Up to six hours a day, they wade through the mud and water and end up earning less than US$3 a day. The overexploitation of aquatic products has resulted in increased scarcity and growing competition between the fisherwomen.
The park’s management board can neither officially accept the presence of people in the core zone, nor can it enforce the law that forbids human use there. Since October 2011, Mangroves for the Future (MFF) has supported the park in piloting a co-management initiative to ensure the more sustainable use of natural resources. The park now officially accepts the presence of the fisherwomen in the core zone and involves them in preparing regulations over what species can be collected, how (no mechanical devices), where, and when (no harvesting in reproductive season). Cutting mangroves and trapping birds are forbidden.
By working with the fisherwomen, the park has been able to register more than 500 of them and can now provide some oversight. The collection of aquatic products is monitored by a 15-person committee that includes representatives from the park, local authorities, and communities. Through peer monitoring, collecting practices have been made less damaging. And on a rotational basis, fisherwomen can access small loans from a livelihood fund set up by the park.
Ms. Pham Thi Kim Phuong, a fisherwoman in Giao Thien Commune, has become an effective communicator, encouraging other fisherwomen to comply with the new regulations. She has been voted in as is member of the monitoring committee and was among the first round of 25 recipients of a US$100 loan from the livelihood fund to raise chicken and pigs. “Tet’s coming and prices keep rising but now we have chickens to eat instead of having to buy them at high price during the holidays,” she said cheerfully.
The pilot co-management arrangement in Xuan Thuy National Park has already made a real difference in improving living standards of local women and reducing overexploitation of its natural resources.