20 January 2017. Terekeka: Two men row in a boat in at the White Nile river in Terekeka, South Sudan, where the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), through its partner Set Num Fisheries Cooperative, distributes fishing kits to the community. The fishing kits enable fisherfolk to catch fish and feed their families. Each fishing kit provides enough capacity to feed 25 families for one day. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran - FAO

Upgraded canoes bring home big catch for South Sudan fishing communities

[rt_dropcap_style dropcap_letter=”E” dropcap_content=”VERY morning, they arrive on motorcycles in groups of five, six and sometimes eight at Gudele market in South Sudan’s capital Juba, quickly make their way past the entrance to the stalls and hand wooden boxes full of fish to waiting fish mongers.”]

After unpacking the boxes, the fish mongers take note of the count, confirm with the riders and hand them the money for the previous day’s sales. As soon the riders verify it is the right amount, they jump onto their bikes, heading back to Terekeka, a fishing town on the western bank of the Nile.

Gudele is one of several markets in Juba that is nowadays flooded with fresh fish from Terekeka, unlike the years before 2022 when much of the commodity was imported from neighbouring Uganda. The increased fish supply is thanks to a community resilience project implemented by UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Bor and Terkeka areas following the devastating effect of Covid-19 and floods on local livelihoods.

Josephine Napwon, SouthSudan’s minister of Environment and Forestry, said floods and drought caused by climate change have displaced more than two million people in the country since 2019.

“The climate crisis is worsening in our country, and over two million people are internally displaced due to flooding and drought, and failure in rain patterns have resulted in crop failure,” Napwon said during a climate change validation workshop held in Juba.

Demissie Redeat, FAO South Sudan fishing project manager, said idea behind the project was to help people in the communities to improve the quality and volume of fish traded so that they can be resilient to the shocks of flooding.

The project involves provision of fishing nets and training of the local fishermen on appropriate boat building technology and fishing best practices. “The core of the project is where we provided training to the traditional boat builders. It’s a hands-on practical training on the epoxy lamination process. The process involves making the hulls and surfaces of the traditional canoes smooth through sanding and clogging any gaps and cracks; mixing the required chemicals (resin and epoxy) with appropriate proportion, and finally, painting or laminating the canoe surface with the mixture of epoxy and raisin.

The whole idea is to make the surfaces of the canoe water proof and sunlight resistant,” said Redeat.

Traditional canoes absorb a lot of water and they dry out when exposed to sunlight- this process overtime causes cracks reducing their durability. Redeat said epoxy-laminated canoes are water-proof and sunlight resistant hence they have much longer durability — up to 10 years compared to 3-5 years of useful life for traditional canoes.

“These enhanced canoes are easy to manoeuvre. The fishermen can access more productive fishing grounds which is a higher source of income for them when they sell their catch. Secondly it reduces on the cutting down of trees which means it saves the environment and lastly productivity in other aspects of life as they will no longer have to worry about their livelihood,” Redeat said. “It is one step ahead.

Now that we have given them the introductory part, yeah, next time they will be able to produce fibre glass canoes. So, they will not be completely using timber. The fibre glass canoe is very light, weighing only 40kgs, and can last for more than 20 years. It has a different design but we are determined to achieve it,” he said.

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