Aquaculture, fisheries driving the blue economy in Africa

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In driving the blue economy, aquaculture and fisheries are playing a key role in ensuring food and nutrition security as well as securing livelihoods and wealth creation on the African continent.

Speaking during the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) Media Training Workshop organised in partnership with the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) in Zanzibar yesterday, that was meant to raise awareness on the topic “Enhancing Sustainable Fisheries Management and Aquaculture Development in Africa”,  Dr. Andrew C.M. Baio from the Fisheries Economics/Blue Economy and Ocean Governance Department of the University of Sierra Leone alluded to the economic dimension of the contributions of small-scale fisheries to sustainable development.

He said the average annual landed value (2013-2017) of the global small-scale fisheries catch was estimated to be almost USD77.2 billion in nominal terms.

“This estimate is equivalent to 57 percent of the average total global landed value from capture fisheries estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) to be USD134, 4 billion. An estimated 120.4 million people were employed in capture fisheries in 2016. Small-scale fisheries accounted for 93.9 percent of these (113 million people). Of the 113 million people employed in small-scale fisheries or engaged in subsistence fishing, an estimated 60.2 million people were employed part or full-time across all segments of the value chain. Together, Asia and Africa account for 94 percent of those estimated to be employed in small-scale fisheries,” Dr.Baio said.

When considering those engaged in subsistence fishing and others in the household, the total number of people employed in small-scale fisheries, and those whose livelihoods are at least partially dependent upon them total increases to 491.7 million in 2016. This represents 6.6 percent of the world’s total population.

Small-scale fisheries also play an important role in the fish trade. In 22 countries studied, representing 48 percent of global marine capture fisheries production, on average almost 26 percent of the marine small-scale fisheries catch by volume was exported over 2013 – 2017. In 9 countries studied, representing 25 percent of global inland capture fisheries production, on average just over 16 percent of the inland small-scale fisheries catch was exported over 2013 – 2017.

Dr. Baio said small-scale fisheries contribute towards achieving a broad range of targets linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

He said the estimated landed value of $77.2 Billion shows the importance of small-scale fisheries to SDGs 1, 5 and 8: to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere”, “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” and “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”, respectively.

They illustrate in particular the contribution of small-scale fisheries to income growth for the poorest households (SDG 1.1), the resilience of the poor (SDG 1.5), equal rights of women to economic resources (SDG 5. a), sustained per capita economic growth (SDG 8.1), and full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men (SDG 8. 5), the role of small-scale fisheries in international trade are relevant to targets of SDGs that address inequality (SDG 10), ocean use (SDG 14) and partnerships (SDG 17), including access for small-scale fishers to marine resources and markets (SDG 14. b).

He also referred to the “Safety-net” effect of small-scale fisheries to enhance the resilience of the poor and otherwise vulnerable to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social, and environmental shocks and disasters.

Small-scale fisheries are of social and cultural value, and they play an important role in the formation of social and cultural identities. Identity refers to ongoing processes of defining oneself. Social-cultural identity links to being a group member in contrast to non-members. Identity influences what people do, how they interact with others, and where they feel they belong.

How and where fishers and fishing communities feel they belong or not, affects how governance approaches in fisheries are locally received or resisted, making identity also relevant for policymaking.

Such values are hardly quantifiable, which is probably a major reason for their not being given due attention. It is crucial to consider identity as well as wellbeing, sense of place, and belonging to enrich fisheries policy for fostering wellbeing, sustainability, and equity in fisheries.

The 1989 Convention of the International Labor Organization (ILO 169), and the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) have progressively advanced the recognition of indigenous rights.

UNDRIP introduced the right of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, an essential mechanism for protecting indigenous rights to participation and self-determination.

The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) was established in 2000 to engage with indigenous issues related to social and economic development, culture, environment, health, education, and human rights.

The 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples produced an action-oriented document with major commitments to advance indigenous rights.

The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals specifically calls for indigenous peoples’ empowerment, inclusion, and access to quality education, as well as their engagement in implementing the Agenda.

Consumption of food fish ensures nutrition security from conception to adulthood. Food fish will play a significant role in the SDG 2 target – to eliminate malnutrition in all of its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overnutrition) (UN Nutrition, 2021).

Fish has been found to be a unique source of micronutrients, including vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, iodine, selenium, and essential fatty acids in the omega-3 family (Byrd et al., 2020), also a source of vitamin A, iron and zinc (Reksten et al., 2020). Essential fatty acids, iodine, and iron from small fishes are good for the brain/cognitive development of babies (Bath et al., 2013).

Lower rates of stunting in children have been associated with fish consumption (Headey et al., 2019), apparently due to a high concentration of growth-promoting nutrients, such as zinc, iron, and protein (Byrd et al., 2021). There is also strong evidence for the reduction of the risk of cardiovascular diseases and fish consumption (VKM, 2014).

Dr. Bernerd M. Fulanda, a Fisheries and Ecology Policy Consultant said fish trade is a huge contributor to economic growth and development in Africa.

“International fish trade is a key driver to production and exploitation especially in developing countries in Africa. However, due to the increasing global demand for fish, there is a risk for over-exploitation and collapse of the fisheries,” Dr. Fulanda said.

The significant increase in the share of fishery production from Africa is leading to growing market-openness/integration into international trade. But domestic and intra-regional trade is the most important pillar of many national or regional economies in Africa. However, trade networks at both national and regional levels remain quite informal.

Blessing Mapfumo from the African Chapter of the World Aquaculture Society said aquaculture is a USD5 billion economy and urged African countries to embrace it.

“The World Aquaculture Society (WAS) is the global leader in aquaculture science, contributing to the growth and development of aquaculture. We serve as a primary facilitator of information exchange, technology transfer, policy development, and communication between all sectors engaged in aquaculture.

“The African chapter was formed in 2018. Africa now joins the United States, Korea, AsiaPacific, and Latin America, and the Caribbean as a fully-affiliated chapter of WAS. Forming the Africa chapter has provided the much-needed forum to address Africa’s diverse and growing aquaculture sector,” Mapfumo said.