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Ten-year plan for stronger kapenta fisheries in Zambia

FISH4ACP upgrading strategy will help reduce hunger and poverty and safeguard Lake Tanganyika’s aquatic resources

26 April 2023, Mpulungu, Zambia – A ten-year strategy to make Zambia’s kapenta value chain stronger and more sustainable was endorsed today by public and private sector stakeholders in a bid to produce better food to reduce poverty, better protect women and preserve Lake Tanganyika’s aquatic resources. 

“Kapenta provides a healthy meal to many Zambians and is a crucial part of the livelihood of our fishing communities,” said Mbamwai Mbewe, Acting Director of Fisheries at the launch of a ten-year strategy to upgrade Zambia’s kapenta value chain. He added: “We need to improve production and better manage fish stocks so that future generations can still benefit from Lake Tanganyika’s aquatic resources.” 

The new strategy aims to realize a well-managed and inclusive value chain in ten years’ time, contributing to better incomes and healthier food, reduced vulnerability for women and sustainable fishing.  

It is the outcome of a sector-wide dialogue on a more productive and sustainable kapenta sector, spearheaded by FISH4ACP, a global fish value chain development initiative led by the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) with funding from the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by FAO.

“The kapenta stock, and the inclusive, gender-balanced value chain created by it, has the potential to supply nutritious fish year-round”, said Carl Huchzermeyer, Regional Coordinator in Luapula Province for the GIZ Fish for Food Security in Zambia Project, representing BMZ. He added: “Investment in nutrition is recovered many times over through the avoidance of the economic and human costs of malnutrition. FISH4ACP shows us how to keep this nutritious little fish on our plates”.

“FAO is happy to support this comprehensive and collective effort towards a blue transformation of kapenta fishing in Zambia,” said Suze Percy Filippini, FAO Representative in Zambia. “It shows how FISH4ACP works at the heart of FAO’s agenda to transform the food systems to achieve the four betters: better production, better nutrition, better environment, better life.” 

With an estimated yearly production of 28 000 tonnes, small pelagics provide nearly half the jobs in Zambia’s fishing industry. But incomes are low and most workers live below the poverty line, according to a value chain analysis conducted by FISH4ACP in collaboration with WorldFish. Women, who mostly work in fish processing and trading, earn a yearly average of USD 200.  

Moreover, there are concerns about declining catches and smaller kapenta size, while the number of fishers is rising and nets with undersized meshes are often used. Similarly, most women dry their kapenta on the ground, leading to significant post-harvest losses, especially in the rainy season. At the same time, lack of capital exposes them to risks that include engaging in fish for sex transactions.  

During the two-day meeting in Mpulungu, some 50 private and public sector stakeholders validated the upgrading strategy and a set of actions that would accomplish its vision for a stronger kapenta value chain.  

These actions include support for better fishing practices and improved management of the fishery. A lot of effort will be put in strengthening capacities of women and youth to improve their livelihoods and reduce their vulnerabilities. Lastly, several implementation actions will focus on achieving improved access to markets and finance for value chain actors.