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Maria Pena Janice Cumberbatch Patrick McConney Neetha Selliah Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), Barbados

Bertha Simmons Independent consultant

Women are prominent in the post-harvest segment of the flyingfish value chain in Barbados, but this is not reflected in their participation in fisherfolk organizations. The Central Fish Processors Association (CFPA) offers a unique example of an organization that currently comprises only women and has been woman-led from its inception. Unable to individually voice their concerns about working spaces at the fish market, the women formed the only fisheries post-harvest association in Barbados. This case study analyses the process of formation of the CFPA, its development and the benefits it has provided to its members in terms of their livelihoods and domestic lives, as well as to the flyingfish fishery more generally. Although challenges persist, it illustrates existing and emerging good practices consistent with the principles of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication.

Keywords: Collective action, fisherfolk organization, value chain, post-harvest, flyingfish, SSF Guidelines.

The implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines) with support from FAO has resulted in increasing global and local attention being given to fisherfolk organizations: in particular, their strengthening and governance, as well as women's participation as both members and leaders (see for example Alonso-Población and Siar, 2018; Frangoudes, Pascual-Fernández and Marguán-Pintos, 2014; McConney, 2007; McConney et al., 2017a). Women in small-scale fisheries organizations can play a critical and useful role in bringing new perspectives to fisheries value chains (Frangoudes, 2013). In this context, the collective action of women actively engaged in the post-harvest sector in the Barbados flyingfish fishery may facilitate and support the implementation of the SSF Guidelines provisions on value chains and gender equality. To illustrate this, this case study examines how women are leading by example through their daily actions and operations in fish processing along the fisheries value chain (e.g. product standards and quality, capacity building, professionalization of the industry). They have gained respect and recognition by functioning as a group, and via promotion and reinforcement of their peers, with lessons that are applicable globally.

Collective action is primarily about enhancing cohesion and cooperation on important issues, building or restoring a sense of relevance or significance among marginalized groups, getting "a seat at the table" to develop pragmatic solutions, seeking greater accountability and transparency, and managing conflict. Collective action has been employed in fisheries globally to defend shared interests, deal with threats to fisheries management, secure rights and benefits for the industry, or to enable fisherfolk to catch or sell fish (McConney, 2007; Jentoft and Chuenpagdee, 2009; FAO, 2016; Alonso-Población and Siar, 2018). This case study examines the Central Fish Processors Association (CFPA), a women's fisherfolk organization operating in the post-harvest sector of the Barbados flyingfish fishery. The organization's collective action approach aims to improve fishery product quality as well as women's livelihoods and well-being in the industry. This is relevant to the concepts of responsible fisheries and sustainable development, and to the SSF Guidelines, particularly Chapter 7 on value chains, post-harvest and trade (paragraphs 7.1--7.4). The CFPA's actions can also be examined in relation to five guiding principles of the SSF Guidelines: respect of cultures, gender equality and equity, consultation and participation, transparency, and accountability (FAO, 2015a).

Barbados is the most eastern Caribbean island (Figure 1.1), with an exclusive economic zone nearly 400 times larger than its 430 km^2^ land area. The four-winged flyingfish (Hirundichthys affinis) is a small pelagic species, often fished 5--150 kilometres from shore in the open sea. The Barbados fishery targets the shared eastern Caribbean stock of flyingfish.

Flyingfish is of significant commercial value to Barbados (Barbados Fisheries Division, 2004; Willoughby, 2007), comprising nearly two-thirds of annual landings by volume in most years (Mahon et al., 2007). A 2007 value chain analysis found the fishery had an estimated ex-vessel value of USD 1.8 million and an estimated overall value of USD 18.7 million (Mahon et al., 2007). It is used primarily for domestic consumption by local residents and tourists, and constitutes less than 1 percent of the annual gross domestic product. As for most migratory pelagics, the fishery is seasonal, with the main fishing season from November to June. Later starts to the season (for a shorter season) and reduced harvests are now becoming the norm due to a range of social and ecological reasons. For example, risk-averse or poor fishers are less likely to borrow money or invest their own in early harvesting of flyingfish after a poor season until the fish are clearly abundant. Poor weather conditions stemming from the annual hurricane season, which extends to November, coupled with Sargassum influxes, which negatively affect flyingfish abundance and availability (Ramlogan et al., 2017; Oxenford et al., 2019), also affect the duration and starting date of the season. Despite reduced landings, the flyingfish fishery remains the main contributor to the island's fish catch (FAO, 2016,

