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Failing to plan is planning to fail: lessons learned from a small-scale scenario planning process with marginalized fishers from South Africa’s southern Cape

Louise C. Gammage, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Astrid Jarre, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Charles Mather, Department of Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's, Canada


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Scenario-planning, a management tool used for addressing challenges in complex and uncertain social-ecological systems (SES), offers a helpful way to facilitate responses to complex change by stakeholders at all scales of the SES. This is facilitated through imagining possible futures in pursuit of a pre-determined and common goal. Environmental variability, together with a failure to recognize the integrated nature of marine SES, are two drivers of change that have contributed to the depletion of ocean resources and stressed fishing communities, including in the southern Benguela system off South Africa’s west and south coasts. Here, we present a scenario planning process, informed by transformative scenario planning, conducted with the community of fishers from the town of Melkhoutfontein in the southern Cape region. Together with the fishers, we developed four stories of the future of Melkhoutfontein within the context of an overarching theoretical approach to support the implementation of an ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAF). These stories incorporate scenarios on key driving forces identified by participants, complemented by key driving forces identified through a related process using problem structuring tools. The stories contrast situations with (no) access to fishing rights and (un-)favorable economics. They are backdropped by two potential future ecosystem types (warm temperate versus subtropical) and knowledge acquired from strategic planning at the national scale. We discuss the insights gained from the scenario-building process, emphasizing lessons learned from this small-scale process with marginalized fishers and how this may contribute to the over-arching scenario-based approach.

Key words

adaptive capacity; decision making; ecosystem approaches to fisheries management; marine social-ecological systems; scenario planning; small-scale fisheries

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087