Human Ecology

, Volume 35, Issue 5, pp 559–574 | Cite as

Market-resource Links and Fish Vendor Livelihoods in the Upper Zambezi River Floodplains

  • James G. Abbott
  • Lisa M. Campbell
  • Clinton J. Hay
  • Tor F. Næsje
  • John Purvis


This paper examines small-scale fish vending in a southern African floodplain from two perspectives: as a link between natural resource use and consumption, and as a livelihood in itself. We used a combination of observation, surveys and semistructured interviews in a market in Katima Mulilo, Namibia, to determine sources of fish, preferences and constraints to vending, average investment and profit, as well different routes into fish vending and perceptions regarding vending. Most vendors come from fishing households, but their stock is often an accumulation of purchases from other fishers. There is little evidence of formal arrangements between fishers and vendors, yet most adapt to the highly variable natural and social environments of the region. Although all vendors ranked selling fish as their most important livelihood activity, a wide range of investment and profit exists among individuals. Our findings indicate that fisheries management proposed for the area must be developed with a careful understanding of how changes in access and use will affect vending livelihoods.

Key words

Markets artisanal fisheries livelihoods floodplains sub-Saharan Africa 



The research for this article was made possible through funding from the International Research Development Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada, Duke University, The World Wide Fund for Nature and USAID-Southern Africa. Our thanks go to the fish vendors and fishers of the Upper Zambezi for their openness and patience.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • James G. Abbott
    • 1
  • Lisa M. Campbell
    • 2
  • Clinton J. Hay
    • 3
  • Tor F. Næsje
    • 4
  • John Purvis
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Geography and Urban StudiesTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Nicholas School of Environment and Earth SciencesDuke UniversityBeaufortUSA
  3. 3.Ministry of Fisheries and Marine ResourcesMarientalNamibia
  4. 4.Norwegian Institute for Nature ResearchTrondheimNorway
  5. 5.Lake Victoria Fisheries OrganizationJinjaUganda

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