It is estimated that more than 2 000 fishers (almost all men) and 500 small-scale fish processors (men and women who use several helpers) or fish vendors (mainly women who work mostly alone) are seasonally employed in the fishery. Additionally, more than 200 women and some men find work as fish scalers and de-boners at government fish markets, while a further 125 (mostly women) work seasonally at private sector fish processing plants. Some women, and many men, are found in support services such as boat-building, ice and fuel supply, gear sales, and engine and hull repair (Barbados Fisheries Division, 2004; FAO, 2016; Pena et al., 2019; Figure 1.2). Overall, around 6 000 people -- 2 000 directly and perhaps over 4 000 indirectly -- make a seasonal living from the flyingfish fishery depending on fish abundance (Barbados Fisheries Division, 2004; FAO, 2016). Since flyingfish are available for harvest for only seven to nine months of the year, fishers and processors have to make full use of their time and effort to reap maximum economic benefits from the fishery. In abundant years, small-scale processors store flyingfish for sale in the off-season.



Flyingfish are normally harvested primarily by dayboats or launches1 and iceboats2 (Figure 1.3), but may also be taken by longliners that target tuna. The fish are caught with surface handlines and dipnets after being lured to boats with bait baskets and tethered temporary fish-attracting devices (Barbados Fisheries Division, 2004; Willoughby, 2007). Small-scale processors, like the women in the CFPA, may scale and de-bone around 500 flyingfish in a 10-hour period per day during the busy season (Figure 1.3). Filleted flyingfish are packaged in plastic bags in sets of ten (Figure 1.3), which sell for USD 7.50--12.50 depending on season and abundance. Flyingfish are typically sold by count (number) and not weight, as unit weight is fairly uniform.


Apart from direct employment and job creation in the fisheries sector, the flyingfish fishery makes a considerable socio-economic impact on fishing industry support services and tourism, the country's primary foreign exchange earner (Sobers, 2010). Hence, with the new phenomenon of Sargassum influxes and the resulting decreases in fish catch, persons throughout the flyingfish value chain are growing increasingly concerned for their livelihoods (Ramlogan et al., 2017; Oxenford et al., 2019).

This case study builds on participatory action research conducted with the CFPA by the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) Gender in Fisheries Team (GIFT) at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus, Barbados. The case comprises a secondary data review, CFPA document analysis, group interviews and interactive workshops conducted with CFPA members between 2017 and 2019. Research began with a livelihood analysis and investigation into women's collective action in 2017 and 2018 (Pena et al., 2018). In 2019, the authors and other GIFT members organized the first Women in Fisheries forum in Barbados (Pena et al., 2019). The event was linked to this case study on gender in local fisheries value chains and the CFPA. Table 1.1 outlines the participatory research. Document analysis reviewed CFPA hardcopy files, primarily meeting agendas, meeting minutes (notes), correspondence, etc. The research is the first of its kind on organized women in the Barbados flyingfish fishery. Convenience samples of the CFPA membership were used based on the availability of women within their work schedule to participate in arranged events. The following discussion is based on these findings. Further investigation with more in-depth gender and value chain analysis is planned for another phase.

TABLE 1.1 Participatory research conducted with CFPA members

Gender-focused institutional analysisObjective(s)MethodsSample sizeLivelihood analysisSept, Oct 2017August 2018Understand the diverse ways women in the CFPA make a livingUnderstand the livelihood and financial issues they faceDetermine what the opportunities and challenges are for improving their situationBuild capacity and skills for enhancing domestic and work life through the CFPASeasonal calendarDaily time-use analysis (annual main and off seasons)Short survey questionnaire12Women’s organizationSeptember 2018Understand and document the benefits to women fromparticipation in the organization, and the challenges they faceKey informant questionsGroup semi-structured interview6Value chain analysisMarch 2019Understand the differences between women’s and men’s work and how this applies to Barbados fisheriesDetermine fixes to remedy the differences in fisheries occupations that disadvantage men and womenSemi-structured and informal individual interviewsVisualization of the fisheries value chain with card-sorting of livelihoods and dot-voting for gender analysis and prioritization8

* Subsets of the larger livelihood analysis sample.

