Can artisanal small-scale fishers, really venture into alternative livelihoods besides fishing?

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The age-old proverb of “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime” is the mantra many of these fishermen and women live by. While many were born and raised in coastal towns and were raised on meagre incomes from artisanal fishing, there is a significant number who find themselves drawn to the coastline of the rough and cold Atlantic Ocean by the pursuit of better opportunities (i.e. jobs on fishing vessels, or at fisheries factories or even at proliferating mines in the coastal areas).  For these people (women and men), fishing is the only option for income generation-they do not see themselves doing anything else but fishing!

Then along came climate change and the science is clear:

Namibian fisheries are vulnerable to external economic and ecological shocks making catch volumes unpredictable because of the fluctuations of the Benguela current due to climate change. Preliminary evaluations indicate that climate variability influences the distribution of marine species because of temperature changes. Consequently, this leads to downstream negative impacts affecting employment, income, and government revenue. Such variations have severe consequences for the fisheries sector and are an enormous challenge for fisheries management. Several reports conclude that small-scale and artisanal fisheries tend to be the most vulnerable to environmental change and variability.

These fisheries engage many people who are heavily dependent on fisheries and marine resources for their livelihoods. Many live in conditions of poverty and most have very little ability to adapt to reduced catches and catch rates. While the sector as a whole is adversely affected, the vulnerable fishing communities with low adaptive capacities are the worst affected.

The EIF being established to mobilise funding, and allocate funding to activities and projects, which promote the sustainable use and efficient management of natural resources for the benefit of all Namibians has taken up this call, to assist these artisanal small-scale fishers to build not only their resilience but also to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

For the EIF’s next programming pipeline to the GCF, the EIF intends to make a proposal submission before the GCF’s board meeting in October 2023, that aims to build resilience and reduce the vulnerability to climate variability and change of the marine fisheries and mariculture sectors in Namibia through strengthening adaptive capacity and implementing participatory and integrated strategies to ensure food and livelihood security.

In fulfilment of the above the EIF team comprising of Mr Karl Mutani Aribeb Chief Operations Officer, Ms Bernadette Shalumbu-Shivute Manager of Programmes and Programming and Ms Talitha Litwayi Assistant Climate Change Programme Specialist engaged with various stakeholders within the fishing industry from 15th-17th of February 2023, to assess whether the proposal and its proposed interventions have scope within the sector and what other opportunities are possible, as alternatives to fishing in the face of climate change.

Indeed, climate change is not going away and the only way to cope with climate change is to build the resilience of the sector, starting with the small-scale fisheries.