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Developing fisheries livelihoods in the Congo River Basin

KEY FACTS
Project
USAID Central Africa Regional Program for Envir (CARPE-2) - Maringa Landscape
Project leader
Ann Gordon
 
Start
1 Oct 2006
End
30 Sep 2011

River fisheries, Africa
The Maringa-Lopori-Wamba Landscape spans 74,000 km2 in the Equateur province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and is one of 12 landscapes identified by USAID’s Central African Regional Programme for the Environment (CARPE) as ‘high priority for conservation’ in Central Africa. Bounded by the Lopori and Maringa rivers, this area is dominated by forests, one quarter of which is predominantly swamps and wetlands. The area is globally significant as it comprises a sizeable portion of the Congo Basin forest ecosystem and is home to many diverse and endangered animal species, as well as abundant avifauna and fish species.
 
This work complements other work by WorldFish in the Congo River Basin – including work in two other DRC landscapes (Lake Tele Lake Tumba and Salonga-Lukenie-Sankuru, both in collaboration with WWF) and work with the World Conservation Society in the Republic of Congo, as well as its work on co-management of forest river fisheries in Cameroon. 

Vulnerable livelihoods

Some of the livelihood activities of the local people (subsistence agriculture, bush meat hunting and traditional and industrial logging) are threatening the forest resources, posing a threat to both conservation and livelihoods in the Maringa-Lopori-Wamba Landscape. These threats are further exacerbated by a weak policy environment governing the use of this valuable ecosystem.
 
The CARPE landscapes focus on the conservation of the Congo River Basin rainforest and threatened flora and fauna therein. With the importance of fishing to local livelihoods, the Worldfish Center has been subcontracted by the African Wildlife Fund (AWF) to help them develop a better understanding of how fisheries function within the conservation and development context of the Maringa-Lopori-Wamba Landscape.
 

Fisheries management in the face of conservation

WorldFish has helped develop the knowledge base, methodology and monitoring system needed to develop and support fisheries livelihood activities.  Working with local fishing communities, it has highlighted the marketing constraints and other difficulties faced by fishing populations and provided training in improved handling and processing methods.  At present, there is no, or only localized, over-fishing – so there is scope to increase fishing, subject to market access considerations.  
 

Complementary activities

Fisheries and agriculture are complementary livelihood activities in the Maringa-Lopori-Wamba Landscape, as income generated from fishing may be reinvested in farming inputs and labour.
 

Co-management options

WorldFish’s work has focused on assessing the sustainability of fishing activities, the capacity of local fishers, and scope for strengthening fisheries livelihoods and co-management.  There are currently weak capacities for collective action at community-level and little interest in fisheries management activities. However, through group training activities to build trust collection action capacity has started to develop.  Notwithstanding interest in project communities, it has been challenging to promote significant institutional sustainability because of the difficulty in identifying and sustaining the engagement of appropriate Congolese expertise within Congolese organisations (be they government or NGOs).  This is exacerbated by the remoteness of the project sites and the high cost of reaching those sites. These sorts of challenges underline the importance of building capacities at community-level, and the difficulties that lie in sustaining that interaction. 
 

Overall goal

WorldFish work in the Maringa-Lopori-Wamba Landscape is contributing to the overall CARPE Strategic Objective of reducing the rate of overall forest degradation and loss of biodiversity through increased local, regional and national resource management capacity, with an emphasis on gender.