Sustainability of Zimbabwe’s Natural Food Sources take a Knock Amid Growing Economic Crisis

The kapenta (Tanganyika sardine) and bream fish sold by Sarudzai Moyo is a major source of income for her and great source of nutrition in the diet for struggling Zimbabwe families. Credit: Ignatius Banda/IPS

The kapenta (Tanganyika sardine) and bream fish sold by Sarudzai Moyo is a major source of income for her and great source of nutrition in the diet for struggling Zimbabwe families. Credit: Ignatius Banda/IPS

By Ignatius Banda
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Oct 2 2020 – Sarudzai Moyo, a former teacher, has begun a new career as a fishmonger. Once a week she makes the 450km journey from Bulawayo to Binga, on the shores of Lake Kariba, where she buys between 100 and 150 kilograms of fish for resale as the demand for cheaper dietary options increase in Zimbabwe.

Fishermen sell a kilogram of fresh bream and kapenta (Tanganyika sardine) for $1, but back in Bulawayo Moyo sells a kilo for $3.50. A kilogram of beef sells for between $4 and $7 depending on the grade.

Business is brisk, Moyo tells IPS, but with more and more people leaving their formal jobs to pursue other income-generating ventures in sectors already flooded with unskilled labour, researchers say this is putting a huge strain on the sustainability of natural resources such as fisheries.

“People from all over the country can be found buying fish from Binga fishermen. Some even come with refrigerated trucks,” Moyo said.
“It is clear there is a huge demand for fish, not just in Bulawayo but all over the country,” she told IPS.

However, as more nets are cast into Lake Kariba, which lies on the Zambezi valley — a riparian boundary shared by Zimbabwe and Zambia — this has raised questions about the long term ecological effects and how these natural resources will be able to provide a source of livelihood for communities. Especially since the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) says 90 percent of the country’s fish production comes from Lake Kariba where Moyo and others are earning their incomes.


The Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) has noted that there is a connection “between good nutrition and the environment,” and the need to “take action on education programmes and awareness campaigns to make production and consumption patterns healthy and sustainable”. 

In fact, the Food Sustainability Index (FSI), created by BCFN and the Economist Intelligence Unit, ranks Zimbabwe 70.5 out of 100 — where 100 is the highest sustainability and greatest progress towards meeting environmental, societal and economic  for sustainable agriculture.

But in a country where incomes remain low, environmental and sustainability considerations have been trounced by the need to survive.

Tinashe Farawo is a spokesperson of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA), a government department tasked with protecting the country’s wildlife through the sustainable utilisation of natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations.
Farawo says while overfishing concerns have been raised in the past, the continuing entry of new and unregistered players in Lake Kariba has made it difficult to effectively create a sustainable ecological balance.

“Ever since the Kariba dam was built in 1958, the regulation has always been that at any given time there must be at least 500 fishing rigs in order to protect the resource for both current and future generations,” Farawo told IPS.

But a joint Zimbabwe-Zambia fisheries management committee last year found that “kapenta rigs operating on Lake Kariba is approximately 3 times above the optimum”.

With population growth on both sides of the Zambezi and the exponential growth of demand for fish, the number of rigs has ballooned with fish poachers being blamed for ecological degradation.

“Concerns of overfishing in Lake Kariba, especially of kapenta, have been an issue for a number of years now, and the trend has been growing and will probably continue to grow in the near future,” said Crispen Phiri, a fisheries scientist at the University of Zimbabwe’s Lake Kariba Research Station.

“The slowdown in economic performance in both Zambia and Zimbabwe over the last decade or so has led many people to consider fishing or the buying and selling of fish as a full time or fallback livelihood alternative,” he told IPS by email.

ZPWMA officials agree that enforcing restrictions on fishing activities have proven difficult.

“Everyone and anyone can now cast their net and we need scientific explanations about the long term effect of this trend on our fisheries. One of the approaches we have pursued is trying to stem the excessive reliance on the Zambezi for fisheries by decentralising and creating other fisheries projects in other dams across the country,” Farawo told IPS.

Zimbabwe has previously banned issuing of new fishing licences in the Zambezi, citing concerns about the excessive fishing activities.

According to ZPWMA, annual fish hauls at the turn of the millennium stood at around 27,000 tonnes annually but dwindled to the current 15,000 tonnes.

FAO has commented that “kapenta was an important, affordable and accessible source of fish protein and nutrition in a difficult 2007-2008 period when the macro-economic climate was harsh”. Today, Zimbabwe finds itself replaying the hardships of that period, economic commentators say. So it is no surprise that poor families are once again turning to fish diets. Indeed, the FSI ranks Zimbabwe as 53.2 on a scale of 100 for nutritional challenges.

Yet researchers say demand is easily outstripping supply, highlighting an urgent need to act.

The BCFN says while nutrition and dietary needs is a priority, there is a need to “raise awareness on the systematic connection between good nutrition and the environment, take action on education programmes and awareness campaigns to make production and consumption patterns healthy and sustainable”.

