by Paige Roberts, Anisa Salat, Marah Hardt
When it comes to tackling the social and environmental issues of our time, no one organization has all the expertise and capacity needed to solve these complex challenges alone. But together, we can move mountains—or, in the case of fisheries, turn the tide.
A recent Partnership Agreement between Future of Fish and One Earth Future’s two programs, Secure Fisheries and Shuraako, builds on this ethos, and seeks to collectively develop the mechanisms needed for scalable projects that benefit coastal communities and ocean ecosystems. Together, we hope to combine our strengths across capital coordination, creative financing, technical assistance, systems design, and community engagement to support fishers and coastal communities as engines of resilience, peace-building, and food security.
We asked Paige Roberts from Secure Fisheries, Anisa Salat from Shuraako, and Marah Hardt from Future of Fish to share some thoughts on the new partnership, the potential impacts of combining efforts, and the power of collaboration.
We are so pleased this MOU is in place between our two organizations! Secure Fisheries and Shuraako, can you give us a little bit of background to your work in Somali fisheries, and the big challenges you see?
Secure Fisheries has been operating in the Somali region for about five years with the goal of promoting peaceful and sustainable fisheries as a source of food security, economic security, and community resilience. Our approach is to connect fisherfolk, fishing companies, investors, scientists, and government to support the fishing sector while mitigating root causes of armed conflict. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of fisheries governance capacity in the region. While there is great interest in expanding the fishing economy, there is little support available at the community level to accomplish this. Therefore, one of our aims is to facilitate cooperative fisheries management in coastal communities, giving fishers and community members the education and tools to manage their fisheries locally with the support of regional and national governments.
Shuraako works with underserved small and medium enterprise (SME) markets in the Somali region to develop a more resilient and responsible private sector. Shuraako connects entrepreneurs, including those in the fisheries sector, with impact capital to foster economic growth, create jobs, and promote stability and peace. The greatest obstacle to growth for SMEs is the lack of available capital to invest at the right time. While investment opportunities exist in fragile states, they often go ignored due to perceived risks and weak institutions. Shuraako identifies enterprises that add value to the local economy by conducting on-the-ground due diligence and establishing strong relationships, then matches these selected entities with capital and manages post-investment responsibilities. Additionally, Shuraako designs and introduces new financial products, such as credit guarantees, to the market; convenes stakeholders through investor- and sector-specific forums and working groups; and advances market research. Shuraako encourages collaboration and contributes to the formation of policies that promote responsible private sector growth.
Secure Fisheries and Shuraako staff are based in Colorado, United Stated and across three Somali regions: South Central, Puntland, and Somaliland. Our programs work together to bring investment opportunities into Somali fisheries while ensuring businesses are sustainable both financially and environmentally. The two go hand in hand: without healthy fisheries, fishing businesses cannot last.
Secure Fisheries and Shuraako, what made you want to bring Future of Fish in to partner with you on this work?
Trapped value is a major barrier to investment in Somali fisheries, largely because of the underdeveloped value chain. However, there are ample opportunities to unlock that value and appropriately direct investment into Somali fishing businesses that are viable and sustainable through stakeholder engagement and innovative financial products. As we worked through developing cooperative management in the Somali region, this need became apparent. While Secure Fisheries has the community engagement and Shuraako has the financial experience, neither of our programs are experts in finding new and creative models that will find value in the existing fishing economy and make it more efficient and sustainable. When we heard about Future of Fish’s unique framework to identify economic opportunities in fisheries, we knew it would be a great match to fill our knowledge gap. This partnership offers a unique opportunity to combine the systems approach of Future of Fish with the fisheries capacity work of Secure Fisheries and entrepreneurial and investment expertise of Shuraako to identify strategies for large-scale systemic change for coastal fisheries.
Future of Fish, why were you interested in partnering with OEF?
We are excited to partner with OEF for three reasons. First, similar to us, they are interested in tackling large, systemic challenges. Second,OEF approaches sustainable fisheries as core solutions for building security in the region—as a peace-building organization, they bring a different perspective and set of expertise to the conversation, which affords us enormous opportunity to learn and think differently about where there are opportunities (and barriers) for change. Third, both programs offer expertise in specific areas of interest for us at Future of Fish. Shuraako has a proven track record for developing creative finance solutions to meet unique challenges of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Somalia, something we believe we can learn from and incorporate into our work for small scale fisheries. Secure Fisheries have developed strong co-management solutions under difficult political circumstances, working across National and regional governments, and with communities. We are interested in learning from their approach to building the enabling conditions for co-management in regions where government capacities are very limited.
And, the OEF team are such intelligent, creative, compassionate individuals who clearly care about the communities and businesses they serve. We are always excited to find partners with these qualities...they inspire us!
Future of Fish, are there models or experiences from your work in other regions that you hope to bring to this collaboration?
Yes! We are definitely seeing opportunities to learn and apply some of the solutions and concepts we have been developing-- both from our Global Programs and our Global Innovations work.
First, from Global Innovations, we are pleased to be working with Secure Fisheries and Shurrako to provide some of our Fisheries Development Model tools to assist with building systems understanding in specific fisheries where they work. We believe some of our tools can help their two independent programs identify where and how they might better leverage their resources and combine forces to build solutions. We are also interested to engage with them on some of the traceability- related solutions we have developed, as data capture appears limited in these fisheries and supply chains.
Second, our work to identify where value can be captured or redirected to communities, is also a common interest. Specifically, some of the opportunity areas we surfaced in Belize, as well as insights from Chile, we think may be relevant to the challenges OEF is tackling in Somalia.
BOTH: Can you describe a bit about what we’re planning to work on together?
We jointly decided to start with a project in Bander Beyla, Puntland, a fishing village in northeastern Somalia. Bander Beyla is one of Secure Fisheries’ pilot co-management locations and is also home to one of Shuraako’s current clients. One of the main fisheries in the town is spiny lobster, which was a discrete local fishery with a clear value chain, making it a good candidate to test the Future of Fish framework in the Somali context. It helped that Future of Fish already had experience with spiny lobster fisheries in the Caribbean, specifically in Belize.
As Secure Fisheries is building the co-management capacity of the communities, Future of Fish is hoping our tools can help surface opportunities for generating and capturing more value from the lobster fishery, including via improvements in quality, new products, and potential new markets. With Shurrako already actively supporting SMEs in the area, we believe this fishery could prove a unique test case of how to combine solutions across creative finance, value chain alignment, livelihoods support, and co-management to bring economic, social, and environmental benefits to the region.
BOTH: What impact are you hoping this partnership and work will have?
This partnership offers a unique opportunity to combine the systems approach of Future of Fish with the fisheries capacity work of Secure Fisheries and entrepreneurial and investment expertise of Shuraako to identify strategies for large-scale systemic change for coastal fisheries. We hope that by bringing innovative strategies into fisheries economic development in Somali coastal communities we can promote responsible expansion of fisheries systems and make them more beneficial to the people involved.
BOTH: Anything else you’d like to add?
This partnership began with the unusual opportunity for land-locked individuals working in coastal fisheries to connect! One Earth Future is headquartered in the middle of the USA, in Broomfield, Colorado. And, at the time of our initial conversations, Marah was living about 15 minutes away from their office.
For all of us, the chance to meet in person, have lunches and extended conversations about the challenges and opportunities we all see in our space, was really a breath of fresh air. So much of our work is done virtually, or via long trips, it was wonderful to have colleagues “around the corner” to collaborate with. This connection feels even more precious given our current COVID lockdowns, where in-person meetings are so restricted. Having this established personal connection makes the partnership jump off the screen and into reality.