By Mary Hearty

Small-scale fishing play a vital role as a contributor to food security and sustainable livelihoods in many African communities.

However, deterioration of water quality and loss of aquatic biodiversity causes a threat to the livelihood of communities depending on small-scale fishing where people live on less than US$1 per day, according to an African Academy for Sciences (AAS) research on the adaptive capacity of fisheries in Africa.

The study which was conducted at lakes Asejire and Eleyele in Ibadan, Nigeria, and Chivero and Manyame in Harare, Zimbabwe, focused on finding out the direct and indirect factors affecting small-scale fishers in impoverished African communities.

“The study explores the food security, resilience and adaptive capacity of fisheries and fishing-dependent communities in peri-urban lakes systems, which represent 32 million fishers overall worldwide and a significant proportion of the global fish catch,” the AAS researchers reported.

The limitations observed in both countries during the study include inadequacy of the supply value chain especially at less mechanized points such as transport and selling.

“This forces small-scale fishers to produce more than large-scale fisheries to maintain price competition,” the researchers explained.

They in turn suggested strategic intervention by governments to form fish marketing cooperatives to help address this inequity.

Additionally, in both Nigeria and Zimbabwe, industrial value-addition is limited to post-harvesting of smoking of some fish species.

Nevertheless, this limitation could create an opportunity for innovation in fish preservation and other value-addition techniques including sun-assisted herbal drying, solar powered fish drying, fish tissue fermentation, and fish meal and silage manufacture.

“Unfortunately, these innovations and value-addition techniques are not accessible to poorly resourced small-scale fishing communities,” the researchers said.

The central governments of Nigeria and Zimbabwe are therefore urged to strengthen institutional capacity for the development and inclusion of small-scale fisheries in mainstream economies.

Again, in both countries, the research noticed that small-scale fisheries still marginalize women and youth involvement in actual fishing, disrating this disempowered group to cleaning and gutting, post-harvest smoking and marketing.

“This is an area where government intervention can help address equity in ownership in fishing cooperatives, particularly for women,” the researchers suggested.

Further to this, the study compared two frameworks in different countries and indicated that small-scale fisheries are poorly funded and capitalized, and their institutional and government jurisdictions are unclear, leading to conflict, confusion and bureaucratic regulations which interferes with the healthy development of fisheries.

The research also suggest the potential to adopt a mental health approach, assessing the mental state of these fishers, the implication of geographical location, culture and nutrition.

Research studying fisheries are again encouraged to be informed about modern and holistic approaches, and collaborate as global teams, to support a sustainable small-scale fisheries in the face of change.