In this section we compare the characteristics and operation of the CFPA against Chapter 7 of the SSF Guidelines (paragraphs 7.4 to 7.1, in reverse order) to highlight how the association's collective action supports their implementation. In each subsection, the good practices are highlighted as well.

Established in 2005, the CFPA is the only fisheries post-harvest association in Barbados focused primarily on processing flyingfish, which typically comprises over 50 percent of total annual fish landings. Post-harvest processing is typically women's work, although men's involvement has recently increased.3

The CFPA began with 20 members, mostly women, and has always had women leaders. Today the association has 26 members -- all women, as no men have expressed sustained interest to join (Pena et al., 2018), despite membership being "open to any fisherfolk residing in the area of operation without restriction to race, sex or religion" (CFPA, 2005, p. 2).

Despite not being a formal organization4 (established under law), participation is high, especially in times of crisis. Both institutionalized regular meetings and ad hoc or "spot" meetings have proven partially successful at addressing problems and the development of the CFPA, although more needs to be done.

The age range of small-scale women fish processors sampled in the CFPA is from 31 to 71 years, with an average of 53 years. Most CFPA members have at least one immediate relative (mother, daughter, sister, cousin) in the organization. Membership has been relatively long-term, with most women sampled having been involved with the CFPA since its formation, now 14 years ago.5

These women have invested most, if not all of their working lives (from 25 to 40 years), in the fishing industry. Dependency on the fishing sector is high among women in the CFPA, with substantial portions of their income -- from half to all -- derived directly from fish processing, selling fish, sale of fish supplies (e.g. processing equipment) and fishing during the flyingfish season (November to June). Even during the off-season (July to October), most women earn most of their money from fish sales. They sell flyingfish that have been frozen during the busy season as well as other species of fish such as potfish (reef fish).

External and internal factors nurture collective action and participation in formal and informal fisherfolk organizations. One such external factor relevant to the formation of the CFPA is what Alonso-Población and Siar (2018) characterize as support by state institutions. Globally it is acknowledged that state institutions play a critical role in promoting women's participation in fisherfolk organizations. In the late 1990s, the Barbados Fisheries Division (BFD) played a major role in supporting the activities of these organizations.

Similar to the rest of the Caribbean, fisherfolk organizations were introduced to Barbados in the 1960s and 1970s through cooperatives, the main aim of which was to encourage financial empowerment, rather than social or political empowerment (McConney, Atapattu and Leslie, 2000; McConney, 2001). Within a decade of their introduction, however, these early organization were plagued by inactivity and failure, for various reasons (McConney, 2007). During the 1980s and 1990s, a few of these organizations still existed, but McConney, Atapattu and Leslie (2000, p. 299) note they "...maintained low levels of activity and organization."

Following failed attempts at fisherfolk organizing, the government implemented the two-year (1997--1999) externally funded Fisherfolk Organization Development Project (FODP), the long-term objectives of which were to work closely with formal and informal fisherfolk organizations to sustainably improve the livelihoods and well-being of fisherfolk, and to establish fisherfolk organizations capable of active participation in fishery management and development (Atapattu, 1997; McConney, 1999; McConney, 2001; McConney, Mahon and Oxenford, 2003; McConney et al., 2017b). The main result was strengthening and developing new and existing primary fisherfolk organizations and the formation of the Barbados National Union of Fisherfolk Organisations (BARNUFO). Currently, seven fisherfolk organizations exist under this national umbrella organization; the CFPA is one of the active constituent organizations (Figure 1.4).


Following the completion of the FODP, the Fisheries Division continued to encourage fisherfolk to organize themselves to improve and secure their livelihoods and to participate meaningfully in fisheries management and development within the fishing industry (J. Leslie, Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer, personal communication, 2019). In the early 2000s, during a discussion on the experiences of small-scale processors working in the processing hall at the Bridgetown Fisheries Complex (BFC), the Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer encouraged the women to lobby for changes within their work environment. Shortly after, the CFPA was formed.

The CFPA continues to receive additional support from the Fisheries Division in terms of financial sponsorship of activities such as Fisherfolk Week (each June), hosting of training workshops, and allowing the division's training room to be used for CFPA meetings, workshops, events, etc. when needed (the frequency and value of which is not publicly reported). Continued support and guidance for the strengthening and development of the CFPA (and other fisherfolk organizations) is crucial in order to equip fisherfolk to better understand and adopt the SSF Guidelines throughout the fisheries value chain.

