Erwin Rathnaweera


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Posts by Erwin

  • Governing interactions lead to partnerships

    Urani, Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, Batticaloa
    July 9th, 2016

    Partnership building is a key aspect in development. Much literature is available on how to build partnerships in development. However, partnership building has not been an easy task, because most effective partnerships operate consciously or unconsciously according to three core principles; equity, transparency and mutual benefit. Partnership has been defined as; “an ongoing working relationship where risks and benefits are shared.” Therefore, partnerships collapse if the said principals are violated either by both or one party. Thus, it is imperative that we look at how successful partnerships can be built in development processes. One may argue that brokering is the key to partnership building. However, in a multi-disciplinary scenario where multi-stakeholders come together for a common objective poses many challenges to brokering partnerships. The questions that arise out of this situation are: “What are the strategies to build partnerships in multi-stakeholder set-up, and what are the lessons that can be learned from doing so.” The following case-study attempts to discuss the lessons of building partnerships in a natural resource governance process by means of facilitating interactions among a wide range of stakeholders.

    Urani is a lagoon situated in the eastern province of Sri Lanka, where two ethic communities; Muslim and Tamil fishers are engaged in fishing. Sustainable Lagoons and Livelihoods Project (SLLP), jointly implemented by Practical Action and Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR) developed an institutional framework for fisheries governance. This institutional set-up comprised of all stakeholders from all decision-makings levels is called a Co-coordination (Co-governance) committee, which decentralizes decision making to manage the Urani lagoon’s social-ecological system to ensure sustainability of the lagoon’s resources as well as livelihoods of lagoon-dependent communities. Lagoon fishers are an integral part of this institutional structure, being represented by way of Lagoon Fisheries Management Committees (LFMCs), with two LFMCs representing 147 lagoon fishers in Urani. The whole process is backed by 2013 No.35 Amendment to the1996 No.02 Fisheries Act. Thus, this may be described as a law making process because, the instructional framework is legally decentralized in which the stakeholders can develop their own rules and regulations to govern the whole lagoon ecosystem, which finally, becomes the law in Sri Lanka. The LFMCs are also legally backed by the same Act, in order to be equipped with better barging power in the co-governance process.

    Multi-stakeholder facilitation has been the key strategy in co-coordination meetings, which facilitated interactions and communications among different stakeholders in Urani lagoon. Because this is a legally decentralized platform, stakeholders are represented from top to bottom and vice versa. The initial multi-stakeholder facilitation process was a very challenging exercise, due to bureaucracies, power, politics etc. Therefore, the facilitation process was slow at the beginning. At the initial meetings, the dominant groups; often the top level government stakeholders, wanted to play a leading role in decision making. Therefore, at initial meetings the multi-stakeholder process focused on developing values/principles; a common frame-work for this process while reaching consensus on its purpose which is “to bring about policy change, share risks, and find innovative and synergistic ways to pool resources and talents, based on each participant’s strengths”. This was the most challenging aspect of the process, but the legal Amendment (2013 No.35 Amendment) proved to be very helpful. Next, developing a steering committee was a temporary strategy used to ensure that the top level stakeholders feel valued and respected in the process. Working groups were formed to perform detailed work on objectives of the co-coordination committee. Working groups are effective in developing detailed action plans, carrying out studies and collecting information or data etc. However, throughout the facilitation process, inclusiveness was ensured to accommodate all necessary stakeholders. There were two other aspects that the project ensured in facilitating; the requirement to be conflict sensitive and the need to be cognizant of power structures among multi-ethnic stakeholders were vital. Finally, monitoring and reviewing was a key component in the process which was at beginning the task of the steering committee, but after the rules, regulations and actions plans were agreed upon for the social ecological system of Urani, these became the basis for the operation of the co-governance committee, and all stakeholders began reviewing the plans accordingly.

    Initially, the SLL project led the facilitation process and this was incrementally handed over to DFAR which is at present operating the process. One of the key results is the strengthened service delivery for lagoon development due to partnerships and joint work apart from the law making process. One good example is the alternative livelihood development actions, which was a requirement identified by the lagoon fishers. They included this action in their lagoon development plans and proposed eco-tourism, which were discussed in the co-coordination committee meetings. The decision was made when the IFAD (International Fund for Agriculture Development) and CCD (Coast Conservation Department of Sri Lanka) led project “Participatory Coastal Rehabilitation and Development Project” started working with LFMCs to develop eco-tourism. Before this intervention, lagoon fishers had been operating eco-tourism with limited facilities and had proposals to improve it, but lacked the capacity to do so. The IFAD-CCD project provided infrastructure and capacity building for the fisher communities. The infrastructure development actions included building two multi-purpose community centers for the two LFMCs which are used to greet the foreign visitors as well as to hold their LFMC monthly meetings, while capacity building provided necessary training and exposure to running eco-tourism as a group enterprise. This outcome did not result from brokering. Noteworthy too, is that the adoption of an appropriate facilitation process to promote interactions among stakeholders resulted in a governance system that is based on core principles of equity, transparency and mutual benefit.

