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Raymond Kwojori Ayilu Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia Sarah Appiah Department of Economics, University of Ghana, Accra

From 2014 to 2018, the Fish Trade Project (a joint project of the WorldFish Center, the African Union Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources, and the New Partnership for Africa's Development) implemented trade and market-driven initiatives to support small-scale fisheries in the subregion of the Fishery Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC). One initiative was the establishment of the FCWC Fish Traders and Processors Network (FCWC FishNET), a platform composed of small-scale traders and processors, with the objective of informing policy gaps and designing market-driven incentives to leverage the collective power of its members to facilitate regional trade. This case study reviews FCWC FishNET activities to reflect on the role of socio- economic trade networks in small-scale fisheries, in line with specific recommendations of Chapter 7 of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication. Secondary data supplemented by primary survey were used. The study emphasizes FCWC FishNET's activities in promoting quality smoked fish products, reducing post-harvest losses, and popularizing the FAO-Thiaroye processing technique to eliminate the health threats posed by the Chorkor kiln. Also discussed is the use of Fisheries Learning Exchanges to promote better fish handling, processing and packaging techniques as a means of adding value and diversifying trading channels for fish products. The study finds that FCWC FishNET has engendered greater trust among network members, allowing traders to conduct business with each other on a credit basis and improving the overall communication and business experience. Similarly, it has facilitated initiatives to reduce post-harvest losses by improving processing and trading facilities. Finally, the case study emphasizes the compelling role of trade networking in small-scale fisheries discourse while providing lessons to practitioners and policymakers in fisheries.

Keywords: Fish trade, market access, trade networking, small-scale fisheries, FCWC subregion.

The Fishery Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC)1 subregion stretches from Liberia to Nigeria with a total coastline of 2 633 km^2^ and an exclusive economic zone of 923 916 km^2^ (Figure 4.1). In the majority of coastal communities in the subregion, fishery activities are mostly small-scale. Low-value pelagic species are harvested mainly using canoes. Fish products constitute an important food commodity, and are marketed and distributed widely across the FCWC subregion. The fishery sector employs over 3 million people both directly and indirectly in West Africa (WARFP, 2017); the annual catch is estimated at around USD 3.5 billion (Belhabib, Sumaila and Pauly, 2015), with 6.7 million people deriving their livelihood from the sector. The percentage of fish as part of the total animal protein intake and the average annual fish consumption in FCWC member countries range between 40--60 percent and 18--20 kg, respectively (FAO, 2016). The small-scale fishing activity is dominated by men, while processing, marketing and trading activities are mostly controlled by women. Despite the predominant role of small-scale fisheries in the FCWC subregion, the sector is currently experiencing overexploitation and a decline in fish stocks, exposing coastal communities to livelihood vulnerabilities.


Trade routes for small-scale fisheries remain informal and intertwined within the FCWC subregion. There are currently two main types of fish marketing channels for small-scale fisheries: domestic and intraregional markets. The domestic markets cater to local demand and supply needs while the intraregional markets attract fish traders and processors from neighbouring countries. Fish products from Ghana are informally exported and imported to neighbouring Benin, Côte D'Ivoire, Nigeria and Togo. Estimates by Ayilu et al. (2016) for selected markets (Tuesday, Denu and Dambai) in Ghana revealed that about 6 000 tonnes of fish products worth USD 18.6 million are exported annually through informal routes to Togo and Benin. In addition, countries in the FCWC subregion import significant quantities of fish products from Senegal, again through informal routes. Formal small-scale fisheries trade,2 on the other hand, is not predominant in the subregion; very few fish caught by small-scale fisheries are exported. Conversely, FCWC countries annually export significant tonnage of fishery products via formal channels to Europe, the United States of America, and Asia. These exports are mostly derived from industrial fisheries and include species such as frozen tuna, canned tuna (tuna flakes, tuna chunks and tuna mash), dried or smoked fish, and other assorted demersal fish such as cuttlefish, crab and lobster, along with other small pelagics. In Ghana, for instance, a total of 57 000 tonnes (USD 210 million) was exported in 2013 (Failler, Beyens and Asiedu, 2014).


