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Food Security and Livelihood

A major direct benefit of goods and services generated by marine and coastal ecosystems in the region comes in the form of fishery and aquatic resources, which generate important livelihood opportunities in fishing, farming and the post-harvest economic sector. However, uncontrolled economic development and a high dependence of the poor on natural resources for their livelihood have resulted in the degradation of habitats and resources and loss of biodiversity. As a result, the capacity of the ecosystems in several countries in the region to provide goods and services, such as adequate and safe food supply, clean air and water, protection from natural and human-made disasters, and livelihood opportunities have been negatively affected.

The challenge lies on how to stop or slow the rapid rate of overexploitation of resources, destruction of habitats that serve as spawning and nursery grounds, and degradation of the quality of the environment. Many countries have initiated efforts to address food security and livelihood management issues, such as those associated with fishing, farming, the post-harvest industries and ecotourism activities. Through the ICM framework, PEMSEA countries, in collaboration with relevant international and regional organizations, are in the process of developing strategic action programmes for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture by combating illegal fishing, reducing the number of fisherfolk and the overcapitalization of fishing fleets, maintaining fishing within the maximum sustainable yield level, and implementing the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

The ICM framework and processes provide an appropriate overall governance framework for the management of fisheries and aquaculture. Fisheries and aquaculture management can benefit from the overall governance framework that can address externalities. Fisheries and aquaculture management has been incorporated into the strategic action plans in several ICM sites including Bali, Bataan, Batangas, Cavite, Chonburi, Danang, Sukabumi, Xiamen and the Manila Bay and Bohai Sea.

A number of other strategies and activities have been facilitated to enhance food security and manage livelihoods, including reduction in illegal fishing practices through strengthened monitoring and regulatory bodies; empowering communities by providing greater control in managing and protecting their resources; and technical assistance to promote more efficient fishery and aquaculture production methods.

Securing the Future through Livelihood Opportunities

In Bataan, the provision of microfinancing has helped fishers supplement their livelihood and improve their income. Fishers from nine fisherfolk associations (FAs) received financial assistance in the form of soft loans as start-up capital to establish mussel culture areas in November 2002. As early as the end of 2003, all partner FAs reported a good harvest, enabling the fishers to partially pay the soft loans. Members also reported gaining as much as 30 percent more income from this new activity, enabling them to engage in entrepreneurial activities. Many of these farmers have now established their own mussel culture farms, instead of just providing labor to mussel culture operators. The Partner-FAs reinvested the capital to extend operation of mussel culture areas and integrate fish traps into the area. Bamboo structures serve as artificial reefs, enabling fish to be caught around the culture areas, further reducing fishing effort and fuel expenses since fishers do not have to go distant fishing. FAs engaging in their own mussel culture operations are able to compete with commercial mussel culture operators, thus, energizing the local economy for the benefit of fisherfolk.

A similar story detailing the use of revolving funds can be found in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where PEMSEA, in collaboration with the UNDP/GEF Small Grants Programme, established a revolving fund to provide initial start-up capital to fishing families, particularly women members, for funding supplementary livelihood. Here, 14 women's groups are able to access the revolving fund, with 142 individuals involved in the project, 102 of whom are women.