Livelihood analysis is a useful tool to conduct gender analysis in fisheries (Weeratunge, Synder, and Choo, 2010), as it describes the relationship between livelihood strategies and livelihood capital (assets) within the sustainable livelihoods framework. For women in the CFPA, physical capital is one of their major livelihood assets. For most women in the association, market space and personal storage lockers -- which they must rent -- are necessary for them to pursue their livelihoods. Hence they have benefited from the use of a working area, the BFC processing hall, designated specifically for them. Use of the hall has allowed them to process fish more efficiently and has been indicated as one of the benefits of membership in the association.

Built in 1989, the BFC is the largest of three primary landing sites on the island, catering to a range of users. The aim in its construction was to contribute to an increase in fish production and to improve the standard of living of persons involved in the fishing industry (McConney, 1999). The BFC processing hall (Figure 1.5) is situated within the fish market, where small processors employ typically women to process fish into fillets and steaks. CFPA members are either self-employed or work for these small-scale processors.

The processing hall is a spacious facility built to meet international standards. Having this dedicated space has allowed the CFPA processors to collectively benefit from improved hygiene conditions. Furthermore, implementation and adherence to food handling standards have led to improved profitability and marketability of products, which has been noted by members as one of the main successes of the CFPA.

The space within the market at the BFC is in such high demand that the recent opening of three new spaces within the processing hall on a "first come, first served" basis, and to include vendors from outside the hall as well, created tension between the CFPA and management, as CFPA members now had to compete for space with outside vendors. The CFPA had to lobby and pressure management to ensure that the processing hall remained theirs for their fish handling needs. Their organization within the CFPA helped to resolve this issue.6

Alonso-Población and Siar (2018) categorize drivers for fisherfolk organizing into two types: reaction to specific phenomena and the result of efforts promoted by external entities. The former -- specifically labour conditions and economic drivers -- were what prompted the mobilization of women in the flyingfish post-harvest segment of the value chain. Unable to voice their concerns about challenges small-scale processors and vendors were experiencing with their work environment at the BFC, this group of mainly women worked together to form the CFPA. Their issues and concerns included storage conditions (infrequently available cold storage, inadequate ice storage facilities), hygiene and overall cleanliness of the processing hall, lack of bathrooms and toilet facilities, lack of a lunchroom, the need for a service room to store processing equipment and office supplies, poor communication and lack of response to problems on the part of management, and compromised infrastructure. Workers also felt they were under threat of losing their working spaces due to unfair management practices.

Direct responsibility for operational activities at the BFC is that of the Markets Division of the Government of Barbados. This division operates all government- owned markets where agricultural7 produce is sold to the public, and is charged with ensuring that all markets are run adequately. The managers of the Markets Division and BFC are the primary decision makers on day-to-day operational and management matters. The various BFC users, including small-scale processors, therefore address their concerns to these managers unless a fisheries officer is encountered at the time of need (McConney, 1999).

In its 30-year history, disagreements between users, and between users and BFC management, have been the norm due to differing perspectives on appropriate operational practices in the harbour and in processing and retail facilities. McConney (1999, p. 7) noted that in the 1980s and 1990s, "BFC users rarely took it upon themselves to approach management collectively or invite management to meetings they convened." The CFPA from its inception has taken a different path. The CFPA has approached management collectively on several occasions from the very month of formation (January 2005) to address their issues and concerns with the BFC facility, and on other occasions has invited management to meet to discuss new operations within the processing hall that have included business propositions.

The issues at the BFC that women in the CFPA were experiencing with their working environment have been well documented in reports (e.g. European Commission, 2008; FAC, 2007; McConney, Mahon and Oxenford, 2003) and in CFPA correspondence, meeting agendas and notes. Working conditions in the processing hall were improved as a result of the persistence of this group of women to ensure the provision of satisfactory amenities and facilities for the pursuit of their livelihoods.