    Currently, both LFMCs run the eco-tourism business very successfully. During the last year, one committee was able to run 600 tours in the lagoon and charged 2,500 LKR (17 USD) per tour. The fishing crafts (only non-mechanized are allowed in the lagoon) belong to the LFMC. Out of Rupees 2,500, 1200 Rupees goes to the tour operator, and 600 Rupees goes to the LFMC, while Rupees 500 is allocated to the craft for repairs etc. The money that goes to each LFMC is used to run a micro finance program for the fisher community and one LFMC claims that they saved 800,000 LKR (5,500 USD) last year.

    One community & Information center, being built by IFAD-CCD project

    One community & Information center, being built by IFAD-CCD project

    The operation of this system is driven by each committee’s own set of values, which are discussed and agreed upon by majority vote in the LFMC meetings. However, tours are operated on rotation basis and priority has been given to the young people who might otherwise be resource abusers who are liable to exert excess pressure on lagoon fishing. It turns out that this system operates as a means to reduce excessive fishing pressure on the lagoon as well.

    Many lessons have been learned by the Urani lagoon work. The foremost lesson is that multi-stakeholder facilitation leads to building successful partnerships. The experience gained by the Urani project confirmed that multi-stakeholder partnerships promote the development of focused and holistic action plans which foster the sharing of skills and innovation. Also, multi-stakeholder partnerships promote ownership and commitment for action. They enable participants to gain a better understanding of the need for change, feel ownership for a proposed plan of action and create a platform for peer pressure to ensure delivery of outcomes. It is also evident that when implementing this process, measurable goals and objectives are difficult to enforce but are essential for a successful multi-stakeholder process.

    Another lesson is that intentional brokering is not necessary to build partnerships. Also, when partnerships are facilitated in a multi-stakeholder process, such partnerships better match the needs and context or prevailing system. Furthermore, multi-stakeholder processes require monitoring and evaluation, which results are shared widely by all stakeholders. Yet another lesson is that when partnerships are correctly facilitated, successes and failures are discussed, and alternatives are proposed from multi-disciplinary points of view. This factor contributes significantly to sustaining lagoon resources and livelihoods of lagoon-dependent communities on a long term. This model promotes trust and encourages further partnerships outside the core partners. Finally, it is clear that the adoption of a right facilitation process builds interactions among stakeholder which lead to collaborative actions vital for collaborative governance of natural resources and livelihood development.

    A tour ...

    A tour …

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  • Mobilization is vital to sustainable governance

    January 20th, 2016

    Mobilization plays a critical role in every development project. This is the strategy used to ensure that beneficiaries actively participate in development planning, implementing and monitoring. One may say that mobilization brings beneficiaries from a state of non participation or passive participation to a stage of active participation. However, this is an immensely challenging process.

    Sherry R. Arnstein, the author of “A Ladder of Citizen Participation,” (1969), explains eight rungs of participation. Understanding the eight rungs is of vital importance in building sustainable governance. The highest rung in the ladder of participation is ideally “Citizen Control” in which good governance comes into action. In practice, there are a whole range of tools used to mobilize people. The argument is “too much of mobilization activities lead to passive or no participation of fisher communities”. In other words, too many mobilization activities lead the participation process to move downward in the ladder of participation. Because issues and constraints related to governance of fisheries resources are the key incentives for the participation of the communities, unless they are addressed within reasonable time duration, communities tend to lose their faith in the process.

    The Sustainable Lagoons and Livelihoods (SLL) project experience is that levels of participation of fisher communities vary and that needs to be understood before devising mobilization activities. Failure to do so, only leads to either passive participation or no participation. It has been found that with some fisher communities a whole lot of mobilization activities need to be carried out for them to be motivated, whereas others need only one or two activities. Blog post 5

    “Urgency” is a prominent characteristic among fisher communities. Their sense of urgency is clearly manifested in the activity of fishing. However, this characteristic can be found in most of their routine actions daily. Fishers are quick in every aspect of life when compared to most other communities.  The argument is if the mobilization activities do not match the essential nature of fishers, less participation or even insubordination will result. The baseline studies or initial mobilization actions help to understand the level of participation of fisher communities that fits in the ladder of participation. Therefore, mobilization strategies need to be chosen and implemented accordingly.

