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Winrock International

In Africa, Harnessing the Bounty of the Sea

Managing fisheries, improving food security — and preserving the ocean’s abundance.

Sarah Tourville, Program Officer, Forestry and Natural Resource Management Unit

I was eight years old when I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. It seemed so vast and limitless it was hard to imagine what was on the other side, let alone understand what an incredible resource it is.  As a native of Minnesota, I grew up around a lot of water — the state slogan is “Land of 10,000 Lakes” — but I could usually see across all those bodies of water. The ocean was different, and I’ve never forgotten my first glimpse of it.

It’s one reason I feel incredibly fortunate to have recently traveled to Dakar, Senegal, to work on startup for a new Winrock International project, the USAID/Senegal Feed the Future Fisheries, Biodiversity and Livelihoods Activity. It was my first time in Dakar, and I loved being able to see the sea from our office window and to breathe the smell of salt water carried in by the cool morning breeze.

But the beauty of the ocean and the colorful fishing boats belie the challenges under the waves in Senegal, the second-largest fish producer in West Africa. The fisheries’ value chain in Senegal is caught between artisanal practices and a rapidly globalizing economy. The growing number of fishers and the increasing demand from lucrative export markets is leading to overexploitation of fisheries resources, threatening the regenerative capacity of many species. This increases the price for fish in local markets and poses a broader threat to food security and nutrition in Senegal.

In light of these challenges, this new activity has an important role to play. It aims to improve the management of fisheries, increase ecological sustainability for the country’s stressed marine resources, and improve food security, increase incomes and strengthen resilience for the people and communities of Senegal. The project will build capacity for local partners and communities in fisheries management, supplementing their significant local knowledge with new skills and expertise, enabling them to better manage their precious ocean resources.

Winrock has a long history of empowering community development through the wise use of natural resources, especially water. For example, Winrock’s Vietnam Forests and Deltas project has worked with the Government of Vietnam to develop a payment for ecosystem services initiativethat has mobilized over $400 million to conserve forests for water services. In Bangladesh, the Climate Resilient Ecosystems and Livelihoods project worked with the government, local NGOs and communities to conserve seasonally flooded wetlandsand the important fish species found there.

This new project in Senegal builds on the successes of Winrock’s previous natural resource management projects, while also tackling challenges unique to Senegal. Over the next five years, the project intends to support more than 85,000 people to improve fisheries management over more than 4,600 square miles of coastline and near-coastline communities while increasing people’s incomes and the sustainability of their main food source.

This long-term strategy may ensure a brighter future for the people of this enchanting country. In the spirit of World Oceans Day, that would truly be an outcome worth celebrating.

Photos by Matt Maltby

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Senegal Dekkal Geej (Restoring the Sea)

A sixth of Senegal’s population relies on fisheries for their livelihood, yet the sector faces challenges posed by poor fisheries management practices and increasing domestic and international demand for fish. The Senegal Dekkal Geej project is working with local fishers, the Senegalese government and the private sector to improve food security, increase incomes and strengthen…