By Saikou Suwareh Jabai
The Country Representative of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Mrs. Perpetua Katepa Kalala, has described climate change as a crucial threat to food security in The Gambia and that its impacts are making adaptation more difficult and costly, especially to weak economies where these changes are being felt most. She said it is becoming increasingly clear that unless climate change variability can be better anticipated or integrated into decision-making and adaptive responses developed, many of the world’s development aims will be seriously hampered.
“Fish-based livelihoods and fisheries ecosystems are subjected to a range of climate variability, from extreme weather events, including flooding and occurrence of droughts through to changes in patterns and abundance of fish stocks. Fisheries managers and resources users are confronted with the challenges in responding to climate change and variability,” she said.
The FAO Rep, who was addressing a meeting at the Paradise Suites recently, said in fishing communities in The Gambia, Sierra Leone and Senegal, there is a reduction in fishing stocks which has been attributed to climate change, overexploitation and poor utilisation and management of the fisheries resources. She said the reduction in fish stocks is impacting negatively on the livelihoods of the population in these countries for whom the fisheries sector is a source of food, income and employment. She added that the eroding livelihoods and sources of employment are negatively affecting income levels of fisheries dependent communities and undermining contributions being made by the sector to poverty reduction, food and nutritional security at the community and country levels, adding that this is hampering efforts being made to the attainment of the millennium development goals in these countries.
Mrs. Perpetua Katepa Kalala said fisheries dependent communities in The Gambia lack the requisite skills and knowledge in water and fisheries resource management, leading to overfishing and degradation of aquatic resources, thereby impacting the general resilience of the aquatic systems. This, she added, further exacerbates the adverse effects of climate change on the livelihood of the populace which depend on these systems for food and as sources of income. In addition, the country representative said the inefficient production and value chain operations, tied with limited diversification of resources of income and overdependence of fishing and fishing related trade have meant that, fishery dependent communities and individuals are highly sensitive to changes in fish availability resulting from climate variability and change.