    The project plans or proposal contain time-frames with a flow of mobilization strategies. However, the implementers need to understand the community first and adapt and adopt strategies to match the communities and motivate them to do better.  Experience indicates, with one community, a transect walk will trigger stewardship in the fishers whereas in other fisher communities, this will happen at the end of the project.

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  • A giant step in mainstreaming small-scale lagoon fishery in Sri Lanka

    December 18th, 2015

    Blog post 4 photo

    Practical Action’s Sustainable Lagoons and Livelihoods Project (SLLP)has been building collaborative governance institutional systems in 18 lagoons in Sri Lanka since 2012. The Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR) is the strategic partner of the project and both DFAR and Practical Action have together been implementing the project. The collaborative or co-governance concept of this project includes law making and policy making processes to decentralize lagoon governance. Thereby, all levels of decision makers and stakeholders are gathered into a single decentralized institutional framework to make unified decisions on utilization, conservation, management, and protection etc. of a lagoon.

    Largely due to the successful implementation of this project and positive outcomes generated by this concept, the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources on 17th December, 2015 inaugurated a special unit to facilitate fisheries co-governance in lagoons and estuaries in Sri Lanka.  This is the first time in history a special unit meant solely for the governance of lagoon and estuarine fisheries sub-sector has been initiated. The DFAR was established in 1940, even before Sri Lankan independence and has had a management division for the marine fisheries. It can be said that this was one of the key reasons why the lagoon fisheries sub-sector was marginalized. However, the lagoon fishery sub-sector is very important in terms of food security, producing commercially important species and generating varied forms of employment. There are over 200,000 small scale lagoon fishers and fish-workers dependent on lagoons and estuaries for livelihoods in Sri Lanka.  This special unit has been named; “Brackish Water Management Unit” (BMU), which will facilitate the required services to govern the lagoons and estuaries in Sri Lanka responsibly and sustainably.

    Honorable Fisheries Minister , Mr.Mahinda Amaraweera speaking at the event....

    Honorable Fisheries Minister , Mr.Mahinda Amaraweera speaking at the event….

    This has been the most significant achievement of the project in terms of internalizing the project concept in the country and bringing the small scale lagoon fisheries sub-sector to the forefront of national development. This process has not been at all easy. Firstly, convincing DFAR on the concept by demonstrating and learning from lessons to change policies often went beyond the financial scope of the project. Thus, the decision to open a special unit was a positive outcome to the project as well as a challenge. The project team had the formidable task of creating networking and facilitating partnership building among numerous stakeholders at all levels. To enable this complex process, UNDP Sri Lanka agreed to co-finance the project’s internalization work along with Practical Action and DFAR.  This tri-party work has yielded favourable results. Besides that, the government budget has allocated 30 million Sri Lankan Rupees (around £140,000) for the lagoon fisheries sub-sector, to implement BMN’s action plan next year.

    Among the project’s other achievements worthy of mention is the official endorsement of the project concept: fisheries co-governance which was included in the 2013 Amendment to the existing Fisheries Act in Sri Lanka, which has added much value to this process. This legislation will be further updated with lessons of the project’s second phase. This will be a top priority for BMU next year.

    The project is now stepping into the final year of its five-year operations and will mainly focus on strengthening the BMU to carry-forward the project concept and replicate it in 116 other lagoons and estuaries in Sri Lanka.

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  • Managing Fisheries is not about Managing – Reflections for World Fisheries Day

    December 14th, 2015

    World Fisheries Day falls on the 21st of November of each year. The world observes many events happening around the world commemorating the day; so too this year. Generally, the discussions and themes that revolve around this year have been related to over-exploitation and management of fisheries and aquatic resources. One web-page; Resource for Rethinking says “World Fisheries Day was established to draw attention to overfishing, habitat destruction and other serious threats to the sustainability of our marine and freshwater resources. Observance can also help bring awareness of the importance of aquatic environments in sustaining life both in and out of water.”  This basically stresses the importance of raising awareness on the wider concern of site-specific environments of aquatic resources in world fisheries today, whereas another blog by Property Environmental Research Centre reiterates the importance of granting fishers property rights to fish; “… property rights matter – when fishermen have ownership of a share of the fishery, they manage the resource in a sustainable manner. This work has been instrumental in evolving property rights in marine fisheries.”A third blog notes about World Fisheries Day: It is not Just About Fish, that draws the attention on the politics in the fisheries sector by commenting; “World Fisheries Day — established in 1998 and celebrated each year on November 21 — highlights the importance of conserving the ocean and marine life. Sixteen years later, President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry continue to make environmental sustainability a foreign policy priority, recognizing the linkages between fisheries, food security, economic welfare, and the health of people worldwide”. All three sample blogs highlight three key aspects.

