Social-ecological systems analysis of the dried fish value chain for community wellbeing in the Bay of Bengal coast of Odisha and West Bengal, India
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Small-scale fisheries (SSF) support over 90 percent of the 120 million people engaged in fisheries globally. Dried fish is an important sub-sector of SSF, which is characterized by the declining social, economic, and political conditions of people involved in its production and the ecosystems they depend on. The term "dried fish" is defined by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) as products that are cured, salted, preserved in brine, and/or smoked. Dried fish accounts for 12% of the total fish consumption globally but can increase up to 36% in low-income countries. About half of the people involved in dried fish production and marketing are women. The production and trade of dried fish are important sources of livelihoods, employment, food, and nutritional security for poor people engaged in the dried fish value chain. Despite the importance of the dried fish sector, there is a gap in relevant literature that can provide a comprehensive view of the sector involving economic, social, and ecological perspectives, and their dynamic interactions. The approach taken to analyze the dried fish sector has so far followed a narrow subset of commodity chain approaches with a focus on financial value, transmitted in a linear, vertical fashion across value chain actors. The existing value chain approach fails to factor in the non-capital relationships of dried fish that are contingent upon specific histories, ecologies, peoples, places, and practices. The narrow neoclassical economic perspective of the dried fish value chain (DFVC) also impedes appropriate responses to its unique attributes pertaining to social, ecological, and institutional interactions across multiple scales. Failure to consider the social-ecological system (SES), its connections, and relationships with the dried fish value chain not only undermines the social wellbeing of upstream actors but can also perpetuate social-environmental inequity and injustice. This research addresses this gap by reconceptualizing the dried fish value chain with due recognition of non-linear and dynamic connections of people, ecosystems, and value chains using a SES lens. The research was framed with three objectives: (1) to map the social-ecological attributes of the dried fish value chain (feedback, linkages, uncertainty, and emergence) at the production and processing nodes; (2) to empirically study how fishers and dried fish workers (upstream actors) see the dried fish value chain in relation to SES attributes and indicators; and (3) to analyse how SES-oriented value chains help unpack "value" as the social-ecological well-being of people and ecosystems. These objectives were examined using an interdisciplinary conceptual framework. The framework considered fisheries resources an important and influential node in the value chain structure. The analysis across dried value chain segments helped to identify the criticality of different chain segments and key considerations within each segment. There are three critical theoretical areas that contributed to framing this research, including value chains, social-ecological systems, and the social and ecological wellbeing of fishers and dried fish workers. A systematic scoping review of the literature resulted in the development of a novel social-ecological system oriented dried fish value chain (SESDFVC) framework (objective 1). The second and third objectives are achieved through an empirical investigation using a multilocation case study approach and a mixed-method research framework in northern Odisha and eastern West Bengal on the Bay of Bengal coast. Here, the SES lens offers an empirical basis to appreciate resources as a critical node in the dried fish value chain and broaden the understanding of ‘value’ as the social-ecological wellbeing of actors in the dried fish value chain. Further, the research advances the scholarship on value chains in general and the dried fish value chain in particular by developing a novel analytical framework. The framework provides for novel outlooks on structure, conduct, and performance that have greater alignment with the inclusive pro-poor value chain approach. The departure of thinking from profit and market logic to systems logic that involves social, economic, and ecological interactions provides a comprehensive understanding of place-based and actor-based issues in a disaggregated manner. It is responsive to local conditions and provides equal access to natural resources, rights, responsibilities, and cost-effective technologies for efficient usage. SESDFVC, with a focus on building an understanding of non-linear feedback, dynamic linkages, uncertainties, and emergences as system attributes, is better placed to address the concern of breaking trade barriers for the poor to participate in the value chain as key contributors.
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Sisir Kanta Pradhan (2023). Social-ecological systems analysis of the dried fish value chain for community wellbeing in the Bay of Bengal coast of Odisha and West Bengal, India. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/19363