Fishing plays a significant role in the livelihood of the coastal region in terms of employment, income and provision of principal protein to the diet.
However, the industry’s capability to generate sizeable growth opportunities and to effectively contribute to the developing world’s development objective of poverty eradication and wealth creation has been immensely disturbed due to the constraints it faces in terms of food loss.
“Food loss and food waste is a global challenge. Post-harvest food loss is estimated at 25-35% in East Africa Coastal regions and can be as high as 60-80% in the warmer months due to lack of cold storage facilities. As a result, fishermen are forced to sell their catch at throwaway prices or risk spoilage of the entire stoke.” Irene Mwaura – Project officer-energy and climate change, WWF-Kenya.
Value addition processes and equipment also remain largely poor and ineffective especially in developing economies.
While visiting the Kiwayu and Ngomeni Beach Management Units (BMU), the chairmen and members noted that the most prominent issues were lack of cold storage facilities which ultimately lead to food loss.
Fishermen from both sites faced the same kind of challenges ranging from lack of freezers, expensive transport costs, middlemen exploiting the fishermen and lack of ready markets for competitive pricing.
Hashim Lale, Chairman of Kiwaiyu BMU said,” the main issue in their unit is the maintenance of their storage unit as well as lack of enough space to avoid the fish from rotting.”
“In a good day, the fishermen get so much fish but we have to sell at throwaway prices because we do not have enough storage facilities, this is quite unfortunate because a Tuna that goes for roughly Ksh 250 per kg, is sold as low as Ksh 50 per kg to avoid wastage.”
Farouq Amin Chairman of Ngomeni BMU on his part said that ”most of his fishermen incur losses because they are forced to dry fish as opposed to selling them while fresh to avert food loss. When you dry the fish, you sell it at Ksh 30 per kg as opposed to Ksh 200 per kg when it’s fresh.”
Amin also decried the lack of basic knowledge by fishermen which is costing them and the environment by extension.
“As resources become scarce, communities should be empowered to minimize wastage so that the same resources will be available in the future for others. Demonstrating the power of technology to address challenges is one step towards realising this while ensuring they are practising sustainable fisheries,” said Ms Mwaura.
WWF in both instances has assisted the communities to sustain themselves by educating them about the environment, educating the children in the community, enlightening the community on how to pull resources to put into other projects and also providing some fishermen with some fishing equipment.
Additionally, major infrastructure projects underway within the seascape, including new roads and a deepwater port is also causing disruption to the fishermen.
“The ships while crossing over rip the fishing nets and do not compensate for the damage caused, this has led to some of the fishers docking their boats due to lack of equipment.” Amin.
Fishing has been an important socioeconomic engagement at the coast for hundreds of years.
Most people in at the coast practice artisan fishery which is basically subsistence fishery.
A bulk of the fish caught is for direct consumption and the surplus is sold to supplement the fishermen’s income.
The seafood sector would have probably grown further if value addition at the various stages of the supply chain are considered and post-harvest losses minimised.
The biggest challenge, therefore, is how to enhance the seafood value chain by adding value at various points in order to make the industry and its products competitive both within and outside the Kenyan market.