    1. World fisheries is in peril largely due to over-exploitation, habitat degradation, pollution, undermining community institutions, Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and a host of other factors.
    2. Giving property rights help manage fisheries. This raises the common property theories and management of natural resources or one may call it as right-based approach to fisheries management.
    3. Thirdly, how decisions of policy makers and politicians affect the exploitation of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources or Oceans and lagoon ecosystems. This aspect has more to do with the decisions made by politicians or policy makers that get implemented eventually.

    These three aspects raise many questions with several grey areas.  However, it is clear that there are many players, actors, influencers etc. in the fisheries sector. These actors operate at many scales and levels, it might be in one country with many divisions or multi-country or a continual level. The challenge is, if there is a way to get all types of players involved in making decisions and responsibly managing aquatic resources. To do that, obviously, the legalDSCN0733

    and policy environments need to be changed or adjusted accordingly and collectively. Can a process that involves, making law or changing polices and collectively implementing them be called management? I think it is more to do with making decisions and directing, which is more than mere management. Practical Action’s Sustainable Lagoons and Livelihoods Project is implementing such a concept that involves all levels of players making policies, law and implementing them in a legally decentralized institutional framework to responsibly manage the lagoons ecosystems in Sri Lanka. This concept is called collaborative fisheries governance for lagoons which extends beyond mere management of lagoons. The project jointly implemented by the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has generated many lessons in terms of involving different players, decision makers at different levels into a decentralized forum. On the world fisheries day this year, the project attempted to share the lessons of the co-governance process in Chilaw lagoon Sri Lanka.  Chilaw lagoon is one of the largest lagoons in Sri Lanka with about 2,000 fishers and fish-workers. The co-governance process in Chilaw lagoon involves all actors from bottom to top and vice versa engaging in making law, policies and implementing them to govern the lagoon ecosystems. The project facilitated sharing and publicizing this experience by means of a nation-wide radio program which involved all levels of actors from fisher communities to policy makers. The program talked about the lessons of setting up a decentralized institutional framework to facilitate interactions among different actors of Chilaw lagoon fishery value chain.  The lessons learned have proved to be invaluable in introducing co-governance mechanisms in 17 other lagoons in Sri Lanka that come within the purview of Practical Action’s Sustainable Lagoons and Livelihoods Project.

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  • A centuries old fisheries governance system is alive and well

    November 8th, 2015

    Much effort has been made to build sustainable governance for fisheries. However, fisheries resources are still in grave peril, consequently, the livelihoods of fishers are negatively affected.

    Governing common pool resources continues to be a challenge and thus far has proved a failure and a disappointment. Some argue that “the solution” for governing common pool resources is privatization. Of them, fisheries are a much talked about subject.

    Contrary to this view, small scale fishers in some places have Photo 02demonstrated their capacity to govern fishery resources responsibly and sustainably. Despite the fact that much literature has been documented on how fisheries governance works at local, household and community levels, today governments, development workers, researchers and scientists are struggling to build sustainable fisheries governance. It is obvious something is amiss. What is it? Does it have something to with the activity of building governance or lack of understanding of the factors that underpin the sustainability of governance systems? Given this, it is imperative that we look at the factors that have contributed to long standing self-governance systems in fisheries in order to explore the potential and conditions for these local institutions to sustain governance functions for extended periods. The following case is from Sri Lankan lagoon, which tells us about a traditional fisheries self-governance system that has existed for generations.

    Chilaw lagoon is located along the North Western coast of Sri Lanka. It is believed that Chilaw’s traditional Stake-net (“Kattu Del”) fishery originated between 1460 -1464 and it continues to date.  More than 500 fisher families in Chilaw lagoon are totally dependent on stake-net fishery. This system was first registered by a Gazette notification in 1936 and with subsequent amendments re-Gazetted in 1986 and 1996 respectively.

