A Student Development Experience in a Development Context

Livelihoods in the Fishing Village

Over the span of our stay so far I have come to recognize the importance of fish (samaki) in the Tanzanian diet. But where does the fish come from? Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa shared among Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda is a major outlet for small-scale fishing and large fisheries. We had the opportunity to visit a small fishing village just outside of Bunda. Discussions with the CPAR team unveiled the many environmental, social and economic concerns surrounding the Lake and fishing of the Lake.

Politics surrounds the management of Lake Victoria, not only because three countries share the key water resource, but also because of Egypt’s involvement. A treaty was established in the 1930s between several African countries in the Nile region giving Egypt authority to take water from Lake Victoria without consultation. Therefore, from a macro point of view, international relations surround the lake and the management of its usage. While the international aspect is a large factor to consider when it comes to fishing in Lake Victoria, the purpose of my blog is to shed light on the issues I saw when visiting the fishing village.

A couple of the issues surrounding Lake Victoria include pollution and overfishing. Soil siltation and mud runoff contribute to pollution, and with urbanization, higher rates of sewage runoff have exacerbated pollution. The management of the lake clearly becomes an issue since unlimited access to the water and its resources seems to be granted to the increasing amount of fish factories and small-scale fishing, therefore exploitation of fish by overfishing is a major concern.

The fishing village also revealed the division of labour between men and women and the social organization of the family unit. Men had the distinct role of collecting fish with nets, whereas women sift through the nets categorizing fish by size, drying out any fish, and preparing the fish for the market. During the dry season men move away to fish as an additional source of income, therefore women are left at home with the children. It is not uncommon for men to have two families; one inland, for instance in Bunda, and one in the fishing village. While in the fishing village I noticed the intense amount of children, none of which were in school. With larger families there are more mouths to feed, and more school fees for children. The issue of food is not as much a concern for families in the fishing village, because the lake is able to provide food all year round, however, to notice the amount of children not in school was alarming.

Women sorting sardines

The use of Lake Victoria implies concerns of sustainability, especially since overfishing and pollution are at issue. However, the potential problems do not stop there. Visiting the fishing village revealed the direct relation of fish to peoples’ livelihoods. The village we visited was dependent on the fish of the lake, and as such I couldn’t help but notice that people were using the lake to fish, collect their drinking water, bathe their children, and drain their sewage. I beg the question of what happens first of all when fish run out? What happens to the ecosystem and the lives of people who depend on the lake for survival? In the meantime, how can health concerns surrounding water and sanitation improve in order for people living in the village to live safer, healthier lives? What can be managed? The management of resources themselves is a challenge, as well as the management of sewage and establishing a safe drinking water system. Of equal importance is trying to understand why children are not in school, and what can be done to engage people to understand the importance of education for their children.

After visiting Bunda, I definitely saw a difference between the level of progress between Karatu and Bunda. CPAR has only been involved in Bunda for about two years now and I generally got a sense that CPAR’s projects have been well received as the boreholes and farmer field schools (FFS) have helped to improve the lives of many households. However, I continue to be intrigued to learn about what is going on in Tanzania beyond CPAR? So far we have seen the positive impact of CPAR’s projects, the fishing village brought to light how much more improvement needs to be done in the Bunda region. The importance of CPAR to continue its efforts in Bunda were made crystal clear after our visit to the fishing village.

Jacklynn and children at the fishing village















One response

  1. cparcanada

    Hi there Katherine,

    Great post! Yes – fishing is often a very important and potentially lucrative livelihood strategy. In fact, there has been lots written about the way that artisanal and commercial fisheries are run in Africa, especially on the Great Lakes (not ours, theirs: Victoria, Albert, Tanganika, Malawi etc etc). You’re observation on the gendered dimensions of fishing, and its environmental impact are both spot on. A tool of analysis that has often been employed to study how the fishery is managed and executed and how the benefits of fishing get distributed, is something they call commodity chain analysis. Check it out on line. Paired with gender mapping, these two ways of seeing, can give you a very detailed appreciation for how something like fishing can be better understood and how its benefits – money, nutrition, employment, can be shared – or not. These are the kinds of tools that organizations like CPAR can uise to better understand the context and design interventions that meet specific needs.

    Have fun over there.


    June 6, 2011 at 1:51 pm

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