Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been working with NGO partner Mwambao Coastal Community Network since 2015, developing community-based marine resources management on Pemba Island, Tanzania. The work began with a remote fishing community on a small island to the south of Pemba, with capacity-building training sessions for the village fishers’ committee. Following the training, the committee decided to implement a temporary closure of 100 ha of the island's reef flats. Catch data showed an increase in the average size of octopus caught when opening after a 3-month closure, but refraining from fishing remains difficult for low-income households. This represents a challenge for the fishers’ committee working to retain consensus within the community, enforce closures and demonstrate the benefits of this management action to individual fishers and the wider community.
With Mwambao we explored various options for strengthening local governance and informing and empowering fishers in their relationship with buyers, including an investigation of how the existing market could be developed to support marine conservation and benefit the community. We adapted Practical Action's Participatory Market System Development tool in a conservation context and identified the kind of markets that would maximize conservation and social impact. After detailed consideration of four marine activities (octopus, reef fish, sea weed farming and other mariculture) scored against 20 impact criteria (e.g. gender inclusiveness, accessibility to different age groups, market demand and conservation benefits), the octopus fishery was prioritized for further development.
Mwambao's team was trained in the Participatory Market System Development approach and together with FFI acted as facilitators, encouraging participation of the market stakeholders in addressing challenges and highlighting converging interests to achieve long-lasting conservation and community impacts. Based on an earlier market research study we analysed a participatory market system, to identify and understand the power relations between key market actors such as local and intermediary buyers, agents and exporters, and fishers, who traditionally have low bargaining power. We organized meetings in three villages, to improve the community's confidence and their understanding of the market in preparation for a multi-stakeholder meeting that would bring together all market actors for a dialogue on opportunities and challenges in octopus fisheries.
We held a 2-day multi-stakeholder workshop in September 2017 in which the discussions amongst actors revealed information asymmetry in rural markets. Overfishing has resulted in a high proportion of small octopus in the catch which means that intermediary buyers’ profits fall as only the larger octopus (above the legal size limit) can be sold for export. The buyers had been unaware of the fishers’ committee's conservation initiatives and temporary closures, which they recognized as well aligned with their business interest of procuring export quality octopus. The community and fishers’ committee also realized an opportunity to negotiate better terms for an opening days’ catch, and to encourage buyers to make a financial contribution to the costs of the conservation efforts, such as that of patrol costs. Buyers and the fishers’ committee agreed to meet before every opening day to negotiate a fixed price for the catch and a contribution per kg of octopus, to cover the committee's operating costs and to make a contribution to identified village development projects.
Since the workshop in September 2017 there have been a total of six openings following temporary closures across the three villages supported. At all opening days the fishers’ committees collectively bargained fixed prices with local buyers. Opening day prices increased compared to prices observed on normal fishing days. In addition, the buyers’ contribution for conservation now partially covers the committees’ operating costs. This could be a sustainable finance model for longer term community-based conservation.
A further significant benefit of the market development work is the strengthening of the village fishers’ committee as a village institution responsible for the sustainable use of marine resources. Community members have delegated the committee to negotiate on their behalf, and higher prices reinforce the roles and benefits of this village institution, with the community now seeking active participation to increase transparency and accountability.