FISHERMEN in Lake Tanganyika in Kalambo District, Rukwa Region have expressed concern over a 800m/- modern fish market which is not operating for the past five years.
They complain they lack a reliable market for their fish as the market which was opened in 2011 has turned into a white elephant.
A cross-section of the fishermen told the 'Daily News' in separate interviews at Kasanga Ward along the shore line of Lake Tanganyika in Kalambo District that they are compelled to sell fresh fish to about 12 fish processing industries located on the shore line of Lake Tanganyika in Mpulungu Township in the neighbouring Zambia at the throw away prices.
Impeccable official reports had it that the construction of the fish market at Kasanga Ward cost 802,488,528/- and the citizen living closer to it voluntary issued the land for the construction of the buildings of the market. It is estimated that about 60,000 people living in the villages closer to the buildings actively engage in fishing activities and annually produce 167,000 tonnes of fish, but reliable markets remain a major challenge to them.
The market since it was officially inaugurated by the former Vice-President , Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal on February 2011, it has never operated. The Kasanga village government chairman, Mr Divason Paulo, admitted with dismay that the market has never operated in the past five years despite being connected with electricity from Rural Electrification Agency (REA) project.
He further said that it has denied the village revenue saying the problem is the cold room walls had developed huge cracks since it was built six years ago . " Challenges afflicting our fishermen is that they are compelled to sell their products to the fish processing industries in Mpulungu Township in the neighbouring Zambia at very low prices, as the buyers determine the prices ... there are about twelve fish processing industries on that precinct," said Mr Paulo.
According to the latest reports, the fish markert at Kasanga Ward was built by a network of groups of farmers in Tanzania (MVIWATA), in collaboration with GET and Sumbawanga District Council before it was split and Kalambo District Council was officially established. That was done through Food Crops Wholesale Markets Project for Mbeya and Rukwa regions whose construction began in December 2009 and accomplished in November 2011 with financial support from the European Union.
A cross-section of fishermen including the famous Mr Abdalhaman Sichilima said the owners of the fish processing industries on the Zambian side had provided some fishermen from Tanzania fishing gears including boats and engines, fishing nets and fuel on loan on condition that they supply them with fresh fish at low prices.
"Practically, we have become slaves simply because we do not have working capital of our own to run fishing," said Steven Msika, a fisherman from Kasanga Ward.
A Kasanga Ward fisheries officer, Mr Abdul Mohamed Handai, confirmed that most of the fishermen from Kalambo District sell their catches to processing factories in the neighbouring Zambia at low prices.