Boosting intraregional commodity trade has become important on the African regional integration agenda. Among other things, these efforts seek to address issues of poor product quality and to improve trade-related infrastructure on the continent. In this regard, the Africa Union (AU), Regional Economic Communities and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) have prioritized efforts to strengthen regional trade. Among the key commodities identified for investment and policy support are fish and fishery products. Therefore the Fish Trade Project (FTP) was created to support trade and market-driven initiatives in small-scale fisheries. The FTP was designed by the WorldFish Center, the AU Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and NEPAD, and funded by the European Union. The project ran from 2014 to 2018, working in four different trade corridors in Africa: Western, Southern, Eastern and Central (Figure 4.2). The FTP's central aim was to improve nutrition and reduce poverty in sub-Saharan Africa by (i) gathering information on the structure, products and value of intraregional fish trade concerning food security in sub-Saharan Africa and making it available to stakeholders; (ii) coming up with a set of recommendations on policies, certification procedures, standards and regulations, and embedding them in national and regional fisheries, as well as agricultural, trade and food security policy frameworks; (iii) enhancing trade capacity among private sector associations, in particular that of women fish processors and traders and aquaculture producers, to make better use of expanding trade opportunities through competitive small and medium enterprises; and (iv) facilitating adoption and implementation of appropriate policies, certification procedures, standards and regulations in Africa by key stakeholders participating in intraregional trade. Importantly, the FTP aligned with broader international small-scale fishery policy objectives. First, at the global level, the FTP contributed to implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines) (FAO, 2015) through better integration of small- scale fisheries trade into national food security strategies and agendas. Second, at the continental level, it contributed to the AU Policy Framework and Reform Strategy for Fisheries and Aquaculture in Africa (PFRS), which seeks to promote responsible and equitable fish trade and marketing by significantly harnessing the benefits of Africa's fisheries and aquaculture endowments.

The challenges confronting domestic and cross-border trade in small-scale fisheries in the FCWC subregion are varied (UNCTAD, 2017; ICSF, 2002). These include inappropriate market infrastructure, poor quality and short shelf life of processed fish products, unfavourable and restrictive border regulations and standards, and lack of credit support due to the informal nature of small-scale fisheries (Ayilu et al., 2016). Fish markets and trade systems do function, albeit under difficult circumstances; most markets are unhygienic, lack proper infrastructure, and offer little to no vending space or storage systems. Similarly, processing sites lack basic facilities like running water, electricity, ice, and storage or refrigeration facilities. Moreover, small-scale fishery workers have insufficient knowledge of proper fish handling, preservation, processing and packaging. At the policy level, lack of harmonious trade policies and regulations among countries results in complex cross-border trade processes, with harassment at check-points and product confiscations. Finally, formal funding is challenging to secure, as small-scale fisheries do not meet the required repayment conditions.

To tackle these challenges, the FTP established the FCWC Fish Traders and Processors Network (FCWC FishNET), a platform composed of small-scale traders and processors. Its objective is to a) help inform policy gaps and design market-driven incentives, and b) leverage the collective power of its members to facilitate regional trade. This case study offers insights on the role socio-economic and trade networking can play in advancing value chain initiatives in small-scale fisheries.

FCWC FishNET activities align closely with the provisions made in Chapter 7 of the SSF Guidelines, in particular paragraphs 7.3, 7.6 and 7.10. In relation to 7.3, this study highlights the activities of FCWC FishNET in promoting quality smoked fish products, reducing post-harvest losses, and reducing the health threats posed to fish processors by advocating for the FAO-Thiaroye processing technique (FTT) over the Chorkor kiln. These align with paragraph 7.3 of the SSF Guidelines to support the small-scale fisheries post-harvest subsector in producing good quality, safe fish and fishery products, for both export and domestic markets. The study also discusses the use of Fisheries Learning Exchanges (FLEs) in promoting better fish handling, processing and packaging techniques as a means of adding value and diversifying trading channels for fish products. In addition to FLEs, its presence as a community platform has helped FCWC FishNET generate trust, allowing traders to conduct cross-border business with each other on a credit basis, thus improving the communication and business experience. This echoes recommendation 7.10, which advocates for enabling small- scale fisheries to adjust to changing conditions and trends in global and local markets. Finally, in relation to paragraph 7.6, FCWC FishNET supports regional efforts to harmonize and facilitate easier cross-border trade, making markets more accessible.

The remainder of the study is organized as follows. We first present the methods, highlighting the data gathering processes. Next we present the results, with discussion and analysis. This entails an overview of FCWC FishNET, followed by the initiatives embarked upon to enhance trade in small-scale fisheries. Finally, we wrap up the study with a conclusion highlighting good practices revealed during the case study.

