OpinionsSociological lens in conservation enterprise

Sociological lens in conservation enterprise

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I am sharing here the highlights of a paper we presented during the recently-concluded 10th National Social Science Congress held at Silliman University from July 27 to 29. Co-authored by Mylah Bomediano and Jerrydith Alpuerto, this paper contains the findings of a one-year participatory action research we conducted with wives of fishers in South Negros under the Fish Right Program.

I had earlier discussed in this column the evolution of the Fish Tiangge project during the Women’s Month Celebration. As a participatory action research project, we gathered data through surveys and key informant interviews, developed the design, and discussed it with the fishers’ wives, implemented it with them as the lead, and evaluated it to draw out lessons—successful or a failure.

We did not simply report the results, but analyzed the data to establish its theoretical and pragmatic relevance.

Using a sociological lens, the need to change, adapt to, and recover from any crisis is inherent in all social systems.

This assumption is a functionalist assertion of how the social system and the corresponding actors respond to selection pressures to survive under a harsh environment or uncertain times. Any technology introduced to a social system cannot be viewed separately from the people who use it, or are affected by it.

In the case of Fish Tiangge as a conservation enterprise, the actors are fishers’ wives driven by economic, environmental, and empowerment goals, and equipped with fish trading and processing skills as means to address the threats to life and livelihoods, which are conditions brought by the impacts of climate change on fisheries and the COVID-19 to the fishing industry.

Meaning, the Fish Tiangge is technical and economic but also social and ecological.Culturally, with or without external intervention, a community of fishing households has always nurtured a basket of local knowledge and strategies to survive under critical conditions. But they need sufficient funds to pursue entrepreneurial ventures they perceive as the best options.

Given this, the concept and principle behind the Fish Tiangge project, as redesigned during post-pandemic, we took advantage of local knowledge and practices. However, it evolved as new opportunities and challenges surfaced.

During our engagement with the fishers’ wives, we consistently introduced to them an entrepreneurial mindset and actions to support sustainable fisheries while pursuing similar efforts among their husbands and other men.

This development stance in the Fish Tiangge project further widened with the generalized theory of change as a reference that provided a frame and lens to examine and refocus women’s performance.

The theory emphasizes the importance of enabling conditions, and the benefits enjoyed as promised to generate community support in biodiversity conservation.

Consistent with one of the principles of conservation enterprise, the Fish Tiangge case shows that the support of wives depends on the initial monetary benefits they enjoy. Although in a small amount for now, the economic gains had supported them during emergencies, which drove more wives to sustain its operation. They had established links with regular buyers for direct transactions.

We bid goodbye after the final assessment as the Fish Right Program had to end, but we committed ourselves to continue monitoring and assisting the wives in operating independently.

Of the 16 clusters we had organized, only four were in probationary status after failing to meet project expectations; seven showed gains, and are ready to return the initial start-up capital extended to them, as agreed, for others to use. Five clusters had returned the start-up capital after they profited from it.

Knowing how they will become after a year of being weaned is interesting. Will there still be wives as clusters trading fresh and processed fish?

Still functional or not, sociologists, anthropologists, and other social scientists always find meaning in any observable behavior or phenomenon. And these are lessons to share.

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Author’s email: [email protected]

 

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