Aspects of Seasonal and Long-term Trends in Fisheries and Livelihoods in the Kilombero River Basin, Tanzania.

  • Daudi J. Msangameno
  • Mwita M. Mangora
Keywords: Coping strategies, Kilombero basin, Livelihoods, Riverine fisheries, Tanzania


Inland fishery resources support livelihoods of rural fishing communities, but seasonal fluctuations and long term changes of fish catches have had substantial impact on incomes and food security for such rural households. In the present study, qualitative and quantitative methods were used to assess the seasonal and long term trends in fish catches, fishing effort and livelihoods among fishing communities in the Kilombero River basin in southeastern Tanzania. Fifteen fish species were identified in the river system, with five most important (% weight) being Clarias gariepinus, Bagrus docmak, Oreochromis sp., Schilbe moebiusii and Hydrocynus tanzaniae. A distinct seasonal pattern in fish catches was found, where more fish were landed in the dry months (June, July, August and September) and less during peak of the rainy season (March to May). Reduction of fishing effort, crop farming and inaccessibility of fish landing sites and market places were cited as the main reasons for decline in the fish landed during the rainy season. Analysis of fish catch data for a period preceding the study (1985-2004) showed a steady decline in catches in the basin. This was corroborated by the majority (64%) of the fishers interviewed, albeit with slightly differing opinion among villages from different parts of the river profile. The seasonal and long term decline in fish catches was observed to impact negatively the incomes of the majority of the fishing households, with such impact being felt more in the downstream villages. Several coping mechanisms by the fishing communities for long term decline in fish catches were identified, with the majority of the respondents citing gradual shift towards crop farming as the most viable option for off-setting income losses from fishing activities. Others include general livelihood diversification strategies and increased fishing effort. In this study we confirm the substantial adaptive abilities of inland fishing communities toward abating the effect of reduced fisheries incomes. We therefore propose the consideration for these long-lived livelihood adaptive systems when devising long term strategies for the management of riverine fisheries and improving rural livelihoods.

Keywords: Coping strategies, Kilombero basin, Livelihoods, Riverine fisheries, Tanzania


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eISSN: 0002-0036