Exploring the adaptive capacity of fisheries in Africa
Dr Beaven Utete is a climate researcher and environmentalist based at Chinhoyi University of Technology in Zimbabwe, and a CIRCLE Visiting Fellow at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. The Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement (CIRCLE) fellowship is an African Academy of Sciences (AAS) programme that aims to develop the skills and research results of African early career researchers in the field of climate change. CIRCLE is implemented through AESA (the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa), a funding, agenda setting and programme implementing platform of the African Academy of Sciences and the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD). CIRCLE is supported by the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU).
Increasing demand for water and associated ecosystem services is draining freshwater rivers and aquifers, while pollution and changing climate patterns are threatening the quality of aquatic resources of peri-urban lakes in impoverished and low-income African countries. Deterioration of water quality and loss of aquatic biodiversity threaten the livelihoods of small-scale fishing-dependent communities where people live on less than US$1 per day.
Lakes Asejire and Eleyele in Nigeria, and Chivero and Manyame in Zimbabwe, are the lifeline of fishing-dependent metropolitan communities in Ibadan, Nigeria and Harare, Zimbabwe. These peri-urban lakes (straddling both urban and rural land) directly or indirectly supply potable water and support fishing, agriculture, aquaculture, recreation and religious activities. Threats to water supply have received much attention but relatively little is known about concomitant changes in water quality and the resulting impacts on fisheries and other resources in these peri-urban lake systems.
Documented quantitative and qualitative data on the vulnerability of livelihoods dependent on fishing in Nigeria and Zimbabwe are lacking and there is no standardized wetland and fisheries framework for peri-urban lakes in either country, complicating governance of these important resources. Consequently, these fishing-dependent communities are particularly vulnerable to climate change and poverty, as well as institutional, socioeconomic and political challenges.
This project is inspired by the vulnerability of small-scale inland freshwater fisheries, which tend to be excluded from national and state budgets in Nigeria and Zimbabwe. The study explores the food security, resilience and adaptive capacity of fisheries and fishing-dependent communities in peri-urban lake systems, which, when combined, represent 32 million fishers worldwide and a significant proportion of the global fish catch.
Description of the study
The study used a set of models that looks for trends, and patterns among multiple variables to quantify and as well as explain relations in a qualitative and simple manner. The thematic clusters that were examined include:
1. Water quality, demand and supply issues;
2. Fisheries resources;
3. Climate change;
4. Small-scale fishing communities;
5. Water and catchment governance.
Actual measurements of water quality, supply and demand were obtained from the relevant government agencies based on reports of fishers and fisheries. Climate data such as rainfall amounts, atmospheric temperature, humidity, wind speed, evapotranspiration, and cloud cover were derived from Earth Observation Systems. Moreover, the researchers made site visits to the two fishing communities in Nigeria and Zimbabwe.
Outcome of the study
Our approach sought to integrate the complexities affecting livelihoods of fishing-dependent communities. Results for Zimbabwe have been published; the comparable results for Nigeria are in preparation. The ultimate objective was to produce a generic template which can account for the many direct and indirect factors that impact small-scale fishers in impoverished African communities. Success is dependent on gaining the cooperation of policy makers in Nigeria and Zimbabwe based on the potential benefits of including small-scale fisheries in national budgets to sustain livelihoods and economies. Budgetary and policy support are required for functions such as fisheries extension services, establishment and regulation of fishing outlets and markets, post-harvest technology acquisition, recapitalisation of boats, nets and landing docks, upgrading shared resources such as landing facilities, creating efficiencies in the supply value chain, and strengthening institutional support for sustaining fishing communities livelihoods.
To enhance adaptive capacity in poor, small-scale fishing communities, an integrated, multidisciplinary approach is required, based on thorough data collection and research assessment to create a comprehensive, sustainable fisheries framework.