Article: Working together in small-scale fisheries: harnessing collective action for poverty eradication

Authors: Svein Jentoft, Maarten Bavinck, Enrique Alonso-Población, Anna Child, Antonio Diegues, Daniela Kalikoski, John Kurien, Patrick McConney, Paul Onyango, Susana Siar, and Vivienne Solis Rivera

Given that addressing poverty largely depends upon the collective agency of small-scale fishers, this paper draws from a variety of case studies on organization-building and collective action to build on lessons learned towards poverty eradication in small-scale fisheries. The authors start off by understanding the nature of poverty in small-scale fisheries through different lenses: (i) as an expression of absolute and relational qualities, (ii) a multi-dimensional concept, and (iii) related either to an occupation of last resort or a safety valve for people in need of nutrition and income. Next, the authors explore contributing and impeding factors to collective action, and suggest that government and civil society support is crucial. Finally, the authors look into the characteristics of fishers' organizations and emphasize the importance of autonomous decision-making, and the need to address internal challenges and opportunities, including those related to gender.  

The paper highlights that the cause of poverty in small-scale fisheries does not lie on the paucity of natural resources and technology, but rather on the lack of access rights to those resulting from power imbalances. The paper ultimately argues that the engagement of small-scale fishers in collective action is a crucial step towards empowering poor and vulnerable communities. Such empowerment is both an objective in itself and a means for securing rights to access and poverty reduction strategies.