Role of eco-credit associations in enhancing sustainable Fisheries in Tanzania

THE fisheries resources are abundant in our country.

Official statistics indicate an estimated biomass of 1,109,932 tonnes for Lake Victoria, 100,000 tonnes in marine (Territorial), 295,000 Tonnes for Lake Tanganyika, 168,000 tonnes for Lake Nyasa and 30,000 tonnes for other inland water bodies.

It has 238,053 fishermen, with 149,018 in fresh waters and 89,035 in marine waters, employing over 4,500,000 people in jobs such as boat builders, fish processors, and engine repairers.

Unsustainable fishing practices have led to a decline in fish catch, threatening the livelihoods of fishing communities and the country’s food security. Researchers and other stakeholders have attempted to solve this problem in various ways.

Though some NGOs have incorporated the concept of eco credits to support the existing credit groups in coastal communities in their projects, there are limited financial institutions and donors who support these community groups.

What are Eco-credit associations (ECAs)? These can be financial institutions, donors or project owners providing financial and technical support to small-scale fishers who adopt sustainable fishing practices.

They exist to facilitate members who engage in environmentally friendly activities particularly in marine biodiversity conservation.

The next question is why eco-credit associations are essential in Tanzania for marine biodiversity conservation? Eco-credit associations provide credit facilities to fishermen who use sustainable fishing practices.

This helps to reduce overfishing and protect marine biodiversity. It also reduces pressure on marine resources and promotes marine biodiversity conservation. Coastal marine resource users can be given pre-determined credits to diversify their income as alternative livelihoods.

For instances fishers can also do seaweed or sea cucumber farming or crab fattening as an alternative income source.

Eco-credit associations can support marine conservation efforts by providing credit facilities to organisations that engage in conservation activities such as beach cleanups, coral reef restoration, and marine education.

By providing credit facilities to small-scale fishermen and other coastal entrepreneurs, dependence on marine resources can be reduced and promotes marine biodiversity conservation.

Since most coastal community members do not have access to traditional banking services, they can access this service as alternative to banking services, in this aspect, Banks such as NMB, CRDB and others may engage in eco credit activities in coastal communities to not only increase customer base but also play part in climate change and environmental conservation.

Eco-credit associations promote environmental awareness among coastal communities by providing training and education on sustainable fishing practices, waste management, and other environmental issues.

Parallel to this, these associations can facilitate collaboration between different stakeholders involved in marine biodiversity conservation, including government agencies, NGOs, and local communities to enhance the resilience of coastal communities to climate change by providing credit facilities for adaptation measures such as mangrove restoration and sea walls.

While eco-credit associations have the potential to enhance sustainable fisheries in Tanzania, there are also risks associated with their implementation. Proper monitoring and enforcement mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that sustainable fishing practices are being followed and that all stakeholders have equal access to credit.

The other major risk is the potential for eco-credit associations to create unequal access to credit. If certain groups of marine resource users are unable to meet the requirements for credit, they may be left out of the programme entirely.

This could lead to further marginalisation of already vulnerable groups and exacerbate existing inequalities in the fishing industry.

Another risk is that eco-credit associations may not be effective in promoting sustainable fishing practices. Without proper monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, these groups will not follow the rules required for credit eligibility.

Additionally, if the credit provided is not sufficient or if interest rates are too high, participants may be incentivised to engage in unsustainable fishing practices in order to make ends meet. On top of that these associations may also face challenges related to governance and management.

If these associations are not well-managed, there is a risk of corruption or mismanagement of funds. Additionally, if the association is not representative of all stakeholders in the fishing industry, there may be resistance from those who feel excluded from decision-making processes.

Therefore, establishing eco-credit associations is vital in enhancing sustainable fisheries in Tanzania. These associations provide financial and technical support to small-scale fishermen, enabling them to adopt sustainable fishing practices and reduce overfishing.

They can also promote environmental conservation by encouraging the use of eco-friendly fishing gear and reducing the use of harmful chemicals.

Furthermore, these associations provide education and training on sustainable fishing practices, which helps to increase awareness and knowledge among fishermen. This leads to a better understanding of the importance of sustainable fishing and the need to protect marine ecosystems.

  • The Author is Dr. Kassim Mhina, head of R&D, Dar es salaam Merchant Group

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