In Solidarity with Small-scale Fishers and Fishworkers

Earlier this year, March 6-7, 2015 the FSA was invited by the ICSF (International Collective of Small-Scale Fishers) to participate in discussions held during the ICSF-BOBLME Workshop (East Coast) to discuss the implementation of Voluntary Guidelines on Securing Small Scale Fisheries in the context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (March 6-7, 2015) (See Report). At the Workshop, the FSA shared its perspectives and views on the centrality of food sovereignty in the process of implementation of these Guidelines. This gave FSA an opportunity to understand issues around the food security and sovereignty of fishers, a constituency that we have not engaged with as extensively as we have with our adivasi, dalit, peasant and pastoralist friends.

During discussions at the Workshop, FSA emphasised the need for small-scale fishing communities and fish workers to progressively work towards achieving food sovereignty. It is only through food sovereignty as the long-term goal can fisheries contribute to an “economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for the planet and its people” – the goal expressed in the Guidelines.

At ICSF’s request FSA has shared some thoughts on food sovereignty and the need for solidarity among peasants, small-scale fishers, adivasis and others in a given region. We must find ways to share knowledge, exchange produce and support our nutritional web so that food sovereignty can be asserted by all.

Fishers and fishworkers must be a part of the decision-making process on how their territories (oceans, lakes, rivers etc.) are used. They must have a right to engage in their customary practices influenced by seasonality and other natural cycles and patterns of fishing. They must have the right to practice their livelihoods and maintan their food cultures and traditions – cultures that have been built through experience of being an intimate part of their respective ecosystems (riverine, coastal, marine etc.). The crucial role and leadership of women in achieving food sovereignty is explicitly recognised by the food sovereignty movement.

In the context of small-scale fishers dependence on the market and a centralised import dependent PDS for grain, pulses and edible oil provides access only to poor quality food, destroying health and eroding local food systems and cultures.Movements like the FSA, the ICSF and other social movements working on the rights of small-scale fishers must help build connections across communities to achieve food sovereignty. The connections must aim at enabling grains, pulses, oilseeds, vegetables, greens, fish, meat, milk and eggs to be made available through reciprocity and exchange in local markets.