Centro de inversiones de la FAO

FAO Investment Centre builds climate resilience with sustainable fisheries in the Gambia

Small-scale fisherman repairing fishing nets.

Sustainable management of aquatic ecosystems, fisheries and aquaculture is key to building climate resilience and food security for Gambia’s fisherfolk, who are increasingly grappling with climate change impacts on their livelihoods and communities. 

FAO has developed a new project for sustainable fisheries, in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, with financing from the Green Climate Fund (GCF). 

Almost 168 000 Gambians who depend on fisheries stand to gain from the USD 25 million project, which aims to develop more climate-resilient communities and infrastructure, while regenerating the ecosystems on which fisherfolk depend. 

The ‘Climate resilient fishery initiative for livelihood improvement’ (PROREFISH) targets the most vulnerable people and regions in the Gambia. FAO investment Centre team led the PROREFISH design in collaboration with the Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment (OCB) and FAO Representation in the Republic of the Gambia (FAOR).

“The goal is to catalyse a paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development in Gambia’s fisheries,” said Ismail Oudra, acting Service Chief for the Centre’s West and Central Africa Service. “FAO Investment Centre expertise in strategic investment planning will advance best practices in sustainable fisheries, promote climate-resilient aquaculture and restore habitats – promoting food and nutrition security amongst fisheries-dependent communities in the Gambia.”

Climate threats to the vital fish sector

Agriculture, including fisheries, employs almost nearly half of the labour force, providing livelihoods for 80 percent of the rural population. While the sector contributes 23.7 percent of GDP and a third of all export earnings, the poverty rate in the sector is higher than any other – with 79 percent of households engaged in agriculture and fisheries living on less than USD 1.25 a day.

Fish make up the main source of protein for the Gambian population, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable. Upwards of 200 000 Gambians are involved in the fisheries sector and related activities, making it vital to food security and livelihoods.

Yet, climate change is projected to ravage this crucial sector, threatening to exacerbate rural poverty and livelihood insecurity. Challenges for fisherfolk are further compounded by overfishing, pollution, and habitat degradation.

Climate stressors identified in Gambia’s fisheries include increases in ocean temperature, acidification, deoxygenation, and salinity. These factors are likely to reduce the stocks of key fish species on which communities depend.

In particular, mangrove forests – which are essential spawning grounds and nurseries for many fish and shellfish species – are in danger due to rising sea levels and increased salinity. 

The increasing frequency of extreme weather events is anticipated to impact the Gambia’s marine, coastal and riverine fisheries, damaging coastal fisheries infrastructure and inland aquaculture facilities. Fish losses and wastage is likely to increase due to infrastructure destruction at landing sites, insufficient storage and processing capacity, and climate impacts on market access.

Depleted fish resources and degraded infrastructure could exponentially increase risks to livelihoods and food security for vulnerable communities, without adequate climate-proofing and adaptation measures in place.



Building resilience and sustainability into Gambian fisheries

“The project scales up proven adaption measures adopted in several West African countries and focuses on climate-proofing fisheries and related infrastructure and value chain segments dominated by women,” Omar S. M. Gibba, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Fisheries, Water Resources and National Assembly Matters, said.

“The activities will improve the livelihood of thousands of people dependent on fisheries, and it is a timely and welcome intervention for the nation,” he added, speaking on behalf of the Minister, Honourable Musa S. Drammeh.

Particular focus will be on supporting community management of small-scale, artisanal fisheries in the districts of Banjul (including Tambi Wetlands), Brufut, Tanjeh, Sanyang, Karthong, Bintang and Jahally.

The FAO Investment Centre has designed strategic and sustainable investments to enhance fisheries infrastructure, increase overall fish availability, and boost incomes and food security for fisherfolk and farmers.

Upgraded infrastructure is anticipated to decrease fish wastage and enable the sector to better withstand climate shocks and changes.

Focusing particularly on Gambia’s mangrove ecosystems, the project will implement replanting and assisted natural regeneration, to help restore habitats. An estimated 750 households in mangrove communities will benefit from the ‘sustainable ecosystem management’ approach – seeking to balance competing human needs and natural resources over the long term.

The restoration of up to 2 350 hectares of mangrove forests is also projected to sequester approximately 238 519 tonnes of CO2e, bringing significant mitigation co-benefits.

The project will also oversee the introduction of new technologies and techniques for aquaculture production – including oyster cultivation, rice-fish farming and providing organic fertilizers for farming as well as fish-production.

Scaling up investment

Recognising that advancing climate change adaptation knowledge and skills at both national and community levels is key to sustainable investments, the Centre has designed capacity-building interventions to enable Gambian decision-makers and fisherfolk to regenerate ecosystems, climate-proof infrastructure, and attract further investment and initiatives from development partners and the private sector.

Women and girls are vital to the sector – particularly in shellfish harvesting, fish handling, processing and retaining.  Yet, they are often marginalized and disadvantaged. The initiative will take a proactive approach to integrate women in decision-making, and empower women to participate in the formal economy. 

This investment in fisheries is expected to enable Gambian fisherfolk to more effectively adapt to climate impacts throughout the six-year FAO-implemented project term, boosting long-term livelihood and food security as well as climate resilience in the Gambia. 

Photo credit ©FAO/Valerio Crespi via Flickr