women in the small-scale fisheries is a key factor in providing them with independence to control income and spending and support the household (Figure 23). Women’s involvement is also frequently expressed as being pivotal in the local fishery and the importance of their involvement is demonstrated through women’s active participation in the Fisheries Union and local NGO activities (Rengasamy et al., 2003).

Systems of traditional management often play a role in defining the division of labour between men and women, confining women to access those foods harvested by hand (Teulieres, 1992). On Ulithi Atoll women have a distinct role and rights in the distribution of fish catches. This is because the canoe hulls, made from mahogany logs from Yap Island are obtained through the exchange of cloth made by the women of Ulithi (Ruddle, 1996).

2.3.4.2 Caste and class

Customary laws and traditional management systems associated with reef resources may also have an impact on caste and class distinctions. In the Kei Islands, Indonesia, indigenous property law divides Kei society into three classes or castes based on ancestry and heritable rights to land, marine and other resources (Thorburn, 2000). In Palau, the activity of reef fishing negates boundaries of class and clan to the extent that while fishing even a chief possesses no special authority and receives no special treatment (Johannes, 1981). In India, fishermen castes are among the lowest in the Hindu caste hierarchy and among the weakest politically and economically (Heel, 1986). However, in fish marketing, the various types of middleman or intermediary are considered non-caste occupations and therefore provide valuable opportunities as long as they do not disrupt the caste hierarchy (Raychaudhuri, 1980). In the Gulf of Mannar, it was observed that the women of the coastal Mooper caste, were considerably more independent and outgoing compared to their inland counterparts, which was attributed in part to the greater opportunities for women to participate in reef fisheries (Rengasamy et al., 2003). Fisheries may also provide opportunities to low caste inland villagers, who may be employed to participate during seasonal peaks in fishing activities (Bavinck, 2001).
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