Profile: Shannon Arnold

Shannon's work supported through the Robin Rigby Trust was with seaweed farmers in Caluya municipality in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines. This work built on masterí»s research Shannon carried out in 2007 with the same community and focused on the importance of sustainable seaweed farming to the region's economy and ecology. This livelihood has been very beneficial to the communities there, but is now under threat from possible expanded coal mining in the area as well as coastal development for high end resort tourism.

The goals of Shannon's work were 1. to disseminate the results of her previous research in a form accessible to the community and useful for their current struggle to protect their islands; 2. to help connect the community to a broad support network of NGOs, expert researchers, funders, and other seaweed farming communities; 3. to further document the community resources and seaweed economy; and 4. to support the community's sustainable development vision planning.

The support of the Robin Rigby Trust for Shannon to return to the area proved instrumental in helping restart association building and training. Shannon partnered with two national organizations, NGOs for Fisheries Reform and PAKISAMA, both active in the area but lacking the funding or capacity to continue consistent work with the seaweed farmer associations in Caluya. Together, with Shannon as the campaign lead, they were able to validate the research, hold paralegal training and campaign planning sessions with the seaweed farmers associations, liase with national government agencies about the case, stop the illegal land clearing taking place, and submit proposals for future funding.

The work culminated in the organization of the first Caluya Seaweed Farming Conference hosted on the islands jointly by PAKISAMA and the Imba Fisherfolk and Seaweed Farmers Association. Held over three days in July, the conference was attended by 243 seaweed farmers representing all the islands in the group as well as other key community leaders. Issues facing the community were addressed by speakers brought in from across the Philippines including mining, coastal development, fisheries laws, seaweed industry research and marketing, and environmental protection.

By the close of the conference, a Declaration of Unity was drafted and agreed to by all participants outlining their vision of a sustainable future for Caluya, their stance against mining expansion and corporate tourism and their call for transparent governance, inclusion in planning processes, implementation of the fisheries laws, and protection of the environment and the livelihoods that depend on it. A new advocacy group was formed and a new executive was chosen for a municipal-wide seaweed farmer federation.

Shannon continued to work with PAKISAMA in the months after the conference to secure long term funding for continued work with the seaweed farming associations in Caluya. Now, Shannon has wrapped up her job in Canada with the Ecology Action Centre and in January 2013 moved back to the Philippines to work as the National Fisheries Manager with PAKISAMA, a national confederation of farmers and fisherfolk, with special focus on the continued integrated project work in Caluya.

Arnold Caluya Seaweed Farmers(pdf)
InterimRreport Caluya 2008 (pdf)
ChATSEA-WP 17 2011 (pdf)