This, BCFN says, will ensure the realisation of the U.N.’s Integrated Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda “which are all directly or indirectly connected to food”.

Yet researchers have also found the effect of a warming climate on sources of dietary needs such as fisheries, further compounding the sustainability of those resources.

“In a recent analysis that I and my colleagues did, we concluded that the increase in fishing efforts has been a major factor in the decline of kapenta catches and this has been worsened by the warming of the climate,” Phiri said.

For fishmongers such as Moyo, and the fishermen who supply her fish, these challenges could threaten their livelihoods, and the diets of those poor families who have turned to fish as a cheaper food source.

 


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A Feminist Perspective from Middle East & North Africa on the COVID-19 Pandemic

Illustration by Rawand Issa

By Farah Daibes
BERLIN, Oct 2 2020 – Since before the COVID-19 pandemic, feminists across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have been increasingly shedding light on the global shifts that will shape the Future of Work. From their perspective, those shifts would mainly be driven by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the impact of climate change and the looming global care crisis.

However, they did not account for a global pandemic that would shake the world and drive the acceleration of those shifts, drastically changing the way we live and work and making various feminist concerns about the inclusion, empowerment, and security of women in the labour market more pressing than ever.

Since before the COVID-19 pandemic, feminists across the Middle East and North Africa have been increasingly shedding light on the global shifts that will shape the Future of Work. From their perspective, those shifts would mainly be driven by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the impact of climate change and the looming global care crisis.

However, they did not account for a global pandemic that would shake the world and drive the acceleration of those shifts, drastically changing the way we live and work and making various feminist concerns about the inclusion, empowerment, and security of women in the labour market more pressing than ever.

The outbreak of digitalization

Across the world, strict measures to curb the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the economic vulnerability of the most marginalized individuals and communities, and exacerbated their struggle to adapt when equipped with minimal resources, or none at all.

While countless businesses, schools, and public services are digitalizing their processes to minimize human interaction, many women in the MENA region are finding themselves increasingly excluded from the labour market.

More often than not, women have less freedom of mobility and control over household resources than men. Therefore, barriers such as the lack of adequate broadband infrastructure, the spread of digital illiteracy and a wide digital gender divide are affecting women disproportionately.

Because it offers more flexible working conditions, allowing women to simultaneously perform their unpaid care labour, women often choose informal employment, despite the lack of social security and protective labour policies. But because of the inadequacy in digital adaptation women of the region are left behind amidst the spread of online and platform-based gig work.

Overburdening the overburdened

With the spread of digital technologies, online platforms and now the pandemic, a patriarchal narrative that encourages women to perform home-based work to attain “work-life balance” has been gaining ground. Despite claiming to advocate balance, that narrative fails to address the importance of re-distributing unpaid care work within the household and reinforces the stereotypical role of women as primary caregivers.

In countries across the region where women are still too often confined to the private sphere, this is threatening years of progress towards overcoming the hurdles that limit women’s participation in the public sphere, especially in the workforce.

Working mothers, therefore, continue to suffer a “motherhood penalty” as well as time poverty, which limit their chances to advance in their careers and perpetuate the perception that their paid labour is secondary to that of men’s.

To help lift the burden, outsourcing care work at home to less privileged women, often migrants, has become the norm whenever possible within various countries in the region. Under the kafala (sponsorship) system, however, the lives and labour of these women are exploited and abused.

During the pandemic, their already precarious employment has become more so as hundreds of thousands of them faced income losses and worsening conditions. Additionally, most healthcare workers in the region are overworked and underpaid women who are now also facing major challenges that threaten their rights as well as their physical and mental health.

A green lining?

The expectations were, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, that the green economy would grow exponentially in the upcoming years. However, it is not yet clear whether the pandemic will accelerate or deaccelerate that growth, with hints suggesting that either can be true.

Regardless, many issues of gender discrimination are limiting women’s ability to equally benefit from emerging opportunities within green sectors. Discrimination in laws related to land ownership and inheritance, precarious and dangerous working conditions, difficulty in entering high-paid jobs and the struggle to attain decision making positions, all greatly disadvantage women.

This is especially true in the case of larger investments in renewable energy and agriculture as well as large-scale projects that aim to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Levelling the gender playing field

The changes we see around us today make the feminist concerns about the Future of Work even more concerning. Not only because the foreseeable challenges are arriving much quicker than expected and with no adequate preparation, but also because decision makers have a historic tendency to deprioritize women’s issues and the gender equality agenda in times of crisis. This is the time for action.

The barriers that threaten the inclusion of women in a digitalized world of work must be eliminated. Moreover, larger investments in care services and jobs as well as the re-distribution of unpaid care work between the state, the community and the private sector must now become a priority.

Lastly, existing gender discrimination must be addressed to ensure that a greener economy will not be a patriarchal one in order to guarantee equal opportunity for all in the future world of work.

Source: International Politics and Society (IPS) based in the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s (FES) office in Berlin.

 


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