Malawi is experiencing alarming losses of freshwater fish biodiversity. Over 40 species have been assessed as critically endangered as of 2018, including some species of high economic value. There is a clear and urgent need to increase access to relevant information to diagnose the problem and to inform conservation policy. There are information gaps regarding fish biology and behavior, fish populations and locations, drivers of ecosystem change, and fisheries’ contributions to sustainable development. A platform that integrates biological, social, and environmental data in a spatially explicit manner would equip researchers and policymakers with the necessary information to evaluate the importance, status, progress, and threats to freshwater fish. Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) will bring together stakeholders and develop a technical plan for the development of a database and portal that can provide access to Malawi fisheries data with a focus on endangered fish species.
Key Objectives and Activities
Bring together local and international stakeholders in the fisheries sector to define the needs and requirements of end-users.
Access local and international biodiversity informatics expertise to design the data architecture, software stack, and the near-term and long-term plans for hosting software and data.
Three strategic meetings and writing sessions with fisheries and database experts to develop a technical plan for the database and interface.
Develop a technical plan for the collection and synthesis of data and a database that will provide access to Malawi fisheries data.
A report of the consultations that define end-user needs and the area of focus.
A plan that includes technical and financial details for the development of a database and interface and a funding proposal for the effort for the JRS Biodiversity Foundation.
This four-month planning phase is the first step to building a data and information system to support stakeholders who are working to save the critically endangered lake and riverine species of Malawi and productive fisheries. Collaboration with information technology experts and consultation with potential partners will result in the best technological solution to freshwater biodiversity data access and the best approach for long-term stakeholder engagement. The four-month planning effort will also create new ties among LUANAR staff and other biodiversity scientists in Malawi who have been part of the National Biodiversity Information Management Forum and of projects supported by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
Results to Date
The project team undertook a learning study trip on July 18-19, 2019 to the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI) in Uganda, where JRS is supporting a project to collect freshwater biodiversity data for a data-sharing portal.
Local and International Stakeholders in the fisheries sector have defined needs and requirements of end-users through a stakeholder’s workshop held on August 13, 2019, in Lilongwe.
One strategic meeting session has been held with database experts to review a draft technical plan for the database interface for Malawi freshwater biodiversity.
A writing workshop was undertaken to consolidate a technical proposal and budget for further JRS Foundation support.
Project Director Biography
Professor Emmanuel Kaunda has been teaching in the Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries at LUANAR for over 22 years and has deep research, resource mobilization, and leadership experience. He heads the World Bank Aquaculture and Fisheries Science Center of Excellence (AquaFish) and has led and contributed to key national and regional research and policy development programs. He is also the Technical Coordinator of NEPAD SANBio Regional Fish Node and the cofounder of African Fisheries Experts Network (AfrFishNet), a fisheries voice for the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). He has published more than 60 papers in reviewed journals, conference proceedings, and book chapters; supervised more than 25 MSc and Ph.D. students; and won multiple awards for his contributions to aquaculture and fisheries research.
Note from JRS
Lake Malawi/Nyasa and its river catchments support the livelihoods of millions of people of Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Malawi. An essential part of national and international efforts to sustainably manage these freshwater ecosystems for humans and nature are interoperable information systems that hold the knowledge of the region’s natural and man-made systems. JRS and other donors have recently invested in projects in Malawi including the IUCN Freshwater Red List Assessment, the Malawi Biodiversity Information Management Forum, the Pan African Fish and Fisheries Association conference, and GBIF’s BID Project. These efforts have engaged national agencies and institutions including LUANAR, the National Herbarium of Malawi, and the University of Malawi. Prof. Kaunda’s project builds upon these prior efforts and their achievements. JRS has awarded this four-month effort to improve the technical plans for the riverine and lake freshwater biodiversity database and portal and to deepen and extend the partnerships essential for its success.