    Stake-net fishery is a self-governance system, not a just a community-based fisheries management system. Why is this called a governance system?  While the term management has reference to action related to activities, the term governance implies direction-driven management and decision making. And, the self-governance system adds dimensions that are absent in fisheries management. This governance system is built on the social, ethical and religious values of the fisher community. Environmental conservation is a primary concern. The stake-net fishing is carried out according to the cycle of the moon. On full moon days, fishers experience best fish catch and they operate all the stake-nets assigned to a group whereas in the interim, during the waxing and waning of the moon, they reduce the fishing traps. Most importantly, the fishing traps catch prawns that go out of the lagoon with tide-out. This natural phenomena is largely affected by the appearance of the moon.  The values in their governance system are

    1. Equity ensuring that measures are in place for equal distribution of fish harvesting among the fisher groups
    2. Environmental sustainability making provision for succeeding generations to continue harvesting fish as a reliable means of livelihood
    3. Stewardship ensuring that fisher groups maintain Ownership, Responsibility, Accountability and Reward towards governing the lagoon ecosystem. This is transferred from generation to generation.
    4. Maintaining peace among the groups is managed according to religious values.
    5. Social well-being is sustained by contributions to the church for social well-being of the community
    6. Transparency is ensured by decisions that are arrived at collectively and communicated formally and clearly to all concerned.
    7. Democracy in practice is followed by ensuring that rules and management actions are drafted and adopted based on the consensus of the majority.
    8. A mutually agreed upon system of Inclusion and exclusion has been adopted to reduce fishing pressure to ensure sustainability

    The unique stake-net group’s collaborative use of the Chilaw lagoon’s shrimp resources and its proven resilience is an example that merits emulation. This system of self-governance has endured for four centuries and continues to provide a means of livelihood to eight groups of shrimp fishers. This indicates that similar self-governance systems can be replicated among other lagoon communities in Sri Lanka or elsewhere. This is in contrast with mere management practices that are action oriented but short-lived. Importantly, this shows the critical role played by values and a time-tested governance system to ensure sustainability of lagoon resources and livelihoods of lagoon fishers.

    The Sustainable Lagoons and Livelihoods project in Sri Lanka has been working with 18 lagoons to build fisheries governance. Chilaw lagoon is one of them. Through working with Chilaw lagoon fishers, the project identified the local governance system and began to further legally strengthen this self- governance into a decentralized collaborative fisheries governance process with all stakeholders who are representing different decision making levels; collective, operational, policy and constitutional on one interactive platform to make unified decisions on the utilization of the Chilaw lagoon ecosystem. This is driven by their own time-tested values and principles.

    This short video describes their system further.

    Sustainable Lagoons and Livelihoods Project (SLLP) is funded by Big Lottery Fund, UK and jointly implemented by Practical Action Sri Lanka and Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources

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  • GPS technology halts lagoon encroachment

    Sri Lanka, Maduruoya
    October 31st, 2015

    In the natural resource management arena common pool resources and open access are two aspects that are discussed at length. These topics continue to be challenging to researchers, practitioners, scientists and governments across the world. Sri Lanka is no exception.

    These challenges are clearly manifested in the small-scale lagoon fisheries sub-sector in Sri Lanka. About 116 lagoons and estuaries can be found around the island. Around 200,000 people are dependent on these intricate ecosystems for livelihoods. These lagoons and estuaries are very complex social ecological systems, posing different challenges in governing them. Sustainable Lagoons and Livelihoods Project (SLLP) has been jointly working with the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR) to build sustainable governance of 18 lagoons in Sri Lanka. This is a really challenging project which has generated a host of lessons.

    As Elinor Ostrom, the Nobel Prize winner in Economics in 2009 expressed it: “Clear property boundaries are a requirement for governing common properties”. This is the first requirement for building sustainable governance for natural resources. This process however, presents formidable challenges.

    Often, property boundaries of lagoon ecosystems are established by fixing concrete posts around their perimeters. Past lessons from Sri Lanka show that such physical demarcation of the lagoon ecosystem boundaries does not work, due to relentless illegal encroachments taking place which renders further steps in the process dysfunctional.  Landowners around lagoons possess old deeds, containing much ambiguity and lack of specific boundaries. This has been exploited by encroachers. How this happens is an interesting area for study. Often old deeds may include a clause such as; “eastern part of this land goes up to the lagoon”. This clause creates much ambiguity in defining the boundary between land and a lagoon. This ambiguity is used to advantage by encroachers by filling the edges of the lagoon and moving the concrete posts towards the lagoon. This has led to a situation where lagoon water surfaces are increasingly forced to shrink while the surrounding land is illegally extended. Finally, this gives rise to social conflicts among different users of the lagoon ecosystems resulting in small-scale lagoon fishers being victimized.

    Using GPS technology to halt lagoon encroachment in Sri Lanka

    The SLLP and DFAR began searching for alternatives, and innovatively introduced GPS technology to map-out the lagoon boundary catchment areas. This led to detailed maps being agreed upon for each lagoon for the first time. Because GPS points are indisputable and specific, the lagoons cannot be illegally encroached. Even if the concrete post are moved towards the lagoons, encroachments can be easily identified because established GPS points do not change. The process entails developing detailed maps with GPS points that will be legally declared as Lagoon Management Area. This is formalized by public Gazette notification. Subsequently, the Co-governance committee along with Lagoon Fisheries Management Committees (LFMCs) of a lagoon ecosystem can take legal action against violators in the event of illegal encroachment. This is a major deterrent to encroachers. Furthermore, these maps serve as indicators in the physical mapping of fish species and help as a monitoring tool for all stakeholders who are in the co-governance committee meetings.

