Ali Thabit, now in his 50s, has been fishing since he was 16. Through the years he has lived hoping that one day things would take a turn for the better.

His inherited career is currently overwhelmed with a number of challenges, one being a lack of reliable market, coupled with the absence of cold rooms, that would make them store fish before taking them to the market far from Kilwa, the once famous trading post in southern Tanzania and East Africa at large.

“But now we’re forced to sell fish at a low price to fish traders who are within and outside this area because we’ve no cooling facilities here,” Thabit says while mending his fishnet on the Indian Ocean coast, a few kilometers from Kilwa town.

Reports said that Kilwa District Council is working to establish a fish centre which will be furnished with a modern cooling system seem to offer new hope for fishermen like Thabit who has not been enjoying the fruits of his labour for years.

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“This is one of the answers to some of the problems we have been facing for many years,” the seasoned fisherman says, as he gets into his engine powered boat.

“It will make us (fishermen) comfortable and sell our fish at competitive prices which will in turn improve our welfare,” says Mahmoud Khalifa, another fisherman in the area.

He says: “During the rainy season the situation gets worse but now we’ll have a permanent shelter.”

Located on the shores of the Indian Ocean, five kilometers from the district’s headquarters, the centre has the capacity of accommodating hundreds of fishermen at once.

It is also equipped with exchange rooms for fishermen, something which wasn’t there in the past as they had nowhere to hide during rains and the sunshine. The facility has slots for food vendors who will be providing food services to fishermen in the area in the hygienic environment compared to the past.

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Ahmad Habib, District Fisheries Officer, says the district council was aware that fishermen are overwhelmed with a number of challenges.

“This is one of the solutions as fishermen were being forced to sell fish at a low price, as they had nowhere to store them,” the official says.

“We delayed to re-open the center because of water, it needs soft water, and here there is hard water, so we’re struggling to get soft water to start operation of this center,” he says.

The official adds that the plant has the capacity of cooling eight tonnes per day, the situation that gives time for fishermen to get good money from buyers who come from outside the peninsula.

Zablon Bugingo, Kilwa District Executive Director, is optimistic that the new facility will make the fisheries sector ‘more attractive’ as it is to other sectors.

“We’re determined to ensure that these people (fishermen) earn their living and make the sector more formalized to the extent it contribute to the country’s social economic development,” he says.

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“The community here is generally poor and highly dependent on the coastal and marine resources for food and income. Fish is the main sources of protein in the district, that’s why this center is an important project,” the official says.

The district has nearly 20 landing sites including Kilwa Kisiwani, where the fish center has been built. Kilwa is said to have the best fishing grounds in and fishermen are now coming into the district, from as far away as Mtwara, because local fish stocks are high in comparison with the depleted stocks elsewhere.

Discovery of natural gas in Songo Songo island off the coast of southeastern Tanzania’s Kilwa District in the early 2000s left many predicting that the country would become the continent’s new economic powerhouse. But a decade plus on, many people have yet to see the benefits in terms of changing their livelihoods. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh