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Poverty and Reefs

3.3 Impacts of Change

Changing access to reef benefits has had wide ranging impacts on poor reef-dependent communities, varying in extent and form from one place to the next. The impact of this change can viewed within a livelihood’s context as changes to livelihood outcomes and changes to livelihood strategies, as illustrated in Figure 27. The following sections describe some of these changes, which are common to many different circumstances.

3.3.1 Changing livelihood outcomes Declining benefits

Increasing numbers of reef dependents and degrading reef resources are commonly resulting in a reduction in reef benefits per capita. With little or no access to alternative resources, poor reef users must expend greater and greater efforts to maintain the flow of benefits from the reef, so pressure on reef resources increases and the availability of benefits decline further. As the resources decline, not only do the quality and quantity of products decline, so does the diversity of products available (Box 30).

As reef resources become depleted, so food security is becoming threatened in many communities. Whilst alternative protein sources are often available, more and more of these are commercially produced and require to be purchased rather than be harvested from the wild. This puts the poor consumers in an increasingly difficult position (Box 31).

The diversity of reef products is an important factor in the ability of the reef to provide livelihood stability (as outlined in Chapter 2). Thus, not only do declining benefits reduce food and income security of the poor, they also reduce livelihood stability, brought by both the diversity of reef products available and the productivity of the reef, and in this way they increase vulnerability amongst the poor. Exclusion

Changing resource access will often have opposing impacts on different reef stakeholders. For some, the change may be positive leading to new or improved opportunities, while for others the change may exclude them from benefits and access to new opportunities. Typically, many of the changes in reef access have led to a shift in benefits away from local communities adjacent to the reef resource and from the most vulnerable, to outside and more powerful interests.

The emergence of lucrative foreign markets, as described above (Section, has led to the emergence of foreign traders displacing local mediators and often weakening local market systems. Consequently, the benefits of reef harvests are increasingly maximised in external market systems, with comparatively minimal returns to local producers. Similarly, the growth in well-meaning reef conservation efforts restricting local exploitation of reef resources, has often resulted in the shift of benefits away from local reef-dependent communities to wider society benefits of maintaining biodiversity. In this way, restrictions on trade of globally endangered reef species have often legally excluded many reef stakeholders from sources of livelihood. Where these restrictions target shallow reef resources, such as reef molluscs, this has particularly affected women reef gleaners, who often rely heavily on this resource as one of the few accessible sources of food and income. In other cases, reef conservation has displaced the benefits from local reef users to foreign tourists, with local fishers denied access to marine protected areas (Box 32). Elsewhere, local reef stakeholders have been displaced from accessing resources in tourist areas, purely for aesthetic reasons. For example, on the Zanzibar island of Unguje, although legally locals cannot be excluded from using beach and tidal flats outside hotels, high-class tourism developments on the southeast coast have resulted in the displacement of women from accessing near-shore areas for seaweed cultivation and reef gleaning, which was thought to spoil the area for tourists (Wallevik and Jiddawi, 1999).

The poor are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of shifting benefits, as they are often not involved or considered in decision-making processes that brought about the change. Furthermore, they lack the necessary resources to access alternative opportunities that may accompany such changes, e.g. they generally lack the required skills to enter the tourist industry.

Thus the outcome of shifting reef benefits is frequently a loss of food and income-generating opportunities for local reef-dependent communities and the poor, as well as a loss of ownership and disenfranchisement from control of local resources. Increasing conflict

With increasing numbers of reef dependents competing for

declining reef resources it is not surprising that there is also increasing conflict amongst reef stakeholders. Where changes have brought about the displacement of reef benefits to outside interests or stakeholders, these ‘outsiders’ frequently become the focus of conflicts and disputes (e.g. local fishing communities and ‘foreign’ cyanide fishing operations, Box 28). In the same way, conflicts between local fishers and those responsible for marine throughout implementation, are commonly encountered (Box 33). Expanding coastal and reef tourism may also bring conflicts beyond those over access to reef benefits, in particular when local cultural sensitivities are not respected. As reef benefits decline and competition and conflicts increase many of the reef stakeholders excluded and disadvantaged by the changes become increasingly disenchanted with their livelihood system. In Kenya, for example, declines in fish catches and increasing conflicts with immigrant fishers, tourism and protected areas, have challenged young fishers’ faith in the ability of their elders to interact with the spirit world to ensure the health of and control access to community waters (Glaesel, 2000). This has led to intergenerational conflicts and in some cases the total abandonment of traditional spirit appeasing ceremonies (Glaesel, 2000; McClanahan et al., 1998). Illegal livelihoods

For many poor reef stakeholders faced with restrictions over reef access resulting from reef conservation efforts, there is no option but to continue accessing reef benefits illegally. With no other viable alternative to turn to, poor stakeholders typically lack the choice to alter their livelihoods in favour of conservation. Furthermore, the risk of punishment for breaking the law in many cases is not a sufficient disincentive to stop exploiting a prohibited reef area or reef species. Lack of resources for enforcement and corruption in enforcement systems often reinforces this situation (Johannes, 1999). The corruption in enforcement systems is also a widespread source of increased transaction costs for the poor. Unsustainable livelihoods

Where external markets drive high demands and lucrative prices for reef products, patterns of resource use often become unsustainable, often relying on destructive fishing practices. In such situations, the longer-term consequences of declining resource productivity are discounted against the economic gains in the short term. This is frequently perpetuated through systems of political or social patronage, even in cases where the destructive extraction techniques are illegal (Figure 28).

While many poor reef stakeholders may have no choice but to continue illegal and often unsustainable resource exploitation, for others choosing lucrative short-term gains over longer-term sustainability is often seen as a means to escape the inevitability of future resource declines. In Sri Lanka a local dynamite fisher justified his choice of short-term profits as a means to provide better education to his children and therefore an opportunity for them to escape the declining fishery (Robert Cordover, 2002, pers. comm.).

In other cases, external market forces encourage poor stakeholders to specialise in high value products so reducing livelihood diversity and increasing risk to livelihood sustainability in the longer term. Export markets for seaweed have led to large-scale seaweed cultivation in shallow intertidal waters sheltered by coral reefs in many parts of Eastern Africa (Figure 29). Seaweed cultivation is commonly undertaken by women and offers a relatively constant source of income, encouraging many women to concentrate on this activity and consequently spend less time farming. Specialisation in this way on a single production system subject to external influences beyond local control has increased the vulnerability of local livelihoods and threatens their sustainability (Wilson et al., 2003; Wallevik and Jiddawi, 1999).

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