The Cop21 was a debate between Real Solutions Vs False Solutions. The Civil Society groups, particularly the small food producer groups strongly fight against the false solutions while promoting the real solution.
The World Forum of Fisher People's organized a side event together with World Forum of Fish Workers and Fish Harvesters on Blue Carbon and highlighted how it become a false solution while there are hundreds of real solutions could be proposed from the small scale fishing communities.
The group strongly opposed the commodification of the environment and financialization of eco systems in the Cop 21 debates in the main official forum.
This side event was attended many Fisherfolk organizational leaders and criticized the Blue carbon as false solution and registered the protest against the privatization of the aquatic eco systems.
Real Solutions vs. False Solutions
While blue carbon programmes represent yet another false solution to climate change and environmental issues, many communities around the world are engaging in alternatives that present real solutions that are both environmentally and socially just. These alternatives are especially evident in small-scale food producing communities. For example, small-scale fishing communities don’t see fishing simply as an extractive activity or a livelihood, but as a way of life. Communities have a strong relationship with their environment and believe that they should engage with it in a respectful way that also conserves resources for future generations. As Christiana Louwa highlights, “in El Molo there is a saying: ‘conserve, protect and sustain the lake so it can serve your family and your community.’ It is the source of your life; it is a two-way relationship. There is no commercial aspect, it’s about surviving.”
Conservation projects implemented by governmental bodies assume that environmental degradation is caused by any kind of human activity – ignoring the fact that communities have lived in coastal and wetland areas for thousands of years, existing harmoniously with their natural environment. In indigenous communities in particular, the relationship to nature is a key part of their way of life, as it is seen as a provider rather than something to be exploited. Sherry Pictou highlights this by saying, ”there is a spectrum – at one end there are conservation schemes, and at the other there is pure neoliberalism. Indigenous people are caught somewhere in the middle – we are expected to commodify our relationship with nature, or we are expected to stay out of protected areas or natural reserves completely. But who actually benefits from these schemes? And how does that lead to well-being for communities already living in these areas?”
Small-scale fishing communities already conserve and protect ecosystems and therefore, as Manickam Ilango argues, “coastal management at the national level should be decided by the people concerned – any kind of management involving lakes, oceans, etc. should include consultation with the people living in the villages who know what is happening in the sea. They have very good knowledge but are not being consulted.” He further highlights how communities are being displaced for numerous reasons, including coastal erosion, sea level rise, and the establishment of Marina Protected Areas (MPAs). In combination with widespread displacement, small-scale fishers’ rights and traditions have been taken away and they must mobilise to take them back.
The Way Forward
With all of these real solutions being presented, it is important to figure out how they can be implemented in a strategy to move forward in the struggleto take back access to natural resources. One important aspect is the convergence between land and water issues, which highlights the common struggle between those who have lost access to both land and water rights. While their experiences may be different, the challenges they face are the same, and combining their efforts can create a stronger and more effective alliance. As Margeret Nakato argues, “we don’t need to separate the issues, we need a comprehensive manner of addressing these issues.” This means that both small-scale fishers and farmers should come together to figure out in what ways they can work together to organise collective actions and make their voices heard. Jorge Varela echoes this sentiment in saying that, “we need mass mobilisations to create awareness. Without massive mobilisation from people, we can’t change things because large corporations are controlling and manipulating our governments.”
These alliances are already being formed between social movement groups, NGOs and other civil society organisations, which Herman Kumara argues is important to avoid the isolation or criminalisation of individual groups. He further notes that, “women are at the core of these alliances, they have the courage to come forward, to go house to house, to meet with leaders, to speak out in the media and say what the issues are and what needs to be done.” In Uganda, for example, women in fishing communities have developed strong organisations to discuss and address the problems they face in losing access to fishing grounds and being excluded from many fishing-related activities because of unequal gender relations. In many cases, men in the communities are now beginning to join the women’s organisations because they too are increasingly being marginalised and are realising the importance of creating alliances with other members of their communities.
These alliances should particularly emphasise respect for human rights and fight against the criminalisation of communities, particularly those of of small-scale food producers. In South Africa, small-scale fishers are constantly being arrested for simply engaging in the fishing activities that they have practiced for hundreds of years. Christian Adams stresses that, in his community, “industrial boats and fishermen are never threatened, while we get arrested just for fishing in our regular areas. But in South Africa we are quite lucky in that we were able to take our government to court and it was found that our human rights were violated. We will continue to be involved in defiance campaigns and civil disobedience because we must break government laws to get noticed – we don’t want to legitimise the laws they are imposing on us. These laws are not our laws and we must continue to fight to get our own laws instituted.”
Jorge Varela argues that, “we are facing an ethnocide, a legal genocide that brings human rights violations to a whole new level because governments are adapting laws to serve their own purposes.”This agenda prioritises corporate rights over human rights purely for economic gain. Addressing these human rights violations requires alliance and capacity building, and educating people in the communities about their rights, as well as how they can resist against being moved from one area to another and against having their access to resources taken away.
As Margeret Nakato further argues, “we don’t only want to align fisher folk, we don’t want to individualise this issue. When we build alliances, we are working with all small-scale producers – farmers, fishers and pastoralists. This requires networking with various organisations and building alliances beyond our local communities.” One concrete tool that is already being implemented to facilitate these alliances, and which highlights the ways in which small-scale fishers’ rights should be recognised, is the Small-scale Fisheries Guidelines (SSF). Where and how these guidelines are implemented must be done collaboratively and in a manner that specifically addresses the communities and the individuals involved.