The Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organizations (CNFO) comprises National Fisherfolk Organizations (NFOs) from the following CARICOM Member States: Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St.Lucia, St.Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago.
In 2003/04, a CTA/CARDI/CRFM regional study examined the organisational needs and operational strengths and weaknesses of existing national and primary or community-based Caribbean fisherfolk organisations and made recommendations to address them. At a CTA/CARDI/CRFM Regional Workshop held in Belize in 2004 to review the study and recommendations, an explicit recommendation was made to launch a regional network of national fisherfolk organisations. It was also decided that the network would be established when at least 50% of the ACP countries + 1 would have NFOs. In this context, a Working Group was created to develop a strategy for the launching of the network and make proposals for strengthening the institutional capacities of fisherfolk organisations, with the strategy being aimed at addressing the following issues:
Lack of critical mass of NFOs for launching the network as defined by the 2004 Belize Workshop;
Fisherfolk organisations’ weak management skills;
Insufficient access to relevant information by fisherfolk; and
Fisherfolk organisations limited communication and advocacy skills.
The Working Group met in Guyana in June 2005 and produced a Strategy and Medium Term Action Plan for the Institutional Strengthening of Regional Fisherfolk Organisations – 2006-2010.
Based on the Strategy and Medium Term Action Plan, a proposal for the development of the Caribbean network of fisherfolk organisations was submitted to the CTA. Since then the CTA and CRFM and other collaborating partners have been working together in support of this dynamic process initiated by the fisherfolk groups in the Caribbean to establish the regional network. Collaborating partners include UWI-CERMES, CANARI, Commonwealth Foundation, GCFI and UNEP. The first phase of the process which lasted from 2006 to 2008 included the following elements: identifying the potential for a regional network among fisherfolk groups; establishing and formalizing national fisherfolk organisations (NFO), as the backbone of the regional network; training fisherfolk leaders in areas related to network management and use of communication tools.
Dominica, Guyana, St. Lucia and Suriname have officially formed NFOs and Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines have established steering committees to legalize NFOs in the near future. NFOs from these countries along with those from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago form the core group of the CNFO to be formally launched in 2009. They are represented in the CNFO Coordinating Unit (CNFO-CU) which was established at the 2007 Grenada Regional Fisheries Stakeholders Workshop to Promote the Launching of a Caribbean Network of National Fisherfolk Organisations to develop and execute a work plan for the formation and legalization of the regional network and its development. It is expected that the remaining countries in the CARICOM/CARIFORUM region will eventually join the Network in the years to come as a result of CNFO-CU’s continued mobilization efforts and understanding of the benefits of being members.