Dirk J. Steenbergen presents "Reflections on three years of research in coastal livelihoods, small scale fisheries and markets in the northern Arafura and Timor Seas region"
With more than 4 million people living along the coastal regions in the Arafura and Timor Seas (ATS), small scale fisheries are a fundamental source of income and subsistence, and an important part of the people’s cultural identity. Significant population growth is projected along the region’s Indonesian and Timor Leste coastlines. In response to economic and social development needs and alarming resource degradation rates, a myriad of initiatives on marine resource management and coastal livelihood enhancement have been implemented in the region over the last decade. Issues of food security, sustainable livelihoods, and empowerment of marginalized groups are prominent objectives of these initiatives. However, very few documented examples exist of lasting livelihood improvements or sustainable resource management continuing beyond project conclusion. The trends we find in the socio-economically and politically diverse context of the ATS mirror experiences in the literature across broader global contexts. To understand how such fisheries and livelihood development objectives can be better achieved my post-doctoral research examined local perspectives on various collaborations that coastal communities developed with NGOs, outside fishers and market actors. These collaborations with external actors were examined in the context of (i) co-management arrangements around access and harvest of flying fish roe, and (ii) interactions of fishers with local market networks.
Dirk Steenbergen’s research focuses on sustainable livelihoods of small scale fishers, with particular interest in eastern Indonesia and Timor Leste. His work examines the dynamics taking place in the processes of governance and co-management between local resource user groups on one hand and external aid groups on the other. He completed his M.Sc. in Nature Conservation Policy and Management at the Wageningen University (Netherlands), and later his PhD in Community Development and Natural Resource Management at Murdoch University (Western Australia). His past research has focused on the participation of marginalized Bajo fishing communities in protected area management in Wakatobi National Park, in Southeast Sulawesi (eastern Indonesia). He also spent several years working in community conservation programs, collaborating with indigenous communities in northeast Namibia and later in Greater Mekong Sub-region. His NAMRA sponsored post-doctoral research fellowship at RIEL-CDU, has enabled him to continue his focus on issues of local governance of marine resources, this time drawing on experiences and insights he has gained from working in the Arafura and Timor Seas region.