Climate change and conflict push Mauritania’s farmers into fishermen

Climate change and conflict push Mauritania’s farmers into fishermen
Photo: Fishermen in Nouakchott, Mauritania / Credit: Kaikups/Shutterstock

Many of Mauritania’s fishermen never learned to swim.  They didn’t expect to make their living on the ocean. But a combination of conflict and climate change have driven roughly 30,000 herders from pastures to the seas, according to a report by the Christian Science Monitor.  

According to the Mauritanian Institute of Oceanographic Research and Fisheries, former farmers now constitute about half of Mauritania’s 66,000 fishermen.

Traditionally, Mauritania’s nomadic herders migrated to other pastures during dry seasons. But years of severe drought, border conflicts, and initiatives to transform the country’s farmland into agricultural and carbon credit projects have left them with few livelihood options.

Some have reportedly migrated to the cities to work as taxi drivers. But others have hit the sea. Earnings can be substantial. 

One former-herder-turned-fisherman told the Christian Science Monitor that he could earn up to $75 a day, which exceeds half of the country’s average monthly wage.

The career shift may be lucrative but many yearn for their past lives. 

“I miss my life in the desert,” one fisherman told the Christian Science Monitor. “If I had had the chance to decide, I would have stayed there for the rest of my life.” 

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