Fishermen fight deforestation in Nkhata Bay

Fishermen fight deforestation in Nkhata bay
New concrete drying racks

Fishermen and fish vendors have joined the cause to fight deforestation in Nkhata Bay, one of the fishing districts in Malawi. Nkhata bay is fast losing its tree cover from which fishermen get firewood and wood for construction of fish drying racks.  

Highlights

  • Tukombo and Chintheche occupy second and third largest forestland with 48,000 and 45,000 hectares respectively, representing 23% and 22% of total district forest area.
  • The project has seen 15 fish ponds constructed or rehabilitated and stocked together with the construction of 75 concrete pillar fish racks, saving approximately 7,800 young trees in avoided deforestation
  • Fishing accounts for 40% of total household income in Tukombo-Kande.

“Each standard fish drying rack (30m x1.5m) can use up to 180 small trees. This quickly adds up to thousands of young trees cut down annually if you consider the high population of fishermen and vendors in the landscape, estimated at 600 and 2,000 respectively. And if a fisherman or vendor has five of these then he/she is likely to use more trees to produce the fish racks,” said Emily Phiri-Chinthu, Kunyanja Development Organisation (KUDO) Coordinator.

KUDO is coordinating the activities of Community Based Organisations (CBOs) in the district. The CBOs are implementing community projects in fish farming and sustainable fish processing, eco-tourism, beekeeping and afforestation and sustainable agricultural practices with funding from the Community Development and Knowledge Management for the Satoyama Initiative (COMDEKS) Project. COMDEKS is funded by the Japan Biodiversity Fund and is implemented by UNDP through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP).

Located in Tukombo-Kande area the project landscape covers an area of 27,000 hectares covering three Traditional Authority (TA) areas of Zilakoma, Malengamzoma and Fukamapiri in the district. The area is well endowed with natural resources such as fisheries, forests and grasslands. Tukombo and Chintheche occupy second and third largest forestland with 48,000 and 45,000 hectares respectively, representing 23% and 22% of total district forest area.

Currently this area experiences low fish catches, high rate of deforestation, increased soil erosion and siltation around the Lake and rivers due to river bank and steep slope cultivation. To deal with this, UNDP through COMDEKS has given out a MWK15, 400,000 (US$35,000 using Feb. 2015 UN Exchange Rate of US$1:MWK439.93) project grant to communities to implement the Fish Farming, Processing and Sanitation Project in the area. The project has seen 15 fish ponds constructed or rehabilitated and stocked together with the construction of 75 concrete pillar fish racks. From the communities’ point of view the destruction of forests needs to be stopped and “the project has come in at the right time”.

Magodi Nkhwazi one of the fishermen who have embraced the programme said, “Each year we have been maintaining the fish racks using trees from the forests.  And when we heard about the project we were so happy and embraced it.”

Nkhwazi who plies his fishing business at Tukombo Fish Landing Site said the coming in of the project would reduce the destruction of the forests and “we are also saving on money we would spend on buying trees from the forests each year”. 

Fishing is one of the major activities for the households and it accounts for 40% of total household income. The site has over 600 fishermen and with over 2000 fish vendors. In many cases people who have fish racks are vendors rather than fishers.

Just like agriculture, fishing is also seasonal in nature but different fish species are available at different times of the year. The value of the catch therefore varies with the seasons of the year and from day to day but on average fishermen make up to MWK104, 700 (US$238 using Feb. 2015 UN Exchange Rate of US$1:MWK439.93) per day per landing.

Alex Damaliphetsa, COMDEKS National Coordinator said, “We are very satisfied with progress so far, particularly on the impact the project is creating in transforming both the landscape and peoples’ livelihoods. The empowerment of women and youth through alternative livelihoods and sustainable agriculture, the improvement of natural resources governance at community level and increased food security and incomes are key milestones in this project.”

He, however, said there is a lot of room for improvement, particularly in areas of documentation and reporting of results. He said the communities still need a lot of capacity building support in project management.

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