The Strengthening Community Fisheries project was launched by the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) on 27, April 2021 at Hakusembe Lodge in Rundu, Kavango East region. The project is a grant under the E€OFish programme, which is promoted and funded by the European Union and implemented through the EU Delegation to Mauritius & Seychelles with the support of 8 implementing partners, including SADC.
The program’s overall goal is to enhance the contribution of sustainable fisheries to the Blue Economy of Eastern and Southern African and the Indian Ocean (EA-SA-IO), where the inland and marine coastal fisheries resources represent a natural wealth of about €50 billion, over N$835.5 billion.
"Inland fisheries is probably the most underestimated resource. In Africa, the highest richness of freshwater biodiversity areas is usually also associated with the greatest concentrations of rural poor. Healthy fish diversity is a source of livelihood for rural poor but can be a vehicle of transformation". Said Britta Hackenberg, NNF's Senior Technical Advisor. Fishing plays an important role in the daily livelihood of rural people and makes an important contribution to almost 20% of the estimated 2 million people in the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA).
The NNF grant intends to strengthen sustainable fisheries management through ecosystem-based adaptation thereby improving socio-ecological resilience. "This project fits perfectly in the Harambee prosperity plan, as part of its goals and objectives involves working with other nations that are located within the KAZA Transfrontier area and require Namibia to work cooperatively and with these countries" – Hon. Sylvia Makgobe. Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources.
NNF works with local communities in establishing fisheries reserves, areas identified by local communities, for which use restrictions are put in place. The rules are enforced by community fish guards, offenders are prosecuted by the Traditional Authorities and Government. There are currently 10 fish reserves gazetted in Namibia's Zambezi region which are co-managed by the government. These reserves show very encouraging recovery trends.
In order to mainstream the approach and to enable state agencies, NGOs and CBOs to establish such fish protection areas, standardized tools and guidelines are still being developed. Scientific and community-based research and monitoring are being undertaken for decision-makers and communities to witness success and re-direct the strategic management decisions if needed, to adapt to a changing environment and to also generate knowledge on optimal management approaches.
Finally, transboundary discussions to engage in policy harmonization, law enforcement, and technical collaboration are being facilitated through the KAZA platform to agree on joint efforts and effective implementation.
"The shared nature of the Kavango, Kwando and Zambezi Rivers, all within the KAZA region, makes regional collaboration a priority," said Disney Andreas, NNF Communications Officer.
Local communities are increasingly and rightly being recognized as critical for conservation. This community-centric, ecosystem-based adaptation approach can generate wider values in some key areas. Additionally, amongst the key conservation objectives of KAZA is to facilitate landscape level conservation for which wildlife corridors are critical and where fisheries reserves can create important “blue” bridges. Good fisheries management in KAZA, therefore, demonstrates significant value-added elements.
Ultimately this project and the wider program aims to restore the fisheries to an extent that local people who live near and are custodians of these important rivers and their biodiversity, can reasonably expect to go to the river and catch some fish, to eat, trade and enjoy.