By Jérémy Huet
This time I am visiting our partner AMA in Mozambique to have an in-depth knowledge of the communities’ perception on what’s threatening the marine resources they depend on. It started with various discussions with the project partners on the methodology to approach the local communities and understand their views.
And here we are today in Quifuke – one of the six villages to be visited. Quifuke is an island off Mocimboa da Praia. Here the sailing boats used as public transport depart at 6pm from Mocimboa for arrival on the remote island the next day at 7am. Fortunately AMA has now its own boat to overcome this tough route.
Quifuke is inhabited by itinerant fishers coming from another Mozambican province called Nampula. Difficult living conditions forced them to move and migrate along the coast up north towards the Tanzanian border. They settled here. However, the high competition with fishers in Nampula that led to depleted resources is striking Quifuke and the same cycle starts again.
The the day we arrived on Quifuke my colleagues from AMA and I met with the newly formed fishers council. AMA has a technician who lives on the island to guarantee contact with local fishers. The fishers arranged gender and age group-specific meetings the next day so that we get a full understanding of what they perceive as a threat to their fisheries and how we might sort this out together.
I had been informed that spending a night in Quifuke was not like the tourism adverts we see in the tube and on buses in London that promote idyllic stays on tropical island beaches. Although we can at least keep the coconut trees. But besides the coconuts, an overnight in Quifuke involved getting away from restless rats, and beware of natural land mines – there are no latrines on the whole island! As a result the sanitation conditions are really bad - freshwater simply doesn’t exist on Quifuke. It’s all imported by boat from an inland village that sells water from their worst maintained well. Everything has a cost on Quifuke, even water.
In summary, Quifuke is not the most attractive place to be. However the next day, we met well-mannered, open-minded and generous people during the meetings. They were willing to share their stories and working conditions. Some of them have been here for several decades!
Together, we set a diagram against a timeline showing the evolution of the fish stocks since 1985. Dramatically decreasing. Fishers even anticipate there won’t be fish anymore in the area by 2025. As a result we agreed on further discussions with fishers, local authorities and AMA such as designing a strategy to raise young fishers’ awareness for sustainable fishing, limit bad fishing practices like night fishing but also create a reserve that no-one could enter.
So now we have a reason to come back to the full-of-resources Quifuke. We’ll work out ways with fishers to come back to initial fish stock trends so that people make a living and develop decent sanitation conditions. Conservationists call it the theory of change!
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