Indeed, CFPA members cite their collective action as one of the benefits of membership. As they note, "We are stronger as an association to interface with management" and are "...better equipped to take on or lobby management". Furthermore, "Management doesn't have manners if you are not in a group.”8 The CFPA is recognized as such a driving force at the BFC that any member can approach management about issues without the president's presence. This is not difficult to believe, given the indication of McConney (1999, p. 5) that, " a large extent, small processors control the operations in the processing hall and the Markets Division [and BFC] merely facilitate." Therefore, in order to mainstream gender equality and equity, the CFPA should continue to use this collective power to improve and broaden the participation not only of its members in the post-harvest sector of the flyingfish fishery but also that of other women throughout the entire fisheries value chain in the Barbados fishing industry.


Since its inception, the elected head of the CFPA has been strategically positioned to ensure that women in the post-harvest sector of the flyingfish fishery, and fisherfolk throughout the entire Barbados fisheries value chain, are involved in the decision- making process. The CFPA head holds two additional influential positions within the fisheries sector both nationally and regionally. She has been president of the national fisherfolk organization, BARNUFO, since 2009, and was recently elected Chairperson to the Executive of the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisations (CNFO) in 2016. The CNFO is a network of formal and informal national fisherfolk organizations within the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM9) and the Caribbean Regional Fishery Mechanism (CRFM10). Through its engagement in regional fisheries initiatives and projects, the CNFO is in a key position to influence regional fisheries policy (GIFT, 2017).

The CFPA head's position as president of the local and national organizations facilitates a close relationship between the two and with the CNFO. These positions have enabled her to represent these organizations at local, regional and international meetings to contribute to decision-making on local and Caribbean fisheries. The content of these meetings is shared with members of the CFPA and BARNUFO during designated events, primarily formal and informal or ad hoc meetings with organization members, which serve to keep fisherfolk engaged and informed on new directions for fisheries. Occasionally, some CFPA members have also benefited from participation in similar conferences via nomination, either by the president or by vote through the membership.

The women in the CFPA possess impressively high fisheries-related skills,11 which is partly attributable to their exposure to diverse training in inter alia Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), advanced computer training, record keeping, first aid, navigation, safety at sea, and small business and financial management. These skills have enabled them to enhance their livelihoods. The CFPA head has made an effort to provide members of the CFPA (and fisherfolk nationally) with the majority of opportunities for capacity development via continued annual training series hosted by BARNUFO, usually during the flyingfish off-season. CFPA members are typically eager to participate in these free training opportunities.

The president's over 35-year involvement in the fisheries industry provides her with keen insight into the needs of fisherfolk, from which women in the CFPA have benefited. She previously approached UWI-CERMES for her research needs on women and fisherfolk organizations in the Barbados fishing industry (McConney, Nicholls and Simmons, 2013) and for assistance in evaluating the CFPA to inform its refocusing. Additionally, through her collaboration with institutions such as UWI, she has sought opportunities for participation in numerous workshops, for example on strengthening fisherfolk participation in governance and on developing leadership skills.

The women of the CFPA are articulate, vocal and clearly dedicated to the success of the organization. They believe strongly in the value of the CFPA in the post-harvest sector. Some identify themselves as leaders or initiators in the CFPA and are eager to take on leadership roles to assist the president in further strengthening the association in order to improve its governance and overall functioning,12 and in turn its contribution to policy- and decision-making in fisheries. Such contributions have included formal and informal engagement over time with government on many matters.

In addition to these individual and group assets within the CFPA, the organization's membership in BARNUFO provides another avenue for its participation in decision- making in the fisheries industry. BARNUFO sits on the Barbados Fisheries Advisory Committee (FAC), therefore providing all fisherfolk with a pathway to contribute to national fisheries policy. The FAC is a formal, national co-management arrangement via a multistakeholder body -- of which the fishing industry holds five of nine positions -- set up to advise the minister responsible for fisheries management, conservation and development (McConney, Mahon and Oxenford, 2003). The fishing industry can therefore be privy to FAC decisions (not easily accessible from government) via BARNUFO. Thus the CFPA is well positioned to be part of the decision-making process within the post-harvest sector (and fishing industry in general) due to its individual and group power, perspectives and networks.

