How blockchain can help Africa reduce natural resource depletion

by Lumai Mubanga

Fish bans are easily flouted. Can blockchain block that?

So far, much has been written about blockchain use cases that were never thought about, but have become a reality. For example, whoever though blockchain could be used to track farm produce, diamonds from war torn countries and even enforce some GMO regulations across borders? Who ever thought that blockchain today could be at the center of having so much control over so many systems without the need for a central authority?

Partly, this has been due to blockchains provenance abilities. Many researchers and programmers are still looking for many ways in which blockchain can be used to solve century-long challenges. Can blockchain be used in Africa to reduce century-old challenges related to its abundant natural resources other than diamonds, emeralds, and other precious minerals?

Government trophies.

The term government trophy is sometimes used to describe government properties especially natural resources. These resources are highly-priced and fetch millions of dollars. To protect such resources, the government has implemented strict laws and regulations to control how these are utilized. Without such regulations, such resources could have been depleted a long time ago.

The main challenges in protecting these resources are twofold. First, they are highly-priced and secondly, they usually have a global market. This entails that, there are powerful international cartels behind this lucrative business, which sometimes involve government officials. As such, strict control have proved difficult as corrupt individuals in government have the power to maneuvered things behind the scenes.

Will the coming of blockchain reduce this illegal trade, and in what three areas can this prove helpful?

Fish bans

Fish ban refers to a period of time when governments with many natural fish in lakes and swamps impose a fish ban to allow the fish to breed and multiply. In Zambia for example, the government imposes a fish ban that runs from December to march in order to protect the resource as well as social and economic conflicts.

However, the government there has several challenges ranging from lack of policing on water bodies. Another challenge relates to an estimated 300,000 people who are unable to adhere to government policies because these are their livelihoods. They depend on the sale of fish to earn a living. How can blockchain technology help with this challenge?

Blockchain will introduce a better provenance tracking for the fish supply chains. By categorizing these lakes by region and defining clear periods of the fish ban and strict supply chains for traceability sake, blockchain can help to trace the source i.e. the lake from which the fish is coming from, the time of harvest(within or outside the fish ban). With such information clearly kept and monitored on the blockchain, governments would be able to enforce punitive actions on those who fail to adhere to laid down procedures for fish harvesting for example, by blocking such fish from reaching intended target markets. Those who clearly adhere to government regulations would have a clear advantage over those who break the law.

Such basic implementation would save natural resources. Clearly, there is more to what is presented in this article. More research and will definitely prove that blockchain has a wider application in supply chain management.

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