Fishery-based Livelihoods in a Changing and Complex Fish Food Environment in Cameroon, Central Africa


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University of Guelph


Coastal communities in Cameroon and around the world are experiencing rapid sociopolitical and environmental changes that have direct impacts on their livelihoods. This dissertation explores how change and surprises from multiple sources of stress and uncertainty in small-scale fisheries system in Cameroon, Central Africa, creates complexities in the fish food environment, and impacts fishery-based livelihoods. The dissertation also examines how fishing actors are utilizing their existing capital assets to implement different response strategies to multiple stressors. I used the Sustainable Livelihood, Fish-as-food, and the Adapt-React-Cope theoretical frameworks, with a mixed-method approach which included interviews, focus group discussions, observations, and in-person field surveys with fishing actors in Cameroon to explore impacts and responses to change and surprise. I found that the small-scale fisheries system in my research locales are vulnerable to unfolding systemic changes and unpredictable shocks, affecting resilience. The empirical results show that overdependence and overfishing activities are causing degradation of the fisheries system with a rapid decline in fish catch. Shortages in fish supply affects activities along the fish value chain with direct impact on fishery-based livelihoods and food security problems through changes and complexities in the fish food environment. However, local actors in the fisheries system are implementing various coping, reacting, and adaptive response strategies to changes and surprises as they unfold, although responses are limited to their access to different forms of capital assets. While this dissertation makes scholarly contribution to research on impacts and responses within small-scale fisheries, there is a major lack of information on the baseline circumstances and condition of this fisheries system necessary to effectively measure how long-terms harms of sociopolitical and environmental change are accruing and to better plan for resilience. Hence, we need to start measuring and monitoring the ongoing burden that fishing dependent households are already dealing with and direct interventions towards restorative actions that help people recover from the harm they are experience and compensate them for these harms in ways that makes them more prepared and empowered to respond in the future.



Small-scale fisheries, Livelihoods, Stressors, Responses, Cameroon, Sub-Saharan Africa


Nyiawung, R. A., Ayilu, R. K., Suh, N. N., Ngwang, N. N., Varnie, F., & Loring, P. A. (2022). COVID-19 and small-scale fisheries in Africa: Impacts on livelihoods and the fish value chain in Cameroon and Liberia. Marine Policy, 141, 105104.
Nyiawung, R. A., Bennett, N. J., & Loring, P. A. (2023). Understanding change, complexities, and governability challenges in small-scale fisheries: a case study of Limbe, Cameroon, Central Africa. Maritime Studies, 22(1), 7.