|The Courier N° 123 Sept - October 1990 - Dossier Higher Education - Country Reports: Barbados - (EC Courier, 1990, 104 p.)|
by Cornelia NAUEN
From modest beginnings, individual EC Member States and, since the 1970s the Community, on request primarily of its ACP partners, have become major donors in fisheries cooperation. Initially this coincided with the expansion phase of fisheries worldwide after World War II, when natural resources were far from being fully exploited except in a few areas. Local problems could, at the time, be overcome by geographical expansion which did, indeed, happen with development of long-distance fleets facilitated by low fuel costs. The oil crisis in the early 1970s coincided with changing exploitation patterns in that more and more stocks became fully exploited and in some areas signs of economic and/or biological overfishing became apparent.
An analysis of the fisheries sector worldwide suggests that the situation has changed profoundly since. The new challenges emerge from the fact that these natural resources are now fully exploited almost everywhere and that investment which was highly successful during the expansion phase of fisheries in the 1950s and 1960s, when resources were amply available, would now spell failure under conditions of full exploitation. The new ocean regime established through the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea has resulted in virtually all coastal countries establishing 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) which have been instrumental in redistributing the wealth of the sea and making possible the control of user rights vis-is foreigners. But this has not necessarily solved fierce competition among groups of domestic users (i.e. small-scale versus industrial fleets).
Too many boats, too few fish
Overexploitation in economic terms means that too many boats are chasing too few fish. In biological terms it may put the very existence of the resource at risk, either because too many fish are caught to maintain the size of biomass the environment could sustain or, even worse, too many fish are caught at the early stages of their life history before they have had a chance to reproduce at least once (recruitment overfishing). Indeed, studies have demonstrated for several countries that a reduction of total fishing effort and/or changes in exploitation patterns would increase the net benefit of this primary sector to the national economy. This could be achieved through suitable policy and management matched with monitoring, control and surveillance.
Against this scenario and across the continents, the Commission has committed some ECU 320 m to the sector over the years. In 1987 there was a general perception that some key parameters in the sector had changed or were changing and that it was time to take a critical look at project performance in a sectoral perspective rather than on a case by case basis. The task was assigned to a joint team of ACP and EC experts, on the principle that joint undertakings could only be assessed and improved together.
It turned out to be a valuable experience which has triggered a string of other efforts to improve project quality and performance in the light of the changes in the sector. In between, the team studied both EEC and non-EEC supported projects to capitalise to a maximum on all existing and documented experience, assessed several individual projects chosen to represent certain sub-sector aspects and submitted their findings and recommendations to a meeting of ACP and EC fisheries experts and evaluators held in April 1989 in Malawi. This meeting condensed its deliberations on the report into draft Basic Principles for the sector to serve as future reference material for better project preparation and implementation. What were the key features of the criticisms and suggestions for future quality improvement?
Many weaknesses that had given rise to criticism were associated with insufficient project preparation which later gave rise to difficulties which could sometimes have been avoided. Insufficient integration into sector and national plans, where they existed was a further problem, and institutional support in the country often left much to be desired. A recurrent theme was that intended beneficiaries were not sufficiently involved in project preparation resulting in the need for avoidable adjustments later on.
There was a series of cases where commitments in the Financing Agreement, i.e. on counterpart funds, were not sufficiently respected, leading to an imbalance in project finance and to difficulties in viability after external support ceased. Time-overrun was also a common problem and the analysis suggested that unwieldly administrative procedures on either side of the administration often added to the problem rather than smoothing things out during implementation.
Not surprisingly, the role of individuals, whether nationals or expatriates working in and for a project, was seen as crucial. The common perception was that good experts could sometimes make the difference between a good and a mediocre project and that much depended on the commitment of the individuals concerned and their ability to cooperate with beneficiaries.
The team looked into different subsectors and pointed out problems relating to industrial fisheries, small-scale fisheries and aquaculture and their complexities and complementary or conflictual interaction which had often not been taken fully into account.
Trying to draw the lessons from this constructive criticism, the Basic Principles attempt to highlight aspects needing more careful consideration in future projects, particularly in view of the changes in a sector which is now in a phase of readjustment.
