Artisanal fishery in socio-economic development of rural communities in Malawi : a case study of enclave villages of Lake Malawi National Park.
Kumchedwa, Brighton Kalembeni.
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Fishing, and artisanal fishing in particular, plays a key role in the provision of rural employment and more importantly, household food security in the developing nations. The importance of artisanal fishery is shown in Malawi where artisanal fishery produces between 85-95% of the total fish production, and about 70% of the animal protein in human consumption comes from fish. About 43,000 people are employed directly in artisanal fisheries and approximately 100,000150,000 are indirectly employed within the artisanal fishery. Owing to increasing human population in the developing countries coupled with the common property, open-access nature of the fish resource, the resource has not been able to cope with the ever-increasing socio-economic demand placed on it. The resource is so degraded that it is has started to decline beyond capacity to sustain itself. This study was an attempt to examine and understand the artisanal fishery as it contributes to the socio-economic well being of the rural population particularly, the enclave communities of Lake Malawi National Park. The present study used structured interviews, focus group interviews, key informant interviews and personal observation to collect socio-economic information of the fishery. These research tools revealed that among the enclave communities income levels are low and unsustainable due to declining productivity of fishing. The decline may be a result of increasing human population, weak community-based institutions, limited agriculture, poor infrastructure with regard to processing and marketing of fish, limited supplementary and alternatives economic activities, and the fishing methods. Documentary information was used to contextualize artisanal fishery, to examine and understand the common-property and open-access nature of the fish resource as it relates to the exploitation Of fish among the enclave communities. Integrated development that brings together conservation and socio-economic development is the only option that will increase the income of the enclave communities to sustainable levels and achieve the Park's conservation objectives. The socio-economic intervention options should include provision of basic social facilities such as education, health, safe water etc, increase the economic power of the enclave communities through irrigation, adding more value to the fishery, engaging in aquarium trade, community-based eco-tourism and beekeeping. These options would lead to socio-economic sustainability among the enclave communities and would bring about the conservation objectives of the Park.
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