Market Development Facility (MDF) Sri Lanka commissioned research into the evolution of the Blue Swimming Crab (BSC) market in Northern Sri Lanka. The full case study is available by clicking on the link below, along with three parallel case studies investigating collaboration among market players, the Contribution Analysis methodology used, and the impact on women’s economic empowerment.
The case study documents how the Blue Swimming Crab (BSC) market in Northern Sri Lanka evolved from an uncompetitive sector with limited value addition and buyer-controlled pricing to a more competitive, value-adding, sellers’ market. An increased number of Northern-based processing export companies with the ability to purchase greater crab quantities more consistently have sustained price hikes introduced by existing businesses to increase barriers to entry. The application of good market systems development (MSD) principles and practices, such as multiple partnerships and consistent monitoring, contributed to industry evolution. What began as an effort to stimulate employment in the conflict-affected North ended with a more dynamic market structure, resulting in the entire population of Northern Sri Lankan crab fishers accessing higher market prices. This fundamental shift in market dynamics was supported by a range of Australian-funded programs over the past 15 years that contributed in different ways to a more competitive, inclusive and resilient BSC market.
Post conflict, the Northern Sri Lankan fishing industry looks substantially different. Although fishing was a pre-war livelihood for many families in the Northern districts of Jaffna, Mannar and Kilinochchi, during the war sea access was restricted, many fisher families were displaced, and infrastructure and assets were destroyed. In January 2019, two Sri Lankan Blue Swimming Crab fisheries became the first in Asia to receive the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch’s “good alternative” rating for sustainably sourced crab. A range of actors and factors have contributed to these sector developments; this learning brief summarises some of the key ones.
It is well-recognised that market systems development (MSD) programs operate in complex and dynamic environments, posing particular challenges in assessing attribution and impact to any one intervention or causal factor. Good practice in MSD evaluation suggests that programs should focus on measuring which changes are systemic, consider and document other contributory factors, and measure impact following the intervention to ascertain the sustainability of impact. One possible approach to implementing the recommended practices is Contribution Analysis (CA), a theory-based approach to evaluation that sets out to establish plausible evidence of a program’s contribution to change.
This document shares reflections from formative research into women’s economic empowerment issues resulting from new employment of female crab processers and from increased crab prices for women from crab fishing households in Northern Sri Lanka. Qualitative research explored the social norms of female participation in the labour force, and the impact of increased income on women’s control over household income, workload, and spending patterns.
Originally published here