Coastal Fisheries Programme
new ideas


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A new idea for coastal fisheries:
asking the right questions to enhance coastal livelihoods

By Hugh Govan, Hampus Eriksson, Margaret Batalofo, Agustinha Duarte, Meshach Sukulu, Sarah Lawless, Alexander Tilley and Jan van der Ploeg
Illustrations by Jipé LeBars; layout by Constance Odiardo.


Livelihood diversification is actively promoted in fisheries policy. For example, ”A new song for coastal fisheries – pathways to change: The Noumea Strategy” describes how alternative sources of income may need to be explored by coastal communities as the state of marine resources becomes increasingly uncertain. Fisheries departments continue to seek better ways to diversify rural livelihoods as a mechanism to break natural resource dependence and improve incomes and food security. This has resulted in many externally designed interventions. However, livelihood diversification projects that are not attuned to community capacity, local contexts, aspirations and opportunities are unlikely to succeed. This highlights the need for a participatory approach: by better incorporating the ideas, needs and problems of people in the village, more appropriate and realistic development innovations can be identified. But translating participatory approaches to something practical has remained a challenge: systematically, critically and rapidly assessing the potential risks, benefits and equitability of an innovation is notoriously difficult. In any new endeavour – especially those that are championed by community members – there is an optimistic tendency to underestimate the potential risks and obstacles to success. This “New idea” tool is for guiding conversations about a new livelihood activity and helping to answer the question “Is this a good idea?” .

This guide seeks to support extension officers and community organisers to ensure that all relevant aspects of a proposed livelihood innovation are considered. It provides a structured process and guiding questions to assess the viability of a proposed activity within five broad domains: 1) natural resources, 2) equipment, 3) skills, 4) markets, and 5) finances.

This document has been produced by WorldFish, the Pacific Community, the Locally-Managed Marine Area (LMMA) Network and
the University of Wollongong.


This work was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems (FISH) led by WorldFish. The program is supported by contributors to the CGIAR Trust Fund. Funding support was provided by SwedBio, a programme at Stockholm Resilience Centre, and the Australian Government through ACIAR project FIS/2016/300 “Strengthening and scaling community-based approaches to Pacific coastal fisheries management in support of the New Song”.


This document has been prepared and printed in 2019 with the financial support of the Pacific-European Union Marine Partnership (PEUMP) programme, funded by the European Union and the government of Sweden.


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