Addressing human capital development and gender issues in aquaculture sector

While the thematic review and presentation will address HCD and gender issues separately as each are large and important areas for aquaculture, the experts will also look at the intersection – gender issues in HCD - because it is an important area for both gender and HCD.

Aquaculture is the fastest growing agricultural sector in the world. How do we ensure that the benefits from aquaculture growth are pro-poor and gender equitable? HCD and gender issues are at the heart. FAO should therefore create gender and HCD positions to lead the global efforts. In so doing, FAO should look not only at production, but deliberately include the whole supply chain and its support services and address issues such as the implications of climate change and gendered impacts and responses, including the education and training functions when formulating its programme priorities. Professional bodies should follow the Asian Fisheries Society lead and host substantial sessions on gender and aquaculture within their conferences, publications and work programmes.

In science, some gender-disaggregated statistics are collected by the Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators programme ( Gender equity is a long way off. Gender awareness has yet to be translated into more visible actions that are well-informed by knowledge of the realities on the ground. For example, women’s participation in such activities as harvesting, marketing and pond record keeping may increase, but they are is still controlled by men. Women’s control over resources and decision making needs improvement. The more fisheries professionals are aware of power issues, the more their research and interventions can address them. The last decade has seen more women in professional positions, training programmes and networks, but most small-scale studies have also indicated that women’s training generally lags behind that of men, partly from low targeting of women for aquaculture technology transfer (extension and adoption). For their part, women may be reluctant to attend the training programmes due to heavy responsibilities at home, but this and other constraints need to be better understood. In the recovery efforts after major natural disasters and calamities, more attention has been given to human capital development (HCD) and gender, such as in dealing with HIV/AIDS and in the reconstruction after the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Akin to farming and fishing, aquaculture is usually assumed to be largely the domain of men. Minimal progress has been made in addressing gender issues in aquaculture, even though some researchers, activists and development agencies are recognising and raising the profile of the issues. Yet, women’s participation in fish farming has increased, raising the question as to whether women are receiving training, access to credit, investment capital and adequate trade and business opportunities. However, despite increased participation and some outstanding examples of women entrepreneurs in some businesses, many women still receive low economic returns from aquaculture and experience poor working and social conditions in the industrial aquaculture sector (post-harvest and processing). In higher education, the time series of statistics commencing in the 1970s shows that women are making up a greater number of students in some of the key aquaculture programmes, but employers in the sector often don’t want to put women in the field for safety reasons, thus impeding their career paths and losing potential talent. Some progress has been made in raising awareness of women’s and children’s roles in aquaculture and in developing good practice guides, (e.g. 3 AFS Symposia on Women/Gender and Fisheries; EU (2005) Gender, Fisheries and Aquaculture: Social Capital and Knowledge for the Transition towards Sustainable Use of Aquatic Ecosystems; FAO (2007) Gender Policies for Sustainable Fisheries and other efforts by the FAO Sustainable Fisheries Livelihoods Programs of west and central Africa and WB-FAO-IFAD (2009) Gender Sourcebook in Agriculture that covered fisheries and aquaculture). Much of this work has been developed to also cover fisheries, and indeed gender issues tend to have received greater focus in fisheries than in aquaculture, although even the fisheries treatment has been slight. Only a little progress has been achieved in gathering gender-disaggregated national statistics and information at other levels, and in developing gender-based norms for the sector. Unlike in the water, household energy and to some extent agriculture sectors, the aquaculture and fisheries sectors have not developed manuals or guides to collecting gender-disaggregated information.

In 2004, the FAO Advisory Committee on Fisheries Research oversaw the development of the FAO Human Capital Development Strategic Framework, but little follow-up occurred internationally. However, in most countries and regions, targeted aquaculture training activity and education courses increased and intergovernmental and professional networking strengthened and matured (e.g. NACA, AFS, WAS, SEAFDEC, private sector etc). In Europe, aquaculture tertiary education institutions are becoming strongly integrated and reaching out to other regions, especially Asia. Education and its institutions need special attention, since they are the foundation for research and development and help to create the norms for professionals. Unless efforts are made to develop quality human resources, aquaculture developments that have taken place in Asia and elsewhere, largely because of the innovations made by the farmers, will not be sustainable, since there is a limit for farmer innovations. Investment in education to produce quality human resource can have profound impact on aquaculture.


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Global Conference on Aquaculture 2010

The conference was organised by FAO, the Thai Department of Fisheries and NACA and held in the Mövenpick Resort and Spa, Phuket, Thailand, 22-25 September. The conference was the third in a series of aquaculture development conferences, following on from the Conference on Aquaculture in the Third Millennium held in Bangkok 2000, and the FAO Technical Conference on Aquaculture, held in Kyoto 1976.