The case study drew information and data mainly from secondary sources, supplemented by a primary survey in the course of the study.

The preliminary stages involved a review of FTP activities conducted in the FCWC subregion (Chimatiro, 2018; Abbey et al., 2018; FCWC, 2018; Ayilu et al., 2016; Chimatiro, Banda and Tall, 2015). These reports provided a pool of information and data on the FTP and insights on FCWC FishNET. The secondary review approach allowed for synthesizing the different reports while still guaranteeing a broader understanding of the central focus of the study.

Semi-structured questionnaires were presented to 20 processors and traders who deal in small-scale fisheries; these were selected from the Tuesday Market, a major cross-border fish market in Ghana. A focus group discussion with the Manhean Fish Processors and Traders hub (located in the city of Tema) comprising eight attendees was also conducted. Two consultants from the FTP implementation team in the region and the FCWC secretariat were selected specifically for interviews. This approach aided in illustrating the achievements and challenges of FCWC FishNET and the overarching lessons learned. The multiple interviews with different stakeholders broadened the understanding of the policy and institutional processes and the linkage to FCWC FishNET activities.

FCWC FishNET was formed as part of the FTP with the goal of enhancing economic opportunities through trade and market-centred initiatives. It aims to create a unified platform for small-scale fisheries, with members primarily comprised of traders and processors at the national and regional level. It was developed through cooperation between the FCWC and representatives from fish traders and processors associations. FCWC FishNET feeds into the African Union's efforts to mobilize various non-state fisheries actors to support the implementation of the SSF Guidelines and the PFRS. It aligns with the PFRS strategic small-scale fisheries objective to "improve and strengthen the contribution of small-scale fisheries to poverty alleviation, food and nutrition security and socio-economic benefits of fishing communities" (NEPAD, 2014, p. 17).

In the small-scale fishing communities of West Africa, Chorkor smoking kilns are popular among processors. However, these kilns produce a harmful concentration of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), some of which are carcinogenic and can lead to pulmonary, integumentary and ocular health complications (Stolyhwo and Sikorski, 2005). PAH are deposited as a residue on fish during smoking, thus lowering the quality of the fish and subsequently its value to European markets. Using this method to process fish takes an average of 12 hours a day. It is often one of the only forms of employment available to coastal women, and -- due to the health risks -- frequently forces processors into early retirement. A further disadvantage associated with Chorkor kilns is the inefficient combustion rate, leading to unsustainable levels of deforestation.

The precarious situation faced by traders and processors relying on Chorkor kilns has led FCWC FishNET to support the development and adoption of the FAO-Thiaroye processing technique (FTT) in the FCWC subregion. The FTT kiln is an improved fish smoking technology pioneered by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) over the past decade. Initially intended for medium-size enterprises, since 2014 it has also been promoted for small-scale processors. The advantages of the FTT kiln include more efficient combustion, leading to a reduction in deforestation; improved working conditions for the processors, meaning reduced health risks and time spent operating the kilns; and an improved product with an improved taste (Table 4.1).

TABLE 4.1 Comparative analysis of different fish smoking systems

Type of systemTECHNICAL CRITERIAMetal drumChorkorFTTType of constructionRudimentaryImprovedBased on existing kiln models while addressing their shortcomingsSmoking timeUp to 3 days1 day3–6 hoursFire and smoke controlVery limitedLimitedVery highSmoking techniqueSimultaneous smoking and dryingSeparate smoking and dryingSeparate smoking and dryingFish fat collection deviceNoneNoneIncludedSmoke filtering deviceNoneNoneIncludedECONOMIC CRITERIACost of kiln (USD)263451 600Smoking capacity (kg of fish per day)150–200200–3003 000Amount of wood used (kg) per 1 kg of fish3–5> 0.80.8Lifespan2 years3–15 years> 15 yearsEarningsAverageAverageHighAncillary jobsLimitedMediumVery highSOCIAL CRITERIAExposure to heat/smokeFrequentFrequentVery lowSafety and quality of smoked fishLesser qualityLesser qualitySafer and higher quality

Source: Mindjimba, 2019.

