Going by recent developments in Zanzibar and the official pronouncements that accompanied them, the Isles’ fishing industry should soon be roaring business.
First, an imposing USD 2.5 million complex owned by the Zanzibar Fishing Authority has just been inaugurated. Officials used the occasion to urge members of the fishing community to use modern gear as a way of enhancing productivity and, by extension, boosting their incomes and gradually kicking out poverty.
There were also calls for vigilance in ensuring that the building remains in usable condition, in protecting the Isles’ marine resources particularly by curbing illegal fishing, and in doing the most to keep pirates at bay.
It is noteworthy the show has not ended with mere appeals to do this and desist from doing that but, rather, has witnessed some highly placed government officials promising the people maximum material support to ensure the fishing sector indeed become generate a more handsome income.
For instance, the government talks of plans to put up a world-class market complete with equipment to ease the transportation of fish and allied products.
Thus, urging the people to so value and appreciate the efforts the government is investing in initiatives aimed at strengthening the Isles’ fishing industry makes a lot of economic and common sense.
For one thing, a substantial chunk of the funds used in implementing the projects concerned is in the form of money borrowed from agencies such as the World Bank – and is therefore a loan that will have to be repaid.
Zanzibaris should therefore feel obliged to complement the government’s efforts even if it is merely by desisting from illegal fishing or by forming cooperatives through which they will be able to land and make better use of credit facilities with which to buy the modern fishing vessels and other gear recommended.
This is important because most members of the fishing community in both Zanzibar and elsewhere in Tanzania are small-time players literally living from hand to mouth and therefore practically incapable of impressing financial institutions into giving them the loans they need to improve their activities.
But Zanzibar does not have to go very far for success stories and other case studies from which to learn how to – and how not to – go about revamping its fishing sector. Nor will it really need foreign expertise to steer the ship through the stormy waters it may be currently contending with, so to speak.
We say this with the experience of the likes of the national agricultural initiative popularly known as Kilimo Kwanza and the Dar es Salaam international fish market in mind. There is little about how to go about modernising the fishing industry that the former does not say, while the ups and downs the latter has known provide crucial lessons on the need to treasure crucial assets.
It has been rightly noted that fishing plays such a pivotal role in the survival and development of Zanzibaris that leaving those directly dependent on the industry to their own devices would be suicidal, which is why all stakeholders must join hands and make the sector tick.