Katima Mulilo — A project aimed at sustaining riverine resources in the Zambezi, Chobe and Okavango rivers in Namibia, Zambia and Botswana was launched last week in Katima Mulilo by the Ambassador of the EU, Raul Fuentes Milani.
The conservation project funded by the European Union (EU) for N$15 million is being run by the Namibia Nature Foundation (NNF) in partnership with the Zambian Department of Fisheries, the Okavango Research Institute, University of Namibia (Unam) and the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.
The project falls within the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA-TFCA), a conservation programme that was launched in 2012 and covers a combined area of about 550 000 square kilometres in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
According to Milani the project comes at an opportune time when fish catches are declining in the KAZA river systems, a situation that is likely to affect food security particularly for the rural poor. "The European Union is co-funding the community conservation fisheries project in KAZA with an amount of N$15 million and is proud to be associated with this commendable initiative. Over the years, fish catches have declined and have resulted in reduced incomes for fishermen. There is concern about the impact on food security of the rural poor to whom the fishery provides a safety net when crops fail," noted Milani.
Milani said policies ought to be harmonised as countries in KAZA share the river resources from which people derive their livelihoods. "In all three countries, rivers lack adequate fishery monitoring and enforcement systems. This project therefore strives to establish effective communication channels between all stakeholders, build capacity in fisheries management and establish fish protection areas," said Milani.
Apart from conserving the existing fishery resources, another aspect of the project is to restock rivers with fish species. A hatchery for this purpose is already under construction at the offices of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in Katima Mulilo. In efforts aimed at cementing comprehensive fishery management in the three river systems, the project has been reinforced by scientific research. At the launch of the project, it became evident that fisheries of the upper Zambezi River and floodplains are under threat as a result of overfishing. There are widespread concerns that the uncontrolled plunder of fish particularly at Lake Liambezi by foreign fishermen could deplete the fishery resource. Truckloads of fish destined for Kasumbalesa, a border town between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where demand for the local fish is said to be extremely high, are often seen leaving the lake.
Lake Liambezi, some 60 kilometres east of Katima Mulilo has been a hotbed of illegal fishing in recent years with many foreign nationals, mainly from Zambia, the DRC and Angola entering Namibia under the pretext of visiting the country, only to engage in illegal fishing later. Research indicates this has placed pressure on the available fish stocks in the inland lake renowned for its abundant fish resources.