Local fishing boats on the beach in Senegal (Photo: NORCAP/Mina Weydahl 2018)
Read caption Local fishermen receive text and voice messages with alerts about bad weather off the coast of Senegal. The service, by the Senegal meteorological office, makes fishermen safer and better prepared for challenging conditions. (Photo: NORCAP/Mina Weydahl)

Messages for safe fishing in Senegal

Afroza Mahzabeen Anannya|Published 06. Jun 2018
Voice and text messages are widely used in Senegal to alert fishing communities about bad weather. One NORCAP expert is working to reach more people with the service, and provide them with a safer way to fish.

"Jën" means fish in the Senegalese language, Wolof, and is one of the main sources of protein in Senegal. Fishing plays a dominant role in the country, as it has helped reduce unemployment and provide a major source of income to coastal communities. However, overfishing, extinction of species and increasingly harmful fishing techniques has reduced the marine ecosystem and compromised the survival of many communities. 

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in 2015 the fishing sector provided more than 53 000 direct and an estimated 540 000 indirect jobs, mainly in artisanal fishing and processing.

ANACIM, the Senegal meteorological office, uses text and voice messages to reach fishermen and alert them about bad weather. This way, the fishing communities know when they need to stay close to land when they go out on the water. The voice messages are sent in the local language, Wolof and text messages are in French.

Early warning systems are widely used around the world for disaster risk reduction. Senegal met office took a step ahead by using text and voice messages in the local language so it is easier for end users to understand. The messaged are 100 characters each, containing the gist of the situation without technical words, so fishermen can take caution.

Yaye Madjiguene Ndoye, a local fisherman, holds up his phone to demonstrate some of the text messages they get from the Senegalese met office. (Photo: NORCAP/Mina Weydahl 2018)
Read caption Yaye Madjiguene Ndoye, a local fisherman, holds up his phone to demonstrate some of the text messages they get from the Senegalese met office. (Photo: NORCAP/Mina Weydahl 2018)

Reaching more people

NORCAP Expert Fatema Rajabali is working with ANACIM as a knowledge management officer. She is particularly involved in reducing the costs of the messaging service, so that more people can use it.

"ACINAM has the capacity to reach 200. 000 people and at present, the goal is to reach 10. 000 fishermen in the region of Yoff", Rajabali says.

The project started in 2016 and since last year, the main donor for the project is USAID.

"So far in 2018, we have had zero casualties among those fishermen who live in the project area, says Adji Awa Goure, Head of the Meteorological information and services in Senegal.

The communities also report that they feel safer when they get this information and that they are better prepared. Usually the text messages are sent out 24-48 hours in advance, although some anglers prefer to get a week's notice.

Disaster resilient communities

This kind of early warning system is beneficial for disaster risk reduction. African countries can follow Senegal and use this approach to develop strong disaster risk reduction programs.

"Using easily interpretable local language can result in more end users using the service and keeping themselves safe. Through accurate climate services, other vulnerable communities can be disaster resilient like the fishing community in Yoff", says Mina Weydahl, NORCAP Project manager for climate and resilience.

Fisherman in one of the colourful boats in Senegal. (Photo: NORCAP/Mina Weydahl 2018)
Read caption So far in 2018, no fishermen have died at sea in the area covered by the text message project. (Photo: NORCAP/Mina Weydahl)