After first piloting the FTT in Abidjan, Côte D'Ivoire, FAO began working with FCWC FishNET and other socio-economic networks to popularize the kiln throughout the FCWC subregion. FAO has supported the introduction of the FTT kiln, which costs between USD 800 and USD 1 600. The high cost of the FTT kiln is a major concern for traders and processors (Mindjimba, 2019). Moreover, some consumers still indicate a preference for fish smoked by the Chorkor kiln, in spite of the health risks associated with it. Forecasts project that this market force will change as demand for FTT-smoked fish increases among Africa's burgeoning middle classes.

In order to catalyse this process, FCWC FishNET is using its leverage as a platform to encourage small-scale fishing communities to adopt the FTT as their preferred smoking method. The advocacy channels for popularizing FTT include training of "change agents", peer-to-peer learning, and practical field demonstrations. The role of a change agent is to encourage people to recognize and take an interest in solving local problems, and to guide them if necessary, so that ultimately a sustainable plan of action is achieved (FAO, 2011). In the context of the FTT kiln, change agents train selected fish traders and processors who act as ambassadors for the new technique. These ambassadors, in turn, train other traders and processors in small-scale fishing communities. These training sessions compare the Chorkor kiln with the FTT kiln on issues of fuel efficiency, health, and opportunities in domestic and export markets. To date, at least 45 individuals in Ghana have benefited from this training, including youth from coastal communities. The peer-to-peer learning and practical field demonstrations are an effective strategy for FTT dissemination. For instance, with support from the FCWC, five traders and processors from Liberia were trained in Ghana on the construction, usage and maintenance of the FTT kiln. This learning trajectory is improving the quality of smoked fish products, and is expected to support efforts to harmonize fish smoking standards, improve trade and add value to the smoked fish value chain.

There are already indications that the FTT is establishing itself within the market. Due to the improved quality it offers, smoked fish products are being marketed in major supermarkets and commercial outlets in Abidjan and Accra. Overall, there is no doubt that the advocacy and popularization orchestrated by FCWC FishNET has and will continue to reduce post-harvest losses and create additional value through good quality smoked fish products for both export and domestic markets.

FAO (2019) estimates that the annual discards from global marine capture fisheries between 2010 and 2014 were 9.1 million tonnes. These discards are often a result of poor post-harvest storage, handling and processing practices. These practices can be improved with the help of Fisheries Learning Exchanges (FLEs), which bring together representatives from different communities to share knowledge and expertise in fisheries management, encompassing subjects like handling techniques (Rocliffe, 2018).

FLEs help enhance the capacity of fish traders and processors by sharing good practices within the FCWC. To date, FCWC FishNET members have been involved in the organization of FLEs on smoking techniques, hygiene, and processing, packaging and trading techniques. These FLEs have included field visits, on-site demonstrations, one-to-one dialogue and workshops.

Particular instances include an FLE on improved fish handling, processing and packaging at the King Mohammed IV Fish Landing and Processing Centre in Abidjan for FCWC traders and processors. Another FLE, hosted at the Felix Houphouet- Boigny University, focused on different forms of packaging available to small-scale fisheries. The key topic was the contamination associated with plastic and cement papers, especially when compared to traditional and green packaging such as atieke3 leaves and weaved baskets. As an extension of the Felix Houphouet-Boigny University FLE, FCWC FishNET organized further discussions orientated around new and emerging value chains in West Africa and how small and medium enterprises can access them. The discussions included value chains supplying the growing hospitality industry and the expatriate community in West Africa.

FLEs are proving to be a highly effective channel through which to communicate relevant market and trade information and share good post-harvest practices relating to processing, hygiene and packaging, thus fulfilling the criteria outlined under paragraph 7.10 of the SSF Guidelines.

Access to credit and cost of transportation constitute major constraints for small-scale fisheries in the region. Access to credit in particular is more limiting and bureaucratic for small-scale fishery traders and processors. Consequently, they either avoid completely or are refused access to formal credit options. Reasons for this include the inability of traders and processors to offer collateral, inappropriate and poor bookkeeping practices, and/or they are unable to navigate the complexities and bureaucratic procedures associated with assessing formal credit. Previous negative experiences with Ponzi4 schemes have further discouraged fish traders and processors from dealing with financial institutions. More importantly, banks and credit institutions consider fish trading and processing as an informal activity, which is associated with high loan default. Therefore the interest rates offered to small-scale fisheries are higher than those offered to formal sectors, thus constricting their financial flexibility. Adding to this, the cost of transporting fish consignments has greatly hindered both domestic and cross-border trade activities in small-scale fisheries. According to Ayilu et al. (2016), the cost of transportation constitutes about a third of the total marketing costs for fish traders and processors in the FCWC.


