African countries celebrate the importance of fish industries employing 5.4 million people and providing essential nutrition

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In rural Malawi, small-scale fisheries and aquaculture produce the most readily available animal-sourced foods – and much vital protein. It’s the same in Zambia. And, both countries are land-locked too, with no accessible coast to harvest fish from. That’s quite a contribution from the industries, often family and community-run.

It’s a similar story in many African countries. Artisanal fisheries and aquaculture are important across Africa, with annual production of 5.2 million tonnes, and a value of USD 5.8 billion. That’s 22 percent of the global yield. Artisanal fisheries and aquaculture are among the fastest growing sectors of the global food industry and in Africa many governments are focusing on expanding and promoting markets – especially inter-country trade – as food and nutrition sources for growing populations. Africa’s population is projected to increase from 1.3 billion people to 2.4 billion by 2050.

Now the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture – IYAFA 2022 – aims to focus attention on the role that small-scale fisheries, fish farmers, processors and traders play in not only health, nutrition, and food security, but also in sustainable resource management, gender equality, and in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals including Zero Hunger. Its driving theme is “small in scale – big in value”.

IYAFA 2022 supporting gender equality for women

Women make up an average of 50 percent of the fish-focused workforce in Africa. In some countries the figure is even higher. Over 80 percent of fish traders in Malawi are women, involved in processing, transporting, and selling fish in wholesale markets. They are being encouraged to join AWFISHNET, a supporter and partner of IYAFA 2022. 

AWFISHNET is a continent-wide collaboration of female-fisher groups who use collective action to drive policy and practical support to women in the industry. Members provide training and initiatives to enhance technical capacity in fishing, farming, processing, and trading to empower woman. “The Malawi chapter of AWFISHNET is a critical platform that will promote local initiatives of women fishers,” says Violet Kanyamula, interim chairperson.” The capacities of women will be enhanced with knowledge and skills to advocate for themselves with decision-makers at the national level.”

“This is an area which needs much change and IYAFA 2022 is about bringing change and recognition,” says Ndiaga Gueye, Senior Fisheries Officer at the FAO Regional Office for Africa in Accra, Ghana. “Women are constrained by high transportation costs, post-harvest losses, unfair market practices by middlemen and a lack of modern gender-sensitive technologies. All of us who are celebrating and promoting IYAFA 2022 want very much to see how technology and digital innovation can be developed and deployed to support women in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors.”

“The IYAFA 2022 year aims to draw the world’s attention to the role that both female and male artisanal fishers and fish farmers play already in food security, nutrition, poverty eradication and the sustainable use of natural resources,” continues Dr Gueye.  “We hope this will greatly increase understanding of these artisanal communities and lead to action to support them, leaving no one behind.”

But all too often, because they are working in small-scale operations, artisanal fishers and fish farmers are overlooked by policy makers, decision-takers, infrastructure providers, and even some scientists. Their enormous potential to promote transformational changes in how, by and for whom fish and fishery products are produced, processed, and distributed – with positive ripple effects throughout global food systems – isn’t fully harnessed. They are also very vulnerable to shocks, disasters, and climate change.

IYAFA 2022 aims to build stronger communities and feeds into FAO’s 4 Betters

 Artisanal fisheries can help build resilience – a theme IYAFA 2022 will be highlighting. They are a major source of income and employment in many African countries. In Ghana for example, 70 percent of fish production is from artisanal fisheries and in some of Africa’s Small Island Developing States, 90 percent of the catch is made by artisanal fishers.  “Managing small-scale fisheries and fish farming well means more nutrition and protein in the food chain, lessening the need to clear land for agriculture, so adding to the battle against climate change. It’s a win-win situation,” says Dr Gueye.

Their current contribution, and potential for more, is cemented in what IYAFA 2022 calls its “seven pillars” – which set out the themes of economic, environmental, and social sustainability, gender equity, inclusion in decision-making and governance, food security and nutrition and resilience. The “seven pillars” harmonise extremely well with FAO’s own 4 Betters – Better Production, Better Nutrition, a Better Environment, and a Better Life.

 IYAFA 2022 has a steering committee of leading global experts in the industries and has reached out widely for partners from the NGO sector and grassroots organisations, to ensure the voicers of those who do the work, farming, harvesting, and trading our fish are heard.

Fast Facts

Fishing and aquaculture support the livelihoods of 10 percent of the world’s population – around 120 million people.

Of these, 97 percent live in the developing world and 90 percent work in small scale fishing. They are amongst our most vulnerable people.

Over half of the fisheries workforce are in delta and inland river fishing – employment is not limited to coastal countries.

Global consumption of fish has increased by 122 percent since 1990, leading to better nutrition for many communities.

In small, vulnerable economies fish caught by artisanal fishers provides between 50 and 90 percent of the protein consumed.

Fish is a huge global export – USD 165 billion in 2018 – up from USD 36 billion in 1990.

More effective management of fisheries and aquaculture can increase global production by 15 percent by 2030, providing better nutrition for millions of people.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of FAO Regional Office for Africa.

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