They highlight the need for careful project preparation formalised in appropriately detailed documents which should not only set out the technical aspects of a future project, but also all the general socio-economic context and national sector planning against which the principal intermediary objectives can be defined. Emphasis is placed on the need to quantify targets as the only way to achieve accountability.
Where databases are weak, phased approaches are preferable to immediate large-scale implementation. In the same vein, close coordination and where possible cooperation with neighbouring projects could shorten the trial periods and facilitate efficient use of resources.
The major sustainability factors for project appraisal serve as reference principles to monitor implementation. These are:
- government support to the project by practical measures throughout implementation;
- careful consideration of any positive or negative effects on the environment, including sustainability of resource use and management;
- clear identification of target groups and their involvement in the production system from catching/production to marketing, taking into account the structure of fishing communities including general conditions (health, education etc.), gender division of tasks, social organisation, etc.;
- judicious choice of technologies in compliance with risks beneficiaries can take and their aspirations;
- strong management and skill development at all required levels to ensure long-term viability at the level of beneficiaries and, where necessary, in strengthening competent institutions crucial to project and sector success; - financial and economic viability (ensurance of maintenance, flow of spare parts, operational costs etc.).
From the planning stage, appropriate institutional arrangements need to be examined for different project aspects and support envisaged to the public and/or private sector accordingly. The lessons from past handling of revolving and credit funds are manifold, i.e.:
- integration of traditional credit can be extremely effective at small-scale level;
- choice of production means bought on credit left as far as possible to beneficiaries will enhance their commitment to reimbursement;
- mobilisation of savings and cooperation with formal credit institutions where they operate in rural and fishing communities will enhance the chances of long-term survival of schemes which otherwise risk collapse at the end of external project funding.
Last but not least, formalisation of all stages of the project, including definition of appropriate performance indicators, is believed to be a prerequisite for proper progress reports to ensure timely help if difficulties arise, or through technical reports for wider distribution to share experience and capitalise on them.
All this has recently been presented to the Article 193 Committee of the Lomonvention. Its general work and particularly its continued striving for improved quality of cooperation in all sectors is well known to readers of The Courier. The Committee has deliberated on these Basic Principles and the ACP/EEC Council of Ministers adopted them at its most recent meeting in March 1990 in Fiji.
As readers may imagine, those directly concerned with the sector have not waited to adopt many of the recommendations of the evaluation report and the Basic Principles and have sought ways to become more efficient and effective. One practical step to improve the openness of EC fisheries cooperation to other countries and donors is through a special EC Fisheries Cooperation Bulletin which has appeared quarterly in English and French since December 1988.
Work has also continued on a more substantial follow-up of the sectoral evaluation and the Basic Principles, not only through regular exchange between fisheries officers in ACP countries and the Commission, but also with fisheries advisers of EC Member States. One result of these efforts has been more detailed draft guidelines on how to prepare fisheries and aquaculture projects to work upstream of the problems identified. They are a reaction to the analysis of changes characterising the sector in this decade of adjustment after the expansion and crisis of the resource and the industry.
That natural resources are becoming increasingly rare is not the least indicated by the slowing down of annual production increases of about 1% in the face of population growth outstripping it by far, and overall price increases of the commodity of around 4-5% per year.
Limitation of natural resources and capture fisheries increases the chances of aquaculture- and culture-based fisheries becoming economically feasible where it used not to be. However, the analysis calls for caution in avoiding the mistakes of the past, where ample assistance focused on bio-technical aspects, while constraints appear to have dominated on the socioeconomic side. In other words, successful introduction or strengthening of various forms of aquaculture hinge on a comprehensive analysis of the total production system, including people, their social organisation, land and water tenure systems, production conditions and access to markets and market conditions.
The guidelines try to address these challenges and offer a framework in which to carry out work in a more systematic way and, above all, to help fulfil a greater share of the sectors substantial potential if it is properly understood and managed. Should this perhaps invite ACP and donor administrations to take a second look at their own fisheries department or service and their working conditions?