New govt-FAO joint project to support alternative livelihood activities for fishing communities

The project targets mainly women and youth

ECONOMY | The United Nations food agency and the Ministry of Agriculture have launched a technical cooperation project to support women and youth groups in fishing communities around Lake Victoria.

The pilot project, dubbed Integrated Livelihood Support to Fishing Communities around Lake Victoria, will benefit groups of women and youths in rural fishing communities in Kalangala, Kalungu and Masaka districts.

“It is our sincere hope that this project will contribute to addressing inadequate diversification of livelihood options among the rural poor fishing communities, especially women and youth, as well as improving the resilience of livelihoods to threats and crises,” said FAO Country Representative Antonio Querido.

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Querido said the communities will be supported to boost their incomes through additional streams resulting from alternative livelihood options that are at the same time expected to reduce pressure on fisheries resources.

Statistics show that about 5,000 people are employed in fish industrial processing. Over 1.2 million people are directly dependent on the fisheries sub-sector as their main source of household income.

For the rural fishing communities, the project will come as a major boost in empowering them to diversify their income sources in fishing and fishing-related activities.

Most rural fishing communities rely solely on the lake for sustenance, a situation that fisheries officials say leads to increased pressure on fish stock as people engage in illegal fishing activities.

The reliance would mean a family, for instance, must get fish for food, fish for sale to raise money for buying other basic necessities… basically, fish for everything everyday.

Such challenges — whose brunt women and youth have to bear with most –, the Integrated Livelihood Support to Fishing Communities around Lake Victoria project comes as a major boost.

The two-year project, worth $277,000 (about Shs1 billion), will provide training and inputs to help beneficiaries to manage economically viable and sustainable interventions in their interest, including but not limited to aquaculture and value addition options for capture fisheries.

The project comes on the heels of the ministry’s recognition of the enormous challenges affecting fishing dependent communities, especially women and youth. The latter groups have remained marginalised, poor and with limited sustainable sources of income, because of over-fishing, decline in fish stocks, illegal fishing, poor fish handling facilities and increased post-harvest losses.

Govt intervention

To address over exploitation of Lake Victoria, the country’s largest fresh water body, the government instituted management reforms aimed at boosting fish stocks.

The reforms, which include regulating the number of fishing vessels and gears, instituting restrictive license fees and intensified monitoring, control and surveillance of fisheries activities, have greatly limited access to fisheries resources and facilitated exclusion of some members of the community from fisheries.

President Museveni also deployed UPDF marine unit on the lake in 2017 to regulate fishing in response to alarming reports of dwindling fish stock as well as revenue from fish produce.

Since then, most fishermen had seen their expeditions on the lake drastically reduced, usually having to stealthily engage in the activity and go into hiding at the sight of soldiers on patrol.

While these stock recovery strategies are important and have yielded positive results, the Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Vincent Ssempijja, noted that some of them have led to exclusion of a considerable number of fishers from the fisheries, and could potentially lead to increased risk of loss of livelihoods among fishing communities.

He stressed the need for alternative livelihoods for fishing-dependent communities in the most-affected district of Mayuge, Namayingo, Masaka and Kalangala, where majority of the affected are women and youths.

The project will support interventions aimed at promoting legal fishing methods and gears to vulnerable groups, providing non-fishing livelihood options, efficient post-harvest handling and value addition technologies, economic empowerment of women and youth through Saccos, as well as building the capacity of the beneficiaries to sustain the benefits.

The fisheries sub-sector contributes about 12% agricultural income and 3% to national revenue, demonstrating its huge potential to provide employment and food security.

Overall, the sub-sector contributes to the livelihood of nearly 5.3 million people while about one million people are engaged in capture fisheries and about half a million people in aquaculture.

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