Can artisanal fishers venture into alternative livelihoods?

The age-old proverb of “if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime” is the mantra that many artisanal, small-scale fishermen and women live by.
While many were born and raised in coastal towns on meagre incomes from artisanal fishing, there is a significant number who find themselves drawn to the coastline of the rough and cold Atlantic in pursuit of better opportunities (i.e. jobs on fishing vessels, or at fisheries factories or even at proliferating mines in the coastal areas). For these women and men, fishing is the only option for income generation – they do not see themselves doing anything else but fish!
Then along came climate change and the science is clear: Namibian fisheries are vulnerable to external economic and ecological shocks making catch volumes unpredictable due to the fluctuations of the Benguela current thanks to climate change. Preliminary evaluations indicate that climate variability influences the distribution of marine species because of temperature changes. Consequently, this leads to downstream negative impacts affecting employment, income, and government revenue.
Such variations have severe consequences for the fisheries sector and are an enormous challenge for fisheries management. Several reports conclude that small-scale and artisanal fisheries tend to be the most vulnerable to environmental change and variability.
These fisheries engage many people who are heavily dependent on fisheries and marine resources for their livelihoods. Many live in poverty and most have very little ability to adapt to reduced catches and catch rates. While the sector as a whole is adversely affected, the vulnerable fishing communities with low adaptive capacities are the worst affected.
Help is at hand
The EIF being established to mobilise funding, and allocate funding to activities and projects, which promote the sustainable use and efficient management of natural resources for the benefit of all Namibians has taken up this call, to assist artisanal small-scale fishers to build not only their resilience but also to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
For the EIF’s next programming pipeline to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the EIF intends to make a proposal submission before the GCF’s board meeting in October 2023, that aims to build resilience and reduce the vulnerability to climate variability and change of the marine fisheries and mariculture sectors in Namibia through strengthening adaptive capacity and implementing participatory and integrated strategies to ensure food and livelihood security.
In fulfilment of the above, the EIF team comprising chief operations officer Karl Aribeb, programmes and programming manager Bernadette Shalumbu-Shivute and assistant climate change programme specialist Talitha Litwayi, engaged various stakeholders from the fishing industry from 15 to 17 February 2023, to assess whether the proposal and its proposed interventions have scope within the sector and what other opportunities are possible, as alternatives to fishing in the face of climate change.
Indeed, climate change is not going away; the only way to deal with climate change is to build sectoral resilience, starting with small-scale fisheries.