Advancing Small-Scale Fisheries: Insights from the Third SSF Working Group Meeting

Mon, 11-03-2024 15:00:00

The African Fisheries Reform Mechanism's Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) Working Group had its third meeting on March 4th and 5th, 2024, in Kampala, Uganda. The meeting, facilitated by AU-IBAR and AUDA-NEPAD and funded by the European Union through the FishGov2 Project, intended to finalise critical knowledge products needed to improve small-scale fisheries across Africa. 

Mrs. Patricia Lumba, AU-IBAR Senior Knowledge Management Officer, spoke on behalf of AU-IBAR's Director, Dr. Huyam Salih and addressed the meeting in its opening; noting the growth and purpose of the African Fisheries Reform Mechanism (AFRM) established following CAMFA 2010. The goal of AFRM is to coordinate fisheries policies and encourage reforms that will lead to sustainable output. Under the FishGov1 and FishGov2 initiatives, AFRM evolved, reorganising its organs and rationalising working groups. The meeting aims to synthesise topics of sustainable small-scale fisheries development. It seeks to close knowledge gaps and encourages the participation of African Union Centres of Excellence. The speech emphasises the need of educated decision-making and teamwork in sector improvement. It recognises non-state actors' contributions and anticipates future collaboration on good governance principles. The formation of AFRM and PFRS establishes the framework for collaborative and coordinated efforts to promote African fisheries.

Dr. Winnie Nkalubo, Chairperson of the SSF Development Working Group, outlined important accomplishments accomplished since the group's debut meeting in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire in March 2022. These included identifying and prioritising concerns such as inadequate data collection in small-scale fisheries, which resulted in policy suggestions documented in a Policy Brief. Subsequent sessions in Mombasa and Naivasha, Kenya, clarified priorities and created knowledge products such as policy briefings and advocacy notes. The current meeting intends to evaluate and update the SWOT Analysis, finalise knowledge products, and prioritise actions related to the FishGov 2 project. Gratitude was conveyed to the organisers, AU-IBAR and AUDA-NEPAD, who received EU funding. Recognising the Working Group's commitment to promote sustainable fisheries management in Africa, attendees were encouraged to actively participate in attaining the meeting objectives over the next two days.

Dr. Bwanika Joseph, Acting Director of Fisheries Resources in Uganda, stated during the meeting's official opening that Uganda's small-scale fisheries sector has enormous potential for economic growth, livelihood enhancement, and food security, as emphasised in the recently finalised National Plan of Action for Small-scale Fisheries (NAPOA-SF). Despite its importance, the sector confronts numerous hurdles, ranging from climate change implications to governance issues. However, there is hope as African parties work together to address these issues through collaborative activities that use the knowledge and dedication of fisheries-dependent communities. 

The Ugandan government confirms its commitment to supporting sustainable fisheries through targeted initiatives such as research and capacity building. The third meeting of the small-scale fisheries and aquaculture working group represents an important chance to enhance the sector's sustainable growth, guided by the values of inclusivity, resilience, and science-led decision-making.

The session began with talks on the background, goals, and criteria for creating knowledge goods, as well as the results of prior meetings. The first technical session addressed significant concerns facing Africa's small-scale fisheries, including as finance availability, post-harvest losses, and organisational structures. This session also featured a SWOT analysis to analyse the status and trends in SSF development across the continent.

The second day of the meeting featured group work sessions aimed at finalising identified concerns for knowledge products. Participants engaged in rigorous conversations aimed at synthesising the obtained material and developing practical recommendations.

Technical Session 3 saw participants refine previously identified concerns, while Session 4 focused on synthesising these issues into actionable knowledge products. Group presentations emphasised the joint effort and communal insights gained during the meeting.


As part of ongoing efforts like FishGov2, the working group revised and upgraded their work plans to ensure they align with broader strategic goals. They focused on three main areas to develop policy briefs and an advocacy note:
(i)    Enhancing Funding Mechanisms for Small-Scale Fisheries: Recognizing challenges such as limited awareness and usage of service providers, high interest rates, and inadequate collateral, the group proposed actions like organizing stakeholders into value chains and cooperatives, raising awareness, and developing specialized products for small-scale fisheries.
(ii)    Addressing High Post-Harvest Losses: Identifying inadequate fish handling and processing practices and infrastructure as root causes, the group proposed actions like establishing fish handling facilities, using standard insulated boxes for storage, and forming Public-Private Partnerships. Policy recommendations included enforcing policies to improve fish handling practices and strengthening fish processing and traders' associations.
(iii)    Optimizing Organizational Structure: Acknowledging the importance of organizational structure for a strong voice, negotiation, and access to better funding, the group addressed inconsistencies in governance, lack of legislation, and the different forms of associations. They highlighted the role of cooperatives in marketing.
Furthermore, Dr. Mwenda Mbaka provided insights into aquatic animal welfare in Africa through a factsheet developed jointly by the Ethical SeaFood Research and AU-IBAR, sparking meaningful discussions on ethical considerations within the fisheries sector.

As the meeting drew to a close, participants engaged in wrap-up discussions, outlining the next steps and adopting a communique. They expressed appreciation for the productive deliberations and reiterated their dedication to advancing small-scale fisheries across the continent.

The official closing statements underscored the significance of collaboration and sustained efforts towards achieving sustainable fisheries management in Africa.

With the successful finalization of knowledge products, the Third Meeting of the SSF Working Group represented a significant milestone in the ongoing endeavours to reform and improve small-scale fisheries in Africa. Departing participants carried with them a renewed sense of purpose and a shared vision for a more prosperous and sustainable future for African fisheries.