    The first Gazette notification of this kind has been published for the Kokkilai lagoon. This lagoon spreads into two provinces; northern and eastern in Sri Lanka. Since this involves two different administrative divisions plus different social economic and political contexts, having clear proper boundaries has expedited the fisheries co-governance process, facilitating interactions between different stakeholders to develop a Kokkilai Lagoon governance plan. This process will further be replicated in other lagoons of the SLLP project while doubtlessly providing more lessons to improve demarcation work.

    The advantage here is that stakeholders such as fishers, farmers or extension workers can provide information to take legal action against encroachers and keep tabs on whether lagoon ecosystems are encroached by simply using of smart phones. This is an initiative that uses ICT to add value to fisheries governance.

    Using GPS technology to halt lagoon encroachment in Sri Lanka

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  • Lagoon sustainability in Sri Lanka – measuring success

    February 25th, 2015

    Practical Action – Sri Lanka was tasked to ensure sustainability of 18 lagoons and livelihoods in a 5 year program that began in 2012. The task was twofold; firstly, to establish and introduce an appropriate system of lagoon fisheries co-governance in selected lagoons; a model for community-led lagoon governance strengthening fishery, and secondly, to build the capacity of communities, partners and state agencies to scale up the programme to reach the estimated 75,000 small-scale lagoon fisher families who make their living from the lagoons around the island of Sri Lanka. With the completion of phase 1 of this Sustainable Lagoons and Livelihoods (SLL) program significant success has been achieved in reaching the initial goal of creating awareness of the co-governance system among all stakeholders as well as changing their mindsets, developing co-governance models in six lagoons in addition to conducting a series of Training of Trainers (TOT) training workshops consisting of 22 modules. Lagoon fishing Sri LankaThe task was indeed formidable, because problems and conditions in each lagoon differed from one another, requiring site specific interventions that would be sustainable. One common factor that was noted in all the selected lagoons was that previous human interventions and lack of proper governance of these lagoons had resulted in loss of livelihoods of lagoon fisher communities and created conflicts among them. The SLL program posed many challenges that required the adoption of effective methodologies to overcome them.

    The stakeholders included the local lagoon communities, the local and provincial government officials, and national government administrators/policy makers, all of whom had to be made aware of as well as convinced of the importance and reliability of the proposed lagoon co-governance concept. Lagoon co-governance or collaborative governance is distinct from lagoon management. The next challenge was to build the capacity of extension officers of the Fisheries and Wild Life departments to be capable of training others in the second phase of the program to replicate the fisheries co-governance in 12 more lagoons as well as after the SLL program ends. The success of this initiative can be measured by the ceremony held on 16th of February, 2015 to award certificates to the Fisheries and Wild Life Departments’ extension officers who completed the Training of Trainers training series on Fisheries Co-Governance conducted by Sustainable Lagoons and Livelihoods project of Practical Action Sri Lanka.

    Exchange of an amendment to MOU

    Exchange of an amendment to MOU

    The ceremony was presided over by the Secretary to the Fisheries Ministry Mr. Nimal Hettiarachchi. Practical Action’s Regional Director, South Asia; Mr. Achyut Luitel and Head of Quality Assurance; Mr.PremThapa were the chief guests on this occasion. Of the 31 trainees who were awarded certificates, six qualified to be nominated as Master Trainers for the training unit of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. Noteworthy was the observation made by the Secretary to the Fisheries Ministry who said that prior to his Ministry’s collaboration with Practical Action in the Sustainable Lagoons and Livelihoods program, he had a negative view of NGOs. However, he had ample reasons to reverse his view having observed the outcomes of dedicated efforts of Practical Action’s staff and its partner Palm Foundation in achieving set goals during the first phase of the program. The 22 module training program was conducted in the Sinhala and Tamil languages as well as English during the 2 ½ year period of the program’s first phase. The purpose of the training was to equip the Fisheries Extension arm of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to replicate the fisheries co-governance model in the lagoon ecosystems in Sri Lanka. This event coincided with signing an amendment to the existing memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Practical Action-Sri Lanka and the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, as well as the launch of two handbooks; one on Fisheries co-governance and the other on Tools for participatory methodologies for lagoon co-governance. Both publications are in the Sinhala language. The staff of Practical Action and its partner organization; Palm Foundation has every reason to feel that their dedicated initiatives and actions have resulted in a measure of success midway in the SLL program.