There is increasing evidence of the "women's way" in the CFPA being respected by men involved in the harvest and post-harvest activities at Bridgetown as well as by those in management. This is linked closely to gender equality and equity in that there have been relatively few instances of the CFPA being discriminated against purely on the basis of gender. While gender equality and equity are still issues given the relative absence of women among the larger processors and in the harvest sector (apart from some boat owners), the female fish vendors both in the CFPA and outside of it are able to compete well with the male fish vendors. Women in the CFPA say men in the fishing industry naturally respect them because of who they are as individuals, irrespective of CFPA membership. As one small-scale processor said during group interviews held by GIFT on women's organization, "Men respect women because they know we work hard." Still, more detailed gender analysis is required to investigate this perception of gender equality.

Consultation and participation are evident, promoted to varying extents by both state and non-state actors. Internally however, biases towards certain members and the inclination to form cliques are beginning to discourage participation in CFPA activities, both formal and informal. Similarly, transparency and accountability are variable: some practices are good, but others require improvement. Infrequent top- down communication has led to an overall perception among some members of a lack of transparency. These challenges need to be addressed to improve the functioning of the CFPA. Solutions can be simple, practical and come from within the organization. An internal understanding among CFPA members of these issues and their resolution is itself a good practice for strengthening CFPA governance.

Social responsibility is more prominent within the CFPA than in the state apparatus. For the state, social protection is largely confined to the national insurance scheme. This is not sufficient, and does not adequately respond to the seasonal, unpredictable nature of work in the industry. The CFPA encourages and assists its members to contribute to the national insurance scheme, but it also goes further, recognizing that the livelihoods of vendors are quite complex. Members are provided with various financial instruments for saving or investing money, such as a credit union, savings accounts and "meeting turns”.13 The CFPA's commitment to social responsibility is evident in the enduring decent working conditions it has helped establish for its members.

The CFPA, a fisherfolk organization in the post-harvest value chain of the flyingfish fishery in Barbados comprised entirely of women, illustrates both existing and emerging good practices consistent with the principles of the SSF Guidelines. Not everything is perfect, but the case study found evidence of respect of cultures, gender equality and equity, consultation and participation, transparency and accountability, and social responsibility, as summarized in Table 1.2.

The case of the CFPA should provide valuable lessons for fisheries post-harvest organizations, regionally and globally. The collective action within the CFPA can be utilized as a driving force to facilitate and support the implementation of the SSF Guidelines. The association has already earned respect and recognition from a variety of players within the fisheries sector due in part to its cohesion when dealing with issues affecting its operation in the post-harvest sector and resulting action. This group of women therefore has the potential to champion the implementation of the SSF Guidelines and their principles -- similar principles that guide their functioning -- among their colleagues in the post-harvest sector and indeed throughout the fisheries value chain. Additionally, the CFPA has developed strong partnerships with the Barbados Fisheries Division, the government authority responsible for management and development of Barbados fisheries, as well as the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, both of which are built on the principles of the SSF Guidelines and on common interests.

Through these partnerships, capacity development of the CFPA has been a strong focus and can be further addressed to promote the equitable participation of women and men in the adoption and implementation of the SSF Guidelines in the Barbados fishing industry (FAO, 2015b). With the recent change in political administration, the Government of Barbados is looking beyond its traditional industries (sugar and tourism) to the sea to develop its economy. The newly formed Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy has engaged with fisherfolk to revitalize the fishing industry. Since assuming office, the Minister has already met with the president of BARNUFO, who also heads the CFPA, to discuss this revitalization effort. The president, and by extension the CFPA, has the opportunity to promote the implementation of the SSF Guidelines in the development of Barbados' Blue Economy and its improved fishing industry.

