A way to better understand the community’s tenure arrangements was discussed at a workshop held in Arniston last Saturday. About 25 community members encompassing fishers, women and youth attended. They discussed how their access to natural resources is currently affected by an adjacent MPA and a company testing military weapons in their area of fishing.

The first part of the workshop looked at the history of Arniston. Four groups discussed and mapped out what activities took place from before the 1960’s to 2015. They also noted where these activities took place.

“The workshop made us think deeper of our own town and its history” said Rowina Martinus CLSA member in Arniston, “ As a group we discussed what the potential of the town is and what resources are available so we can have a better livelihood, “ Rowina continued.

The workshop was the first activity under the action research project. The project aims to use see how the Tenure Guidelines can be used to protect the tenure rights of fisher people living within or adjacent Marine Protected Areas in South Africa.

“ We went into the community to see how we can move forward with the project” commented Tracey Dennis, a researcher from PLAAS who is working with Masifundise in this project.

“We structured the workshop in a way that the community was able to share with us information relating to their history, resources, opportunities and how the community can work together to better their lives” Tracey said.

The workshop was held in Arniston church Hall and it ran from 10am until 3pm. The last segment of the workshop saw the participant mapping out resources on land and in the sea that the community used to have access to and what they now have access to.

“it is important that we understand and know the history of the community and more so, that the residents know their history, “ said Masifundise’s Michelle Joshua.

“We also tasked the participants to collect data of their community, they need to know who the fisher community is, how many are commercial fishers and how many are SSF, how many families are dependent on the marine resources for their livelihoods, etc.” Michelle said.

This data will collect will assist them to better understanding what is happening in their community. It will also help formulate what kind of opportunities can be developed how they can lobby for better tenure arrangements.

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 and their families.

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 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.

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.

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 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.

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