    Written by Vasant Pullenayegem & Erwin Rathnaweera

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  • Fish without Refrigeration

    January 14th, 2013

    On the 9th November 2012, I was part of a market mapping workshop with Kokkilai lagoon fishers. The discussion was geared towards post-harvest handling technologies for the fish. Everybody’s concern was the inadequate supply of ice due to poor transportation facilities. The whole situation reminded me of some community-invented technologies that I came across three years ago in Sri Lanka and India.

    A lack of ice supply was a major issue faced by the lagoon fisheries sub-sector in the post-conflict scenario in Sri Lanka. This was largely due to the inadequate production of ice coupled with poor transportation facilities. As a coping strategy, fishers had invented a simple technology. I first noticed this in Periya Kalapu Lagoon of Eastern province, Sri Lanka. As the following photograph shows, it is a box made of galvanized mesh. Once fish were caught, they were kept in the mesh box and placed in lagoon water. The box was tied to a pole planted on the landing site. The fish were kept in these boxes until traders or villagers came to buy them. When I talked to a few of them, I found that they preferred to purchase live fish. Otherwise, by the time the ice arrived, the fish would have been rotten. 

    The next case I found among the head loaders in Chilika lagoon of Orissa state, India.The word ‘head loaders’ means, the people, in particular women, who carry fish on their head to nearby markets or consumers.  The role of women in fish marketing is very significant in Chilika lagoon. Getting ice to some fish landing centers around the lagoon is out of the question, because the access roads to the landing centers are so narrow and run between the houses, so only a motor bike can barely go through.

    When fish are caught, they are kept in different containers filled with lagoon water. Head loaders carry them to nearby markets and sell live fish. As I gather, this is still the practice in some areas around the Chilika lagoon. The following photograph shows one of the head loaders selling fish packed in a lagoon-water filled container.

    The resourcefulness of proactive fisher communities could have been the drive that led to this creativity. In community development, have we done enough thinking on the potential creativity of the communities, I wonder?

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  • A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be…

    October 16th, 2012

    Building fishing crafts in post-tsunami Sri Lanka

    This article is based on the work of Practical Action in post-tsunami rehabilitation in Sri Lanka during 2005 and 2006. I happened to share the experience of rebuilding fishing crafts (canoes/small boats) in post tsunami rehabilitation with a group of students from Japan. So, I thought it is worth sharing the same in a blog too.

    The tsunami waves hit Sri Lanka on 26th December 2004, decimating coastal fishing communities. They were not only affected by loss of lives or substantial damage to their homes, but also to fishing crafts and gear. The estimations showed that one third of affected households were fisher communities. Some districts saw a far higher number; as an example in Jaffna district (Northern coast of Sri Lanka) the figure was close to 90%. A total of 4,870 fisher families were reported dead while 136 were reported missing.

    The immediate steps taken to restore the fisheries sector were rebuilding and repairing fishing gear and crafts. This turned out to be a complex task, because of the wide variety of fishing crafts and gear used around the island of Sri Lanka. Well-meaning organizations, along with the Government felt that the best course of action would be to replace and distribute fishing crafts and gear for the affected communities. However, in the rush to provide help, there was actually a lack of coordination and even some competition to provide these replacements.  At some point, statistics showed that the replaced fishing crafts outnumbered the pre-tsunami statistics. Some thought that fish stocks would be over-exploited in no time, with the increasing number of fishing boats and to avoid this, the Government tried to control the process of replacement.

    However, the other side of the coin was totally different. The fishing community started complaining about the new boats, because they claimed that they could not be used for fishing. With mounting complaints the statistics began to show that about 30% of the replaced fishing boats were unseaworthy, thus unsuitable for fishing.

    Practical Action then started to work with the fishing communities to help them build seaworthy craft. We found that people from each area had their own specific likes and dislikes on the types of crafts required. Fishers traditionally know how their fishing crafts should be built, to suit local conditions  in the sea or lagoons and their usual fishing habits and technologies.

    Therefore, replacing and repairing fishing crafts required the participation of the people fishing to make sure their requirements were met.  Practical Action used a participatory approach in which the participation of the fishing communities and district fisheries extension under the Department of Fisheries was central to the rebuilding process.

    Participatory approaches to rebuilding fishing crafts ensured the inclusion of the communities’ needs, likes, specifications and dislikes on the types of fishing crafts they required.  This, at the end of the day, led to the production of seaworthy, location specific fishing crafts that could be used for the right purpose.

