The International Voluntary Guidelines formulated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) promote secure tenure rights and equitable access to land, fisheries and forests.

They serve as a means of eradicating hunger and poverty, supporting sustainable development and enhancing the environment (FAO 2013).

The FAO document is called Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security .  

In South Africa despite a well-documented history of marine resource use along the coast, small-scale fishers have faced ongoing exclusion from key marine resources. To date, many small-scale fishers remain marginalised and endure forced removals from key coastal land needed to sustain their livelihoods.

This happens under the guise of conservation which is Marine Protected Areas.

Fishers have typically been left out of key decision-making processes to declare sections of the coast Marine Protected Areas (MPA), which in South Africa – are predominantly no-take zones which exclude all fishers from harvesting marine resources (Emdon et al, 2015).

How people, communities and others gain access to land, fisheries and forests is defined and regulated by societies through systems of tenure. These tenure systems determine who can use which resources, for how long, and under what conditions. The systems may be based on written policies and laws, as well as on unwritten customs and practices (TradeMark Southern Africa, 2014).

As South Africa prepares for the roll-out and the implementation of the small-scale fisheries policy, organisations such as Masifundise have an obligation to assist and empower Coastal Links South Africa members.

Under the new small-scale policy, communities will need to establish what their tenure arrangements will be and they will need to know and understand the many governance frameworks governing natural resources (Emdon et al, 2015).

The processes that will unfold with the implementation of the small-scale fisheries policy speak directly to what the Tenure Guidelines promote and how they can be used to empower communities.

In the next weeks, we will take a look at how The FAO Guidelines on Tenure can be used by small scale-fisheries living in and adjacent MPAs.

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