Protest against commercial shrimp farming in Rufiji Delta, Tanzania

The successful campaign against a large proposed commercial shrimp aquaculture in the Rufiji delta which would have otherwise destroyed the largest mangrove forest in Eastern Africa.


Description
The Rufiji river is about 600 km long, with its source in southwestern Tanzania and its mouth on the Indian Ocean at a point facing Mafia Island in the Mafia Channel. The Rufiji Delta is about 200 km south of Dar es Salaam. The delta contains the largest mangrove forest in eastern Africa Rufiji delta, it is the home to approximately 53,000 acres of mangrove forests. This is the largest continuous stretch of such forest across East Africa. The delta also houses about 41,000 people, most of whom are small farmers and fisherfolk. The mangrove forests provide protection from hurricanes, preserve quality of life, sustains many species of land and water flora and fauna, and is also the direct source of livelihood of the 41,000 people.    In 1997, the Tanzanian government sanctioned the proposal by the African Fishing Company (AFC) to set up an enormous 19,000 hectare shrimp aquaculture site, which would consist of hatchery, processing plant, and a feed mill. The site of this commercial venture was within the Mafia Island Marine Park, and would be replacing a part of the 'mangrove forest reserve'. The business was alleged to produce US $500 million a year in export profits from the supposedly 6210kg of shrimps per hectare per year, mainly from Europe and Japan.   However, the local people, along with several local and international NGOs strongly opposed this proposal on the basis of the harm it would cause to the environment and the local people. The environmental advisory body of the Tanzanian government, known as the National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) proposed the rejection of the project as it would have considerable negative impact on forestry, fisheries, land use, water use as well as agriculture. The pollution caused by the aquaculture would increase eutrophication, toxicity and acidification of surrounding water resources, as well as destroy endangered species of mangroves as well as other plants and animals. However, the Tanzanian cabinet chose to ingore these recommendations and approved the project.  One of the major shareholder of AFC, John R. Nolan also wanted to set up a fish mill and fish processing factory in the Rufiji delta to supply Japanese, European and North American markets.    There was widespread opposition to this project by local people as well as environmentalists. The East African Wildlife Society (EAWS) in February, 1998 started two advocacy campaigns in Rufiji delta in opposition to the proposed prawn industry. The first campaign was a mass media campaign, led by the Journalist Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET). Under this campaign, activists traveled to the delta every month for updates on the project and interviewed local communities. These sources of information were then used for press articles and distributed to local and regional dailies. The second campaign was mass awareness campaign for the people living in the delta, under which videos of the harmful impacts of shrimp farming in Asia and Latin America were shown. Forums and open public meeting were also held for awareness and sensitization of the local people. All these led to a petition signed by 2000 resident villagers of the Rufiji delta, suing the government for not involving them in the decision making process.    Due to all these protests and mass campaigns, on August 15, 2001, it was announced that the AFC would be liquidated, and the project had been halted.
Basic Data
NameProtest against commercial shrimp farming in Rufiji Delta, Tanzania
CountryTanzania
ProvinceDar es Salaam region
SiteRujifi Delta
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Aquaculture and fisheries
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Specific CommoditiesShrimps
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsAfrican Fishing Company (AFC) proposed to set up a 19,000 hectare shrimp aquaculture site, which would consist of hatchery, processing plant, and a feed mill. The site of this commercial venture was within the Mafia Island Marine Park, and would be replacing a part of the 'mangrove forest reserve'. The business was alleged to produce US $500 million a year in export profits from the supposedly 6210kg of shrimps per hectare per year, mainly from Europe and Japan.
Project Area (in hectares)19,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population41,000
Start Date01/01/1997
End Date2001
Company Names or State EnterprisesAfrican Fishing Company (AFC) from Tanzania - Main beneficiary of the shrimp project
Relevant government actorsNational Environmental Management Council (NEMC)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersJournalist Environmental Association of Tanzania (JET), Mangrove Action Project (MAP), East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS), Lawyers in Environmental Action Team (LEAT)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Fishermen
International ejos
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Journalists
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (victory for environmental justice)
Withdrawal of company/investment
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.This was a successful campaign, as the project was stopped, and the company was liquidated in 2001
Sources and Materials
References

Networking in East Africa for threatened Coastal Wetland
[click to view]

Links

World Rainforest Movement bulletin about the impasse on commercial shrimp farming in Rufiji delta
[click to view]

The Death of Rufiji Prawn Project
[click to view]

Media Links

Good report on the general background to shrimp farming, including a brief note on the Rufiji Delta
[click to view]

Other Documents

[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorBrototi Roy
Last update24/10/2016
Comments