    The photographs show how some distributed fishing crafts, considered unseaworthy were abandoned and used for other purposes NOT for fishing


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  • Coastal and Lagoon fishers together !

    Sri Lanka, Maduruoya
    July 8th, 2012

    My previous article talks about three factors; they are as follows;.

    1. The driving factors behind livelihood choices of fisher communities; what drives them to make livelihood choices.
    2. How market chain analysis tool helps identify alternative livelihood options within a fisheries sub-sector itself. In other words, how market chain analysis tool facilitate horizontal diversification of livelihoods in a fisheries sub-sector. 

    This time, I want you to draw your attention on another case-study. This case-study will show us how market chain analysis tool helps us facilitate vertical diversification of livelihoods in a fisheries sub-sector. [As mentioned in the previous blog post, this case study is also from the project on “Community Based Fisheries Co-governance”].

    Panama lagoon is in the district of Ampara in Sri Lanka. Panama village area was both conflict and Tsunami affected. There are about 110 lagoon fishers and 356 coastal fishers. The coastal fishers go fishing in the adjoining coastal belt of the lagoon. The fisheries project of Practical Action started working on developing a  fishery governance mechanism for Panama lagoon. Lagoon ecosystem management planning was central to this process.
    A challenge cropped up in the lagoon ecosystem management planing process was the lagoon encroachment by coastal fishers. This had lead to severe conflicts between lagoon  and coastal fishers. The lagoon encroachment happened during the off-season of coastal fishery. In the off season, the coastal fishers did not have any means to earn an income. Therefore, they would get into lagoon fishing mainly targeting at prawn fishery, which is a commercially important fish type in Sri Lanka. Not only both fisher groups ended in sever conflicts during this season, but also the prawn fishery production showed a significant drop. This was largely due to the high competition of fishing by two groups, leading to incremental over-exploitation of prawn fishery. This problem was analyzed with the two groups of fishers. The tools used for analyzing mainly included were problem tree, cause-effect [fish borne ] and participatory market chain analysis (PMCA). 
    In the analysis, the lagoon fisher group strongly insisted that the coastal fisher group should not come for lagoon fishing. The costal fisher group reiterated that they could avoid getting to lagoon fishing on the condition that they be provided with a means for income generation. On top of that, prawn fishery production analysis showed an increasing drop of the catch down the previous years, so was the per- capita prawn catch. 

    To facilitate a solution for this issue, the project team began to analyze the Panama coastal fishery sub-sector in detail. To do that, the team had participatory market chain analysis workshops with coastal fishers. This exercise showed that all of the coastal fishers did not get into lagoon fishing during off-season. More than half of them (220) went migrant fishing. Migrant fishing means going to other areas for fishing. Mostly, these fishers migrated to a place called Okanda, where they went for lobster fishing. This area was highly populated with rocks, giving an enabling environment for a thriving lobster production. Lobster fishing coincided with the off-season of coastal fishery in Panama.  Half of the rest of the fishers (70) went in inland fishing mainly in reservoirs; Panama reservoir was one of them. The problem of encroachment in Panama lagoon rested with only a number of 66 coastal fishers. The analysis further revealed that these fishers were excluded from lobster and reservoir fishery. 

    However, the PMCA workshops revealed that there was high demand for marine fish during the off-season. The marine fish were brought from other areas of eastern and southern provinces to Panama village and adjoining villages. What was brought did not meet the requirement (demand).  Marine fish was from deep sea fishing, which coincides with off-season of coastal fishery. Deep sea fishing is carried out beyond the first 12 nautical miles from the coast.  The discussion came to a point where these fishers expressed their desire to engage in deep sea fishing, provided they were trained on how to do that. The training had to be provided in terms of deep sea fishing technics, navigation skills, building fishing vessels etc. The fisher explained that they did not have access to learn about deep sea fishing mainly due to protracted war. 

    Given this requirement, the project linked this group of fishers with National Institute of Nautical Engineering (NIFNE) for a training on deep sea fishing. This was a practical training on deep sea fishing. This training gave them hands on experience on both day and multi day deep sea fishing. They leant that they could go for day deep sea fishing with some simple modifications to their fishing vessels in stead of huge investments on multi day fishing vessels initially. 

    After this training, there was an end to lagoon encroachment resulting in an end to sever conflict between sea and lagoon fishers in Panama. Because, the encroachers began making their way towards deep sea fishing during off-season of coastal fishery.

    This blog article has direct link to the paper “Developing non fishing livelihoods for small scale coastal communities”. One may wonder what it means “alternative livelihoods” for small scale fisher communities, what sort of lessons that one can get, please find the link to the full paper;-

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