A Capabilities Approach for Kenyan Fishermen

As the article explains, the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KEMFRI) has introduced a new program to prevent middlemen from offering fishermen below-market prices on fish, thereby protecting the fishermen’s livelihoods. Thanks to the Electronic Fish Market Information System (EFMIS) program, fishermen can text a fish species and location to an automated number and receive the market prices for that day. KEMFRI admirably uses its plentiful resources/funding to combat the fishing community’s problems with the simple granting of information. Although it is not mentioned in this particular article, KEMFRI also provides data on water conditions to make for more efficient fishing trips for Kenyans. These programs represent the epitome of a capabilities approach because the individuals are provided the resources (in the form of information) to enable more efficient work and fair wages. In this distinctly bottom-up approach, fishermen and traders can quickly procure valuable information at little to no cost to them.

In rural Africa, it is worth noting that a significant barrier to ICT development appears in the lack of infrastructure to support extensive internet connections. However, a relatively large proportion of Kenyans currently own mobile phones, and phone charging stations are abundant around the country, so this text-oriented program should prove to be successful. By utilizing mobile phone technology, EFMIS represents a prominent ICT4D 2.0 approach because KEMFRI has embraced a technology that is already used extensively to relay newly available information. For this reason, I would expect EFMIS to be more successful than an alternative program that might incorporate smart phones or altogether new devices. Staying true to the ICT4D 2.0 essence of the project, KEMFRI tested the idea in the Lake Victoria area first with a year of monitoring before expanding it to the entirety of Turkana County. EFMIS offers a resource that is proven and sensitive to Kenyans’ needs/preferences, and ultimately should be available for years to come.

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4 responses to “A Capabilities Approach for Kenyan Fishermen

  • meghanspector

    A very cool program. I’ve spent some time researching Bangladesh, which also has a huge small-scale fishing economy. They use mobile phones to track storms and shoals, but I haven’t heard of anything like EFMIS there. It seems like it could be helpful for Kenyan and Bangladeshi groups to participate in a program exchange, as the tech of each seems applicable to the other.

  • megstanger

    KEMFRI is a perfect example of how we can use ICT4D 2.0 to our advantage. Mobile phones are a very available technology that many people have access to. I am sure this project will serve the fisherman well and spread to other fishing communities all around the world. What an innovative idea! I went the Clinton Global Initiative Conference in 2011 and learned about a project in India called NextDrop that sends out a mass notification via cell phone about when the water company will deliver their water. This allows for the women of the household to go to school and to work instead of waiting for the water. Below is a link to the organization’s website:
    http://nextdrop.org/

  • dtindall8

    This project highlights the benefits of using already existing technology to spur economic development instead of introducing a flashy, new product that will probably not be as effective. Based on a currency converter I found online, the EU grant that funded this project was only a little over $200,000, making it fairly cheap when compared with what one might think it would take to fund an ICT4D program. The grant came through an institition founded by the EU and the Kenyan government called the Micro Enterprises Support Program Trust. As it turns out, the original idea for this technology, at least as far as its application in Kenya, started with another organization that used the same idea with the fisherman in Lake Victoria. Thenew program, EFMIS, will focus on expanding this technology to fisherman nationally. Hopefully the technology will continue to function correctly as it is scaled up. Here’s the link to the program page: http://microfinancetrust.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=119:fish-market-information-and-traceability-systems&catid=42:asmep-fisheries&Itemid=168

  • Does every large company need a large security operation? | International Security Consultants (ISC)

    […] may lack electricity, but they can check weather conditions and fish market prices on their cell phones. All of this connectedness means that political risks — civil strife, instability, insurgency, […]

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