Sri Lanka fisheries

Participatory Market Systems Development: adapting to crisis situations

PMSD as a means for the coordination of service providers and influence on governmental agencies in a post-crisis situation

The Fisheries sector is important for Sri Lankan food security. Before the tsunami it contributed nearly 2.5% to the gross national income and approximately 171,000 fishermen were engaged in the fishing industry. The tsunami seriously affected almost all of them through the destruction of their vessels, gear and homes and the environmental shocks on coastal areas and lagoons.

The Sri Lankan Markets and Livelihoods Team have experience in the fisheries subsector which they used after the tsunami to undertake community-based, participatory projects to reconstruct vessels and gears.

The tsunami tragedy generated huge supply of international resources; like money and expertise. Nevertheless, due to problems of logistics, governance and coordination, such resources have also produced a lot of problems; for example, distortion of market prices of basic products and services  dependency of the communities on external aid and rushed, ill-designed, top-to-bottom interventions.

The team decided to use PMSD as a means of engagement and communication to try and develop a market system for lagoon fisheries. They were under considerable pressure to deliver high quality outputs in a short time, but wanted to achieve better coordination of post-crisis service providers, such as aid agencies, NGOs, and governmental institutions, and involve the private sector.

The Sri Lankan team has been focusing on the Rekawa and Panama lagoons, which were severely affected by the tsunami and are important sources of livelihoods for hundreds of poor families in Southern Sri Lanka. These lagoons are natural habitats for many species of fish and crustaceans, including white shrimp, which is a popular ingredient in high value dishes and one of Sri Lanka's main export products.

The experience of using PMSD in post-crisis Sri Lanka has produced some valuable learning for the Programme. They have adapted it for the context and are still in the process of application. So far two workshops have been facilitated in each lagoon. In Rekawa, for example, 20 people attended the first one, including two traders and representatives of the community-based Rekawa Lagoon Management Authority (RLMA). The participants drew a map of the market system and identified the main issues that are affecting them. Using the categories provided by their Market Map (i.e. service provision, market chain, and business environment), these issues can be classified as follows:

  • Service provision: lack of credit facilities, lack of fisherfolks' capacity to preserve their catch (post-harvest technologies, mainly refrigeration facilities).
  • Market chain: weak relationship between market actors, in particular, between farmers and fisherfolks, and fisherfolks and hoteliers (who are one of the main local buyers of shrimp).
  • Business environment: weak enforcement of current regulations, an ill-designed bridge that blocks the natural water exchanges between the lagoon and the sea, seasonality of shrimp production, lack of waste water management plans.

In the second workshop, the emphasis gravitated towards the significant issues affecting the enabling and business environment. An output of the process was some important commitments made by different stakeholders and actors with the objective of tackling some of the problems identified during the first workshop (see list above). For example, the Lagoon Authority (RLMA) agreed that the bridge should be upgraded with the collaboration of the community, and support from GTZ, and FAO; the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) is going to provide training in post-harvest technologies (delivered by a Sri Lankan specialist training provider); and the Divisional Secretary (the main local authority) agreed to enforce an immediate prohibition on waste water dumping near the lagoon with the follow-up of the Lagoon Authority.

Whilst all these outcomes are not directly associated with market development, the team found that there was a window of opportunity in which decision makers were open to views of actors in the market system, and it was understood that unless these issues were addressed then promising market development was unlikely to take place.

The next stage the team are working towards is a meaningful dialogue between market chain actors and with service providers.

Our experience in Sri Lanka is starting to show that PMSD is a useful approach in a post-crisis situation i.e. when a large number of different stakeholders and actors need to coordinate their efforts around the provision of services and creating an improved enabling environment to re-build livelihoods after a natural disaster. The value lies not only at the coordination of logistic operations (who does what, when and where) but more importantly, at the strategic level. For example, a participatory drawing of the Market Map can lead to a shared understanding of which market actors could act as multipliers, boosters or sustainers of the interventions and what the blockages are in the enabling environment that would prevent the market system developing for the benefit of the poor.

May 2006

Contact details

Alison Griffith
International Team Leader - Markets and Livelihoods 

Luis Osorio
International Programme Co-ordinator

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