Financial institutions have started exploring the option of providing small loans to traders through trade associations and networks, although this innovation is still nascent. A microfinance institution in Ghana is currently piloting this option using a small network of fish traders and processors in Tema. Village Savings and Loans Association mechanisms are also being piloted as a channel to support fish processors and traders. These associations bring together traders and processors to pool their savings for mutually agreed objectives, like expanding their businesses. In FCWC countries, non-contractual relations are an important feature of informal economic transactions. As a result, informal economic transactions and trade partnerships are dependent on social trust and historical knowledge. The prevailing social trust in the FCWC subregion owes its existence to the trade networks FCWC FishNET has fostered through national and subregional fora, trade activations and exhibitions. This trust allows fish merchants and retailers to deal with one another without immediate cash payments, usually on a credit basis. Retailers at various fish markets are able to obtain fish from merchants and wholesalers on credit and repay at a later date to qualify for new consignment and supply. Social trust guarantees that traders and processors with minimal capital can gradually expand their trading activities once they establish good relationships with their creditors. Because community relationships, kinship and trust are an integral part of trade in small-scale fisheries, these partnerships are very resilient. For instance, Ghanaian fish processors supply fish products on credit to their Togolese counterparts as a result of the history between them.

With regards to transport, fish traders and processors are leveraging their trade networks to reduce costs. For instance, using their established networks, Togolese fish importers in Ghana have obtained bulk cargo trucks for their fish consignments. Bulk transport has several advantages: it allows the importers to negotiate reduced transport rates, and it helps ensure consignments arrive with less damage and fewer defects. In addition, border inspection post formalities are simplified by bulk inspections of the fish consignments, thus expediting the timely and safe delivery of fish products. Moreover, traders note these partnerships allow them to rely on agents to order specific fish consignments from wholesalers and merchants, eliminating the need for the traders to travel themselves. All these strategies minimize transportation costs and promote trade in small-scale fisheries. Consequently, fish traders are able to increase the volume of fish imported, thus ensuring an abundant fish supply for rural communities at cheaper prices, while also playing a crucial role in improving income and livelihood security and facilitating fish trade in domestic and regional markets.

The development of these trade partnerships and linkages through networking has proven robust in the face of credit and transport constraints. These actions contribute towards improving access to markets and facilitating cross-border trade, as recommended in paragraph 7.6 of the SSF Guidelines.

The growth in urban markets and consumption of fish has provided an incentive for fish trade in West Africa. However, information bottlenecks remain a barrier to the smooth operations of small-scale fish enterprises and other food commodities such as grains, tubers and livestock. Access to technology and information enable fish traders to respond appropriately to price, demand and supply dynamics as well as other market conditions (Ayilu et al., 2016). To some extent, trade networking has facilitated the flow of price and market information among small-scale fisheries in the region, in particular through improved business-to-business and business-to-customer interactions in fish markets. So-called "market queens" (group leaders) from various markets share information on price changes and on demand and supply volatilities via WhatsApp, SMS and Direct calling. Fish traders and processors then use this information to avoid "empty trips" -- i.e. undertaking a market trip only to be met with product shortages. The price change information also allows fish traders and processors to communicate any catch volatility to sponsored fishers onshore so they can prepare the necessary logistics to avoid losses. Furthermore, the market queens achieve a certain "cooperative power", allowing them to influence prices as well as manage supply volumes in the fish market. FCWC FishNET members are also working with the Intergovernmental Organization for Marketing Information and Cooperation Services for Fishery Products in Africa (Infopeche)^6^ to test whether monitoring prices through an online platform could improve their trade activities. In this regard, market queens in selected markets have been trained in reporting weekly fish price information.

Facilitating the flow of price and market information can have effects on cross-border trade as well. Indeed, it is observed that fish traders involved in trade networking activities are more likely to participate in cross-border fish trade, due to the first-hand information on cross-border market dynamics offered by their colleagues, especially concerning price fluctuations and exchange rate volatilities.

The abovementioned activities align with recommendation 7.10 of the SSF Guidelines, whereby small-scale fisheries should be able to access timely and accurate market information to help them adjust to changing market conditions.

