Somalia boasts one of the longest coastlines in Africa with rich fishing grounds. However, fisheries remain the country’s most untapped resource. Prolonged decades of lawlessness have made many economic activities, including fishing, challenging, if not untenable. Kismayo, a coastal town in Jubaland, is no exception to this.
Kismayo, like many major cities in Somalia, is slowly recovering from decades of conflict. The fishing industry is experiencing a gradual revival but remains under-developed. Lack of fishing equipment and training opportunities for fishing communities, as well as limited cold storage facilities are among the challenges facing the Kismayo fishing sector.
In 2015, to respond to these challenges, the Somalia Stability Fund (SSF) supported a multi-pronged project to provide a holistic solution to the sector. The project established fish preservation and processing plant and rehabilitated the fish markets. Five fishing cooperatives were awarded microfinance loans to build their capacity to support the local fishing sector. The project also supported the Ministry of Fisheries and Marines to develop a five-year strategic plan.
“In the past, we had to throw away the rotten fish because we could not keep it fresh. We could not make an income, and many stopped fishing all together” says Senlawe, the chairman of Kismayo Fishing Cooperative. “As a result of the loans we received, now we have facilities such as cooling system,” he explained.
The project significantly improved the fishing sector, but there was still a need to link the domestic market to regional markets. To address this, SSF partnered with the American Refugee Council (ARC), Jubaland’s Ministry of Fisheries and Marines and the Jubaland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) in 2018, to create market linkages and connect the Kismayo fishing market to regional and international markets.
So far, the project has established market linkages between the JCCI and Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI), the Kismayo Fishing Cooperatives and their counterpart in Mombasa, Kenya. Owing to the new market linkages, on 14th April 2018, Kaah Fishing Company in Kismayo shipped its first consignment of 47 tons of frozen fish to the port of Mombasa. It marked the first such shipment from the region since the fall of the Somali government in 1991. This test initiative generated an interest between the two markets to formalize the fish export business between JCCI and KNCCI and in October 2018, representatives from JCCI and KNCCI, Kismayo fishing cooperatives and their counterparts in Mombasa convened a meeting in Mombasa where they agreed to set up a committee comprising representatives from JCCI and KNCCI. The committee’s immediate task is to set quality standards for fish to be exported from Kismayo. The committee is exploring the option of setting up quality control companies in Kismayo to ensure that the fish is checked before it is exported.
“Every discussion in the meeting was so great that it did not only encourage our vision for better trade, but it was opening a window of opportunity that we could tap in. Our plan is to expand fish export beyond Kenya, we will move to make trade deals with companies in other neighbouring countries,” says Abdifatah Sheikh, a member of the Kismayo Fishery Cooperative “We are grateful to the Ministry of Fishery, and the Chamber of Commerce for their efforts,” he concludes.
As a next step, the KNCCI is set to visit Kismayo for a follow-up meeting aimed at actualizing the action points in the Mombasa meeting and agree on the modalities of the trade.
SSF seeks to enhance government visibility and community engagement. As such, Jubaland’s Ministry of Fisheries and Marines, and the Chamber of Commerce play a lead role in this project and work closely with fishing cooperatives on the fish trade. To help the Jubaland government to play its role in supporting the growth of productive industries in Jubaland, SSF has completed construction of a multi-story ministerial office that is set to host three ministries including the Ministry of Fisheries.