An evaluation of the Hirgigo Fishing Training Centre : the role of training in socio-cultural development of traditional fisheries in Eritrea.
Alamin, Hassan Hassaballah
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In a bid to support the harvesting of marine resources amongst the rural coastal communities and fishing sectors of Eritrea; the traditional fishermen of the coastal and island communities of this country have been involved in formal training regarding their fishing skills. The training programmes are intended to transfer fishing knowledge to the traditional fishermen of coastal communities and to introduce appropriate basic fishing skills through the Hirgigo Fishing Training Centre (HFTC). This study analyses the perceived role of the fishing training programme in improving fishing activities. The study further evaluates the HFTC programme, from the perspective of its 'traditional fishermen' target audience. Criteria for the observation and the focal point of the analysis, is to reveal ways in which to best contribute to the development of the fishing villages. This research therefore poses the following question: Is the current training sufficient to develop fishing livelihoods in rural coastal fishing communities, so improving the lives of the people in the fishing villages of Eritrea - or is a greater socio-cultural understanding of the fishing communities required, complimented by subsequent grass-roots development? In order to answer this question, the study will depend upon the perceptions of key informants and trained fishermen - which are used to examine the impact of the training centre and its programmes. In order to evaluate the HFTC training programme, the study applies a mixture of evaluative social research using the 'naturalistic model' as well as 'Participatory Rural Appraisal' (PRA) research methodologies. The data collection and analysis of the research study is based upon qualitative research methods. Traditional Eritrean coastal fishing life is based upon traditional knowledge, customs, religion, culture and behavioural experiences that emphasise the flexibility of livelihoods amongst rural shore inhabitants - over many generations. It is suggested that, as a consequence, the training and development programme faces difficulties in penetrating the inherent characteristics of traditional fishing. The study shows that while the training programme curricula and instructors' teaching methods are appropriate for the traditional fishermen, they cannot adequately address the everyday constraints experienced by these individuals and their communities. Traditional fishermen are dependent upon multiple livelihoods. While the research participants perceived fishing as a very important way of making a living (as opposed to other livelihoods) they are not willing to rely exclusively on fishing. This study further shows that Eritrean fishing communities are rooted in traditional attitudes and have unique socio-cultural characteristics. As a research area, the social and cultural milieu of coastal communities is fascinating and requires further social research studies; as does the context of social organisations in coastal and island communities, their indigenous knowledge, culture and ecology. These require special attention to assist rural coastal and island communities and develop academic social and cultural studies.
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