الخطوط التوجيهية الطوعية لضمان استدامة مصايد الأسماك صغيرة النطاق في سياق الأمن الغذائي والقضاء على الفقر

How the Department of Fisheries in the Government of Malawi responded to the Covid-19 pandemic

23/10/2020

Like with many areas around the world, the fisheries and aquaculture sector in Malawi has been hugely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic through a loss of business following the closure and operational scale down of most channels through which small-scale fishers on Lake Malawi relied on for the marketing of their products. Likewise, fish processors and traders are experiencing reduced access to markets and restricted travel due to the COVID-19 containment measures, affecting their livelihoods as well as their communities’ access to nutrient-rich fish products

Click to enlargeA package of FAO sponsored IEC materials meant to increase awareness on COVID-19 being acknowledged on delivery by an extension worker in the far remote areas of Mangochi. ©Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resource, Government of Malawi

The fishing sector is particularly susceptible to the risks posed by COVID-19 as it relies on operations in congested places like crewing crowded fishing vessels, sleeping in poorly ventilated makeshift accommodation on beaches, and travelling in fully packed vehicles to markets. In the markets, people jostle shoulder to shoulder, providing grounds for the spread of the virus. On top of this, many fishers and fishworkers do not have access to appropriate hygiene facilities or the recommended personal protective equipment.

The Government of Malawi has rolled out sector-specific interventions to stem the spread of COVID-19 and support the global response on the prevention and containment of the virus. With regards to small-scale fisheries, the Department of Fisheries employed multiple forms of media to target the relevant communities with integrated information packages on COVID-19 prevention, with advice on good practices in the face of the pandemic.  

The multimedia approach was devised in a way that all actors in the value chain, including members of the general community, could be reached with messages on the prevention of COVID-19 whilst conveying specific messages to fishers and fish farmers emphasizing the importance of not abrogating good handling practices. The methods used to covey these messages included the following.

  1. Posters provided by the World Health Organisation illustrating basic virus prevention measures were translated into Chichewa, the national language of Malawi. The posters carried messages on hand washing with soap, personal etiquette when coughing and sneezing, and role of parents in protecting children from infection.
  2. Brochures with integrated messaging on the relationship between fisheries and Covid-19 were handed out to fishers. It detailed what should be done to limit the impact of the pandemic on their businesses.
  3. Special jingles were recorded and aired on community radio stations targeting fish farmers and fishers on the virus featuring the voices of a senior traditional leaders.

The full impact of these interventions has not yet been assessed, but it has been suggested that field trips should be organised to ascertain communities’ reception to the radio broadcasts and how the messages affected knowledge, attitudes or practices in the fisheries sector in the wake of the pandemic.