Poverty dynamics and livelihood challenges among small-scale fishing communities on lake Kariba - Zimbabwe
Poverty dynamics and livelihood challenges among small-scale fishing communities on Lake Kariba (Zimbabwe) The aim of this study was to assess poverty among small-scale fishing communities on Lake Kariba (Zimbabwe) as well to as identify livelihood challenges that confront them. Two fishing communities were used as case studies and were uniquely selected from among the many fishing camps/villages dotted along the Zimbabwean shoreline of Lake Kariba. Depending on gear type, fishing activities on Lake Kariba target both the smaller-sized Kapenta species and larger species such as the bream and the tiger. Fishing activities are a major livelihood source for fishers in the two case studies upon which they obtain food and derive income to address other family needs. Mutual linkages and exchanges also exist between fishing camps/villages and communal areas where land-based activities such as cropping and livestock rearing are carried out. Before fieldwork, there was a pre-conceived notion that members of fishing communities on Lake Kariba were very poor. Although the fishers expressed desires for a better life than they were experiencing, they did not consider themselves poor. Instead, they rated their economic position as well off compared to some of their urban counterparts. However, on further interrogation, the study revealed that the fishers were facing a set of vulnerabilities that is commonly associated with the fishing profession. These vulnerabilities had substantial impacts on the livelihood system of these fishers. Using vulnerability ladders, a picture was painted depicting the severity of these vulnerabilities. It emerged that fishers were more vulnerable to existing state institutions that are designed to manage access to and the use of natural resources in the country. There are several reasons to suggest why this is the case which include, (i) the high cost of accessing the fishery, (ii) the stern measures in place that restrict access to and use of the fishery, and (iii) the punitive measures imposed for contravening rules of access and use of the fishery. Although restricting access is in line with the principle of long run sustainability of the fishery, it may threaten the development of the fishing industry and impact negatively on livelihoods of communities involved. Unlike fisheries elsewhere in the world, Lake Kariba is not viewed as a vehicle for reducing poverty and achieving food security. On the contrary, government places emphasis on preserving and enhancing the natural environment both aquatic and non-aquatic with a view to sustaining tourism. Under such a paradigm, fishing is viewed as a threat to the natural environment and requires strict management. Heavy fines are therefore imposed on users that violate the rules of access. Many of the fishers have had their properties attached after failing to raise the necessary amounts to cover the fines. By shifting away from the promotion of fisheries, government has accelerated the decline of the small-scale fishing industry on Lake Kariba, through narrowing the fishers action space and creating an environment conducive for corruption. The decline has subsequently shrunk the livelihoods base of local communities as well as many others who are associated with the fishing industry. While the sustainability of the fishery is paramount, government needs to reconsider its strategy on governing and managing fisheries on Lake Kariba. Given enough support, small-scale fisheries on Lake Kariba have the potential to contribute significantly to the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Small-scale fisheries have also proved their resilience in the wake of the severe economic crisis that Zimbabwe experienced between 2007 and 2009. During this period, there were widespread shortages of basic food items in the country and the demand for fish and fish products rose drastically. The fishers reported that there was an increase in the demand for fish during the crisis period to the extent that they could not supply enough to satisfy the market. This supports the observation by the United Nations (2010) that fisheries, in particular small-scale, can play an important role in the economy in terms of livelihoods, poverty reduction and food security. Fishing activities are also the perfect complement to other land-based livelihood activities for communities that live in close proximity to large water bodies.