TABLE 1.2 Summary of good practices for SSF Guidelines implementation

SSF Guidelines sectionExisting and emerging good practicesSupport associations of fishers and fishworkers and promote their capacity for enhanced income and livelihood security (paragraph 7.4)The collective action exhibited by the CFPA was fostered by the BFD.The BFD has been instrumental to developing and strengthening fisherfolk organizations, in part through the FODP.The BFD provides support (in-kind and financial) to the CFPA.Provision of appropriate infrastructure, organizational structures and capacity development support to small- scale fisheries post-harvest sector (paragraph 7.3)CFPA members benefit from having access to a dedicated working space– the BFC processing hall – since 2005.CFPA members maintain control of the processing hall through collective action.Recommendations for improvements to BFC infrastructure were advanced by the CFPA.Small-scale women processors collectively benefit from improved hygiene and implementation of food handling standards.The improved profitability and marketability of small-scale processors can be attributed to CFPA membership.Enabling and enhancing women’s participation in the post-harvest sector (paragraph 7.2)Issues with working conditions drove women in the post-harvest sector of the flyingfish fishery to organize for improved livelihoods.Issues causing discord are well documented, and their management is transparent.The CFPA proactively engaged the Markets Division from its inception as a means of resolving issues and concerns, reflecting bottom-up participation.The CFPA intends to use its collective power to improve and broaden women’s participation in the fishing industry, thus mainstreaming gender equality and equity.Post-harvest actors are part of the decision-making process (paragraph 7.1)The CFPA, through BARNUFO’s membership on the national FAC, has a channel to influence fisheries policy.The CFPA, via BARNUFO, sits on the FAC alongside processing companies and harvest sector representatives.FAC decisions, while not very easily accessible from government, are potentially available to the fishing industry via BARNUFO.The CFPA has been openly consulted by the Fisheries and Markets Divisions on many matters both formally and informally; their input is reflected in follow-up actions taken.The link between current CFPA and CNFO leadership should ensure that women (and fisherfolk) can influence regional policy.

McConney (2007) emphasizes that in order for organizations to form, function and have a long lifespan, the incentives for collective action must work at the levels of both the individual and the group. Collective action cannot be sustained if group incentives are inadequate and each person tries to benefit without contributing or contributing as little as possible (free-ride) . The CFPA has lasted longer than other primary fisherfolk organizations, which is a testimony to the benefits of collective action in fisheries management and development, one that warrants documentation for improvement and replication. Understanding the challenges of, and lessons learned in, the collective action of these working women in the post-harvest sector is important to informing and improving this good practice.

Regarding next steps, while gender concerns not only women, the CFPA aims to collaborate closely with GIFT in the further practical empowerment of women in the post-harvest sector and the mainstreaming of gender in national and regional fisheries policy. For the women of the CFPA this includes much more detailed gender and livelihood analyses that can inform appropriate interventions for socio-economic improvements both in the workplace and in the household.

The authors would like to thank the ladies of the Central Fish Processors Association (CFPA) for their strong engagement in this research. Our work with them over the past few years has revealed dedication and commitment to the Barbados fishing industry and our efforts to mainstream gender that is second to none. Thank you to Vernel, Sylvia, Sheena, Margaret (Diane), Lisa, Marion, Delores, Angie, Judy, Kathy Ann, Pat, Velma, Monica, Kerry Ann and Melissa for sharing your experiences, challenges and visions with us. The Gender in Fisheries Team (GIFT) looks forward to our continued work with the CFPA towards building a greater understanding of women's issues in fisheries and assisting in the development of practical solutions for improving women's fisheries occupation and domestic lives.

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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. Dayboat or launch: wooden vessels 6--12 m long with a cabin, and propelled by 10--180 hp inboard diesel engines. Used primarily for harvesting flyingfish and large pelagics on day trips (Barbados Fisheries Division, 2004). 

  2. Iceboats: vessels greater than 12 m in length with a cabin and insulated ice holds, and propelled by inboard diesel engines. Used primarily for harvesting flyingfish and large pelagics during trips of five to ten days (Barbados Fisheries Division, 2004). 

  3. Men are mainly engaged in deboning and filleting but not as much for flyingfish as compared with other species (dolphinfish and amberfish), and not comparable in number to women (S. White, CFPA member, personal communication, 2019). 

  4. An association is one type of organization that may or may not be formalized. Most informal organizations have a written constitution (McConney, 2007). 

  5. The membership profile based on the results of a short survey administered during three small group meetings with 12 CFPA members in between 2017 and 2018 (Table 1.1). 

  6. Women's organization research with CERMES GIFT, September 2018. 

  7. In the Caribbean, fisheries are included in agriculture. 

  8. Women's organization research with CERMES GIFT, September 2018. 

  9. CARICOM is a geopolitical body comprising 20 small island developing States ( 

  10. CRFM, an intergovernmental organization, is the regional fisheries advisory body for CARICOM ( 

  11. Livelihood analysis with the CFPA by CERMES GIFT: September/October 2017 and August 2018. 

  12. Women's organization research with CERMES GIFT: September 2018. 

  13. Savings arrangement where a group of people each pool an equal amount of money for a period of time, after which one person in the group receives all the money. The process is repeated until everyone gets their turn and receives the full lump sum at least once. 

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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