But they also face a barrage of threats, from marine pollution and dwindling fish stocks, to the dramatic effect of climate change on coastal communities. Such challenges require new ways of thinking and innovative financing tools that address both the health and economic wealth of our oceans.
Seychelles is a good example of a country that is going beyond business as usual when it comes to preserving its natural assets. This deal raised funding to buy $21 million of Seychelles’ sovereign debt to reﬁnance it under more favorable terms, and then direct a portion of repayments to fund climate change adaptation, sustainable fisheries, and marine conservation projects – as well as to create an endowment for the benefit of future generations of Seychellois.
I first met Solomon in the early 1980s on Sierra Leone’s Plantain Island, when he volunteered his canoe for a trial program modernizing sails to reduce dependence on petrol for outboard engines. Solomon soon became my friend, and I followed his fortunes and struggles as a fisherman working on Yawri Bay.
Solomon died before he could see the positive outcomes in sustainable fisheries management in West Africa. I especially wish he could have reveled in recent reduction in illegal fishing and large scale industrial trawlers that had taken away his livelihood. Instead, the narrative of his life captures the harsh existence of fishing communities and the added burdens they have had to bear as successive governments failed to manage the once limitless fishing on which they depend.
From Mozambique’s white-sand beaches to Iceland’s snow-white ports, a fisheries delegation learns how private rights, transparent management, and data analysis can transform a fishing industry.
The impact of climate change on hydrology and other natural resources, and on many sectors of African economies—from agriculture to transport, to energy—has been widely researched and discussed. But its effect on marine fisheries, an important economic sector and significant source of food for large numbers of people in Africa, is less well understood.
First, what is known?
Climate change leads to rising sea temperatures, making fish stocks migrate toward colder waters away from equatorial latitudes, and contributing to shrinking fish sizes. It also influences the abundance, migratory patterns, and mortality rates of wild fish stocks.
There is no doubt that extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and severity. While we cannot stop them from striking, we can tell people about them, managing the risk that they present – by advancing our work in hydromet.
Hydromet is the union of hydrology and meteorology, combining water, weather, and climate studies as a formidable force in a government’s ability to accurately understand, forecast, and communicate storms and hazards. This means that something as simple as an accurate weather forecast, or the monitoring of river levels could make the difference between a farmer losing his/her entire crop or a fisherman knowing when best to head out to sea.
Because of the lack of high-quality hydromet services, countries suffer GDP losses every year from flooding, cyclones, and other storms.
However, instead of looking at potential future damages, we must look at
Along the beach in Mondouku, Côte d'Ivoire, a group of fishermen have just returned with their catch. Many of them come from neighboring Ghana, and they tell us that they come to the Ivorian part of the coast because there are more fish here. Still, they explain that the fish are smaller in size and number compared to previous years. The beach they are sitting on is lined with small hotels and cabanas destroyed in a storm surges over the past few years. A bit further down the coast, near the Vridi Canal, we speak with Conde Abdoulaye, who runs the lobster restaurant that his father ran before him. Even at low tide, the water laps against the steps of the restaurant and a retaining wall which he has rebuilt numerous times. He says he knows it is inevitable that at some point the sea will swallow his restaurant, and he will have to leave. He blames the canal for most of the beach erosion, but also acknowledges that changing weather patterns and increasing storms have contributed to the damage.
In Ghana, coastal erosion and rising seas are burying some seaside villages, like Fuveme, which is now completely under sand. As in neighboring countries, hydrocarbon exploration is well underway not too far from the shore, and coastal urban areas are expanding. The fish stock has declined dramatically, and formerly thriving fishing communities are in trouble.
When I was growing up in rural Nigeria in the ‘80s and ‘90s, agriculture was already a central part of my life. As a child, I gained farm experience working with my father, who was a veterinarian. My mother, a teacher, would send me off to school each day with the parting words, “Go out there and be the best amongst equals.” This is still the motto by which I try to live.
In the Northern tip of Mauritania lies the Nouadhibou Free Zone. Created in 2013 with financial and technical support from the World Bank, the first international partner to do so, it benefits from a 110-kilometer coastline on the Atlantic Ocean and an exclusive economic zone of 230,000 square kilometers. Its waters are among the most seafood-rich in the world, with a capacity of 1,500,000 tons per year.
The free zone offers investment opportunities in industries, logistics, tourism, retail business and tertiary sectors. However, creating a competitiveness hub in the fishing sector is one of the paramount objectives of the zone, given the importance of the sector for the Mauritanian economy. It represents 5.8 percent of the GNP, accounts for 18 percent of the total exports, and contributes to an estimated 40,000 jobs.
In March 2016, the World Bank approved the Nouadhibou Eco-Seafood Cluster Project (Projet Eco-Pôle Halieutique) with an International Development Association (IDA) grant of $7.75 million out of a total project amount of $9.25 million.
The objective of the project is to support the development of a fishing-sector hub in the Nouadhibou Free Zone aimed at promoting the sustainable management of fisheries and creating prosperity for the local communities.
While the Free Zone has already achieved critical results — such as the attraction of a few international investors in food processing and fish exports, the completion of commercial viability studies of the deep-seawater port and the airport, and the elaboration of a draft law on public-private partnerships (PPPs) — some constraints affecting more specifically the fishing sector remain. They include, among other things, the lack of productive diversification, an integrated value-chain, know-how about certification and international standards, and the octopus fishing quota system.
In addition, the lack of structured dialogue among the various public and private stakeholders in the fishing sector had been identified as a fundamental impediment to the development of the hub’s competitiveness.
Louise Cord, the World Bank Country Director, who recently visited Nouadhibou to officially launch the project with the President of the Free Zone, commended the Free Zone Authority for creating a Public-Private Dialogue (PPD) Task Force in 2015.
Ibasho: a Japanese approach to community resilience
In Ofunato, elder community members planned and built the Ibasho Café, which serves as a hub to restore the fabric of a community badly damaged by the GEJE disaster. Ibasho Café is an informal gathering place that brings the community together. All generations connect in that space, with children coming to read books in the English library, older people teaching the young how to make traditional foods, younger people helping their elders navigate computer software, etc. With the elderly actively engaged in the operation of the Ibasho café, the place helps build social capital and resilience, while changing people’s mindsets about aging. The café runs as a sustainable business and, over time, has developed a noodle shop, an organic farm, and a farmers market to further support its operation.
In 2014-2015, GFDRR supported the documentation of the Ibasho experience in Japan. Learning about this experience, Santoshi realized the elders and women of her community could also lead the way, and reached out to Emi Kiyota, head of Ibasho, the NGO that facilitated the process in Ofunato.