The responsible governance of Land, Forestry and Fisheries Tenure is the current topic for about 30 fishers in Kwazulu Natal (KZN) this week.

The second provincial workshop on the Voluntary Guidelines on Governance of Tenure (VGGT) kicked off on Tuesday, 17 May, in Richards Bay, (KZN).

Attending the workshop are fishermen and women from Bizane, Nkundusi, Kosi Bay, Richards Bay, Mtubatuba, kwaNzimakhwe, Umgababa, Mpenbeni, Manguzi, Manguzi,Nibela, Gcilima and Mthwalume.

With the current proposals of expanding Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) along the South African coast line, this workshop come at a time when fisher communities need to be aware of their rights to tenure and human rights.

“The Guidelines are to be used by communities so that they can be able to protect their rights to access not only their natural resources but also their customary rights.” said Delphine Ortega from the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

A number of issues were raised during the workshop like forced removals, closure of coastal areas including how the guidelines bring a balance to legally recognised rights and those rights that are customary by nature.

“Communities need to be able to hold those who are responsible to govern tenure; they need to know they can use the guidelines to protect themselves” Ortega continued.

Delegates made examples of how their customary rights have been infringed upon by a number of stakeholders under the guise of development and conservation.

Mr Israel Mbhele told a story about how people in Sokhulu community have been removed from land so that a mall could be built. “We have a case of people being removed from their dwellings along the coast so that a mall could be built” commented Mbhele.

“These people were given land by the chief, but because they do not have a title deed, they were removed just like that and moved to another area.” continued Mbhele.

The delegates were keen to know how they can protect themselves using the guidelines because, in most cases they use customary laws and they find themselves loosing access to a number of resources that benefit their livelihoods.

“The guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure are there to hold governments responsible for the governance of tenure, they recognise both customary and legal rights” said Ortega.

“When communities are faced with a predicament where they find their customary rights infringed upon, they can use the guidelines to force states to give them justice as the guidelines is built on the basis of human right.”

The delegates were asked to give realistic case studies in which they think they can use the guidelines so to solve their problems. The workshop will end on Thursday May 19, and the next one is set to take place in the Eastern Cape from the May 31 until June 2.

The VGGT, which were adopted by the FAO in 2012, seek to address and redress the imbalances created by insecure tenure regulations which cause landlessness, poverty, hunger and insecurity.

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