According to Ayilu et al. (2016, p. 13), "Many West African countries have adopted the WTO agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, which sets out the basic rules for food safety, animal and plant health standards". As it concerns fish and fishery products, this requires infrastructure improvements on board vessels, at landing and processing sites, and in trading establishments, as many fish traders and processors are currently unable to meet these standards. Major challenges include poor hygienic conditions at processing centres and inappropriate handling and packaging of fish. Post-harvest fish handling and packaging systems are necessary to ensure fish quality and guarantee a longer storage period for fish products.

To address these limitations, FCWC FishNET has refurbished a cross-border fish trading and processing centre (the Manhean Fish Processors and Traders hub) in Tema (Ghana), working through the FTP and with support from WorldFish. The processing hub attracts fish traders and processors from neighbouring countries, and distributes a substantial quantity of processed small-scale fisheries products to fish markets in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Togo. The FCWC FishNET refurbishment included the addition of a water supply system and washroom facilities. Traders and processors report that the upgraded facility can now guarantee clean and safe processed fish products for trade. The improvements also make it easier for them to work longer and more efficiently during bumper harvests. During these bumper periods, extra working hours are required to process higher volumes of fish from various landing sites along the coast. The new amenities offered at the centre spare traders and processors the need for commuting to alternative locations to bathe, use toilet facilities, and change working apparel and baby nappies. Anecdotally, the traders further argue that the high volumes of post-harvest losses usually associated with bumper harvests have been significantly reduced at the processing facility. This has increased the volume of processed fish available for both the domestic and regional markets.

It is important to emphasize that enhancing the activities of fish traders and processors through improved market-related infrastructure in fishing communities supports the small-scale fisheries post-harvest subsector in producing good quality, safe fish and fishery products, for both export and domestic markets, in a responsible and sustainable manner. These initiatives tie directly into recommendation 7.3 of the SSF Guidelines by contributing towards improving income and food security through reduction in post- harvest losses and waste and improvements in fish quality and nutrition.

Policymakers at different levels of fisheries governance require succinct research evidence and data to properly manage post-harvest fisheries and make informed decisions concerning trading, processing and marketing of fishery products. However, research in small-scale fisheries in West Africa is inadequate due to lack of data. Official data do not exist, and collecting primary data remains daunting due to a lack of cooperation from small-scale fisheries actors, who are mostly informal. Fish traders and processors are reluctant to divulge information on their trade because they view researchers as a means of government tax collection. A solution was found to have FTP researchers use the FCWC FishNET trade networks to collect comprehensive data on different dimensions of small-scale fisheries from member countries. This underscores the importance of FCWC FishNET as a channel for determining relevant qualitative and quantitative data; indeed, FCWC FishNET members were the primary actors validating the FTP research findings and outcomes.

These research findings and evidence formed the basis for the policy dialogue of the Ninth Conference of Fisheries Ministers of the FCWC secretariat. As a result of this dialogue, the FCWC secretariat then declared 2018 the year for promoting trade in small-scale fisheries at local, national and regional markets. In recognition of the important role of trade in small-scale fisheries as well as the challenges and constraints involved, the Conference further recommended policies to assist and facilitate fish trade among FCWC member countries. This policy direction constituted a major shift in small-scale fisheries governance and strategy. Moreover, the concept of one-stop border posts also began to be explored in the FCWC jurisdiction to simplify cross- border trade. As part of these efforts, a fish trade caravan was led by WorldFish from Dakar, Senegal to Bamako, Mali, with selected traders interacting with small-scale fisheries actors to ascertain firsthand the constraints to cross-border trade.

This study has offered insights on the role of trade networking in enhancing trade in small-scale fisheries, showcasing the activities conducted by FCWC FishNET as a prime example. The study explored trade and market-centred activities which are connected to specific recommendations of Chapter 7 of the SSF Guidelines. This includes popularizing the FTT kiln within small-scale fishing communities, developing Fisheries Learning Exchanges, and stimulating trade partnerships and supporting simplified cross-border trade measures.

Governments and stakeholders in developing countries need to recognize the economic, social and cultural importance of fish processing and trading to small-scale fisheries. Bearing this in mind, we highlight below several good practices from this case study for governments and development partners to pursue.

