Fishing activities by coastal artisanal fisher communities contribute to the livelihoods of a large percentage of the populations of both Kenya and Tanzania, however there has been a decline in recent catches. Inadequate information is available on the socio-economic status of the fishers dependent on these resources, and on the status of the fisheries resources themselves. Much of the information available is either limited to site-specific studies, or considered unreliable.
The extent of dependence on fishing in these countries is believed to be severely underestimated in both countries. As identified by a number of regional organisations, there is need for a greater understanding of the livelihoods of people dependent on coastal and marine resources, in order for appropriate interventions to be taken to mitigate the constraints to the livelihood development of the poor.
The project developed an improved understanding of the contribution of fisheries to livelihoods in East Africa, by reviewing all available literature and conducting interviews with relevant fisheries bodies. This was supplemented with field-based studies at representative sites in both countries, to enable ground-truthing of review findings and provide more detailed information.
A comparative analysis of the fieldwork and review information then identified the most important fisheries-livelihood problems facing the poor, and suggested where existing technologies and other measures may be appropriate.
The project has increased awareness and understanding of fisheries dependent livelihoods, and has documented the importance of fisheries resources to coastal communities in Kenya and Tanzania. National statistics were scarce, but the field studies found that fishing was ranked as the primary livelihood earner for most of the study-site villages. The project identified the main constraints to livelihood development as lack of access to capital, poor fisheries management and declining resources, and habitat destruction. Opportunities for mitigating the constraints were identified, both at a management level, and at a local level.
Through the participatory learning approach promoted in the field-based studies, which included stakeholder analyses, livelihoods appraisals, and problem census workshops, the linkages between stakeholder groups were strengthened. In addition, training of community members and government staff to assist in the project has built capacity for carrying out socio-economic research.