A study (action-research project) to show how Tenure Guidelines can be used to protect the tenure rights of fisher people living within or adjacent Marine Protected Areas in South Africa is under way.

Conducted by Masifundise Development Trust (MDT)with the support of the Institute for Poverty Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), this action-research project, will seek to examine the ways in which fishing communities’ access to their tenure rights are impacted on by various governance arrangements.

“As a start, we chose to focus on the community of Arniston,” said Masifundise’s Michelle Joshua.

‘We chose Arniston because currently the community’s access to livelihoods is impacted upon by the De Hoop Marine Protected Area as well as by DENEL, a state-owned commercially-driven company and strategic partner for innovative defence, security and related technology,” continued Joshua.

Currently, DENEL is testing weapons in the same waters that the Arniston fishers traditionally fish in, and access at the De Hoop MPA is closed. These have a direct impact on the daily fishing activities and livelihood of fishers in the area.

The study will also propose ways in which the guidelines can be used as a tool for Masifundise Development Trust and the Coastal Links South Africa communities as they prepare communities for the roll out of the SSF policy.

The research project will use the FAO Voluntary Tenure Guidelines as a tool to assess the impact of various governance frameworks on small scale fishing communities.

“The study will empower, especially, the communities living in and adjacent to MPAs in South Africa to determine their own tenure arrangements, to assert their rights and mobilise for change,” Joshua stated.

This Saturday, MDT together with PLAAS will conduct the first research workshop. A number of community members have been invited to partake in the workshop.

“We hope to ascertain how the community is affected by the MPA and DENEL, including what action or solutions they have or can come up with to protect their tenure arrangement,” said Joshua.

Earlier this year Masifundise entered into a partnership with the International Development Research Council (IDRC) and Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN) to conduct this project.

The methodology will include workshops with the fishers, focus groups and interviews.

The partnership will run for a period of three years and findings will be used and shared with other fishing communities so as to assist with drafting their own tenure arrangement.

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