  1. Knowledge sharing has facilitated the adoption of new innovations in small- scale fisheries such as the FTT kiln. Continuous promotion of the FTT along with infrastructure upgrades (e.g. basic sanitary and water supply systems) at processing and trading centres would significantly contribute to trade in small-scale fisheries through reduction in post-harvest losses and waste and through improved fish safety and quality. To effectively deploy the FTT innovation in the FCWC subregion, construction subsidies to assist small-scale fisheries are highly recommended. Dwindling marine fisheries stocks coupled with post-harvest losses are threatening available fish for human consumption. This phenomena raises food security and livelihood vulnerability concerns for small-scale fisheries. Therefore, it is recommended that government and non-government players provide the necessary technical and financial support to effectively promote FTT usage and enable investments in appropriate infrastructure upgrades for small-scale fisheries. These initiatives tie into paragraph 7.3 of the SSF Guidelines which supports measures to improve good quality, safe fish and fishery products, for both export and domestic markets. Also, government change agents should educate fish processors and traders on proper fish processing and handling techniques to ensure their products maintain good quality when they reach their markets.

  2. FLEs foster cooperation and trust and provide a common platform for trade partnerships and linkages in small-scale fisheries value chains. FLE activities are effective for exchanging relevant knowledge on market-driven innovations such as new processing, handling and packaging techniques. However, the activities of small-scale fisheries processors and traders are constrained by access to capital for expanding their businesses. Formal credit channels are cumbersome, and not tailored to their requirements. Thus trade networking is vital for facilitating effective and stronger trade partnerships. Through trade networking platforms, traders and processors are able to leverage their kinship networks to make informal credit arrangements based on mutual "social" trust. Advocacy for FLEs and stronger trade networks and partnership initiatives will enable access to all relevant market and trade information for the small-scale fisheries value chain, allowing traders and processors to benefit from fisheries market opportunities while minimizing potential livelihood impacts.

  3. FCWC FishNET has played a critical role in gathering data, despite the lack of trust, on the part of small-scale fisheries communities and actors, displayed towards researchers. Fisheries trade networking groups like FCWC FishNET form an important node for gathering relevant, quality data and information on small-scale fishworkers value chains. This approach encourages active participation of small-scale fishworkers in data collection, in identifying gaps and in policy dialogue. Integration of fisheries trading networks into data collection and validation processes facilitates robust research outcomes. This is particularly important in developing country contexts where small-scale fisheries are mostly informal and diverse. The FCWC FishNET experience shows the importance of enhanced cross-sectoral relations and improved communication between fishers, researchers and policymakers. Therefore, states and development partners should recognize the importance of trade networks and cooperatives and promote their organizational and capacity development in all stages of the value chain.

In conclusion, small-scale fisheries governance requires holistic and integrated consideration of the post-harvest value chain to identify the diverse challenges and requirements involved. To some extent, promoting the concept of trade networking and cooperatives is an innovative and effective way of ensuring inclusiveness in small-scale fisheries in developing countries. Although local-, national- and subregional-level trade networking or cooperatives constitute an economic burden and require a considerable length of time to evolve and thrive, the concept remains essential in enabling access to relevant marketing and trading information on small-scale fisheries. It is therefore recommended that national and subregional fisheries bodies with a mandate for fisheries development and cooperation spearhead the formation of small-scale fisheries trade networks and cooperatives to guarantee their success and sustainability.

We acknowledge the WorldFish Centre, AU-IBAR and the FCWC for their contribution towards improving small-scale fisheries in West Africa. Many thanks to the women fish processors and traders at the Tema Manhean Fish Processors and Traders Association and Tuesday Market in Accra for their numerous assistance during the survey. Lastly, we are grateful to the FAO for providing the funding for this study.

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Source: Zelasney, J., Ford, A., Westlund, L., Ward, A. and Riego Peñarubia, O. eds. 2020. Securing sustainable small-scale fisheries: Showcasing applied practices in value chains, post-harvest operations and trade. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 652. Rome, FAO.

  1. The FCWC is an intergovernmental fishery body that comprises six countries of the Gulf of Guinea: Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo. 

  2. Formal trade in this study refers to fish trading activities that are captured in official national statistics and are mostly taxable. Formal traders mainly use recognized border entry points and declare their products appropriately. Informal trade activities, on the other hand, are mostly not included in official statistics and are thus not subject to being taxed. Informal traders mainly use channels that are not recognized border entry points. 

  3. The Atieke plant is found in West Africa. 

  4. A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent financial scheme which presents itself as a credible financial institution at the initial stages of operation and later defrauds customers of their investments. 

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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