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Zambia is moving to make kapenta fisheries stronger

FISH4ACP support to help reduce hunger and poverty and safeguard Lake Tanganyika’s aquatic resources

15 March 2024, Lusaka – Women empowerment in fishing communities, improved access to markets and promotion of alternative livelihoods to diversify incomes were among the efforts highlighted by the global fish value chain development program FISH4ACP at a presentation of progress made under its ten-year strategy to help make Zambia’s small pelagics value chain stronger and more sustainable.  

“Kapenta provides healthy and affordable food to many people in our country and it is an important source of income for our fishing communities,” said Evans Mutanuka, Assistant Director, Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries at a presentation of FISH4ACP’s activities to upgrade the kapenta sector. He added: “These efforts put us on a road to improved production and better managed fish stocks that is going to ensure that future generations can benefit from Lake Tanganyika’s aquatic resources.” 

On the occasion, a report was handed over outlining the value chain analysis of Zambia’s Lake Tanganyika’s small pelagics value chain that was carried out last year by FISH4ACP in cooperation with WorldFish. This study laid the foundation of a ten-year strategy currently being implemented to help Zambia to upgrade its small pelagics sector in a bid to reduce poverty, better protect women and safeguard Lake Tanganyika’s aquatic resources.  

Yearly production of Lake Tanganyika’s small pelagics, locally known as kapenta, is estimated at 28 000 tonnes, according to the value chain analysis. This sector provides nearly half the jobs in Zambia’s fishing industry. But incomes are low, and most workers live below the poverty line. Women, who mostly work in fish processing and trading, earn a yearly average of USD 200.  

Moreover, multiple stakeholders raised concerns about declining catches and smaller kapenta size at a time when the number of fishers is rising although more data are needed to confirm the actual stock status. Poor processing techniques impact the quality of the fish, as kapenta is dried on the ground. Consequently, part of the catch is used as animal feed.   

“Nearly one year into the implementation of our strategy, FISH4ACP is rolling out a wide range of activities to increase incomes, empower women and promote sustainable fishing,” said Gilles van de Walle, FISH4ACP’s Chief Technical Adviser, adding: “Our ambition is to support stakeholders to realize a well-managed and inclusive kapenta value chain in Zambia. It lies at the heart of FAO’s agenda to achieve the four betters: better production, better nutrition, better environment, better life.” 

FISH4ACP, Gilles van de Walle explained, is an initiative of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), implemented by FAO with funding from the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). 

The initiative is working through Dimitra-clubs to empower women fish processors and traders and tackle issues such as fish-for-sex transactions to which women are frequently exposed due to their lack of capital. At the same time, a business strategy is being developed to help find better markets for kapenta, while alternative livelihoods are being assessed to offer fishing communities options to diversify their income.  

To make Lake Tanganyika’s fisheries more sustainable, FISH4ACP is helping the Zambian Department of Fisheries to boost its monitoring, control and surveillance capacities, including by providing adequate equipment.