HORSE SHOE, North Carolina — Inadequate market infrastructure and poor policy implementation have nearly capsized the African fishing industry in years past, disabling the 12.3 million involved in the sector. WorldFish, however, will be turning the tide with FishTrade for a Better Future, a budding Pan-African project aimed at harnessing the continent’s trading potential.
The initiative, a collaborative effort of WorldFish, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources, will reform policy framework, hopefully lessening the annual $5 billion lost to mismanagement and unregulated fishing.
An emphasis has also been placed on nutrition.
Laden with oceans, rivers, lakes and floodplains, Africa produces 9.9 million tons of fish a year. Incongruently, however, per capita consumption of the product has fallen, with fish providing just 22 percent of protein in sub-Saharan Africa.
As suggested by Stephen Hall, director general of WorldFish, the new project will combat against starvation through taking better advantage of the aquaculture.
“FishTrade will create the foundations for a more solid, productive and sustainable building-up of this great, continent-wide, resource,” Hall said. “Africa has the potential to develop its fisheries and aquaculture to play a much greater role in promoting food security, providing livelihoods and supporting economic growth.”
This could translate into change for the nearly 23 million hungry school-age children in Africa, who suffer from substandard vitamin consumption stunting both their physical and mental development. With many of the 775 pupils at Shimider Primary in Ethiopia falling behind academically, FishTrade for a Better Future will act as a life preserver of sorts.
“They fall asleep,” Eteafraw Baro, a third-grade teacher at Shimider, said. “Their minds are slow, and they don’t grasp what you teach them and they’re always behind in class.”
Malnutrition, described as a “barrier to improving our way of life” by nutrition expert Dr. Girma Akalu, is not WorldFish’s only hurdle, unfortunately.
Over the past 30 years, in an attempt to service their national debt and stimulate the economy, coastal nations of Africa have allowed hi-tech industrial fleets to push into West African waters. The consequences are grim. In 2011, with mostly European and Asian companies depleting some of the richest fishing grounds in the world, Africa became a net importer of fish.
Hoping to alleviate these disparities, the Pan-African endeavor will introduce more sustainable fishing methods and bring infrastructure up to code, giving Africa a fighting chance in global markets. The resulting increases in trade will create employment, supply food, generate income and contribute to economic growth and development.
Ahmed El-Sawalhy, a stakeholder in the project, believes FishTrade for a Better Future will be far-reaching, even affecting those beyond the sector.
“This project will enable alignment of policies at the continental level,” El-Sawalhy said. “It will open-up fish trade that we believe will have a strong effect on the alleviation of poverty in some of our poorest regions.”
– Lauren Stepp