The Food and Agriculture Organization and the One Ocean Hub co-organised webinar on Namibia’s Small-Scale Fisheries

By Senia Febrica

This blogpost reports on the cross-sharing of experiences between the Namibia Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, and key national, regional and international partners and stakeholders in the small-scale fisheries (SSF) sector through a webinar series that was co-organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the One Ocean Hub on 10-11th June 2021. The webinar series was titled ‘Namibia’s experience on Implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on Small-Scale Fisheries.’ It aimed at providing the evidence required to support the process for the development of a National Plan of Action (NPOA) for Small-Scale Fisheries in Namibia, which the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources is expected to complete in September 2021 as part of its commitment to implement the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fiseries  in the context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication  (SSF Guidelines). The National Plan of Action is being developed as part of the FAO Umbrella Programme ‘enhancing the contribution of small-scale fisheries to food security and sustainable livelihoods’, which supports the promotion, application and implementation of the SSF Guidelines. 

Webinar highlights

The webinar began with a presentation by Mr Johannes Hamukwaya, Deputy Director in the Namibia Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, who outlined the process for the development of the National Plan of Action for SSF. He stressed the opportunity to strengthen the alignment of national policies and legal frameworks with the SSF Guidelines and the need to ensure that state and non-state actors are responsive to the needs of small-scale fishers.

Ms Alushe Hitula, FAO consultant, reported on the organisation of eight regional stakeholder consultation workshops, the involvement of over 350 small-scale fisheries stakeholders and collection of evidence. From this experience, Ms Hitula identified the need to provide support to small-scale fishers’ organisations and to amplify the voice of women fishers.

Drawing from three decades of freshwater SSF research in Namibia, Dr Clinton Hay, University of Namibia, highlighted some progresses made in the SSF sector, including amendments to legislation on small-scale fisheries, the development of a database of several hundred thousand fish, the establishment of fisheries reserves and capacity-building activities. Dr Hay suggested the continuation of monitoring programs and engagements with communities is key to empower small-scale fishers to manage their own fisheries resources.

Ms Britta Hackenberg, the Namibia Nature Foundation, focused on ‘Strengthening Community Conservation Fisheries and Governance in Kavango–Zambezi (KAZA) area’. She noted the challenges for community fisheries and the implementation of the FAO Guidelines in KAZA, such as expectations towards infrastructure development (drinking water, housing, processing facilities), value-chains and access to markets, financial support to monitoring and policing of fisheries management, and recognition for the role of migrant fishers and fish workers in small-scale fisheries.

Mr Herman Honeb, the Hanganeni Artisanal Fishing Association (HAFA), underscored the role of HAFA in organising small-scale fishers into a formal, legally recognised structure, and how support from the Namibian Government enabled HAFA to be established and become operational. Mr Honeb outlined various coordinated activities conducted by HAFA that benefit SSF communities, such as marketing of fish, providing credit facilities, and supplying essential equipment (e.g. fishing gear and cool-boxes) that would not otherwise be available.

Ms Samantha Matjila, the Namibia Nature Foundation, identified gaps and opportunities for coastal small-scale fisheries in Namibia. She noted limited economic diversity as livelihoods are dependent on fishing, mining, and the presence of policies that focus mainly on commercial fishing rather than SSF. She also identified opportunities for collaboration between SSF communities, research institutes, government organisations and the private sector, including conducting monitoring and data collection, sensitising communities on fisheries regulations, and understanding the needs and interests of fishermen in gaining access rights through permits.

Dr Ben van Zyl, the Benguela Current Commission, provided an overview of Namibia’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. He argued that increases in temperature, evaporation, and variability of rainfall exacerbate the existing challenges that Namibia is facing as the driest country south of Sahara. Due to the reliance of the Namibian population on climate-sensitive sectors such as fishing, it will be crucial for Namibia to assess key environmental changes, identify institutional arrangements, develop potential strategies for climate change adaptation and activate the community-based adaptation plans.

Mr Ipeinge Mundjulu, Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem III, pointed out that the establishment of fishers’ association is crucial to support livelihoods of Swakopmund coastal artisanal fishers in Namibia. Swakopmund coastal artisanal fishers, according to Mr Mundjulu, fish under ‘recreational fishing’ permits, which do not allow fishers to sell their catches, whereas under a fishers association they can have access to special small-scale fishing permits, which support both their access to resources and their access to markets.

One Ocean Hub’s contributions

Professor Elisa Morgera, One Ocean Hub Director, highlighted the practical relevance of international legal instruments for the recognition and full realisation of the human rights of small-scale fishers in Namibia. She emphasised that an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries and a human rights-based approach need to be integrated into fisheries management, through continuous collaboration between government authorities and small-scale fishers. Professor Morgera further stressed the role of the government in taking into account small-scale fishers’ contributions into the development of the National Plan of Action.

Professor Alex Kanyimba, One Ocean Hub Co-Director, shared preliminary research findings from the University of Namibia research programmes on sustainable fisheries and critical approaches to the blue economy. He reported on the limited involvement of small-scale fishers in decision-making (around 11% of members of SSF communities), which prevents policy-makers from engaging with small-scale fishers’ experience of displacement and lack of access to marine resources, market or money for renewing their fishing permits. In order to address these challenges, Professor Kanyimba underscored the need for the government to establish a policy and regulatory framework that is more responsive to small-scale fishers’ conditions.

Although he was unable to present the workshop, it was noted that Dr Tapiwa Warikandwa, University of Namibia, is currently contributing to the governance research programme under the One Ocean Hub and is preparing a study on the need for legal reforms to fully recognise the small-scale fisheries sector in Namibia and effectively support fair and equitable benefit-sharing from sustainable fisheries.

Way forward

The workshop provided an opportunity to integrate the early research findings from the One Ocean Hub into the process for the development of a National Plan of Action for Small-Scale Fisheries in Namibia, notably with regard to the inclusion of the views of communities that have been displaced from the coast.  The Hub and FAO are now exploring further ways to continuing to cooperate in the course of this policy process and the implementation of the National Plan of Action.