11 July 2019

Uganda: Communities Seek Food Aid After Ban On Fishing Activities

Authorities in Nakasongola District are rallying for possible relief aid from government agencies to save lives of communities whose livelihood has been affected following the suspension of fishing activities on Lake Kyoga.

In April, government suspended fishing activities on the lake to allow the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) under the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) coordinate the registration of fishermen and their boats.

The measure is aimed at regulating illegal fishing activities and conserving water bodies.

However, local leaders say the suspension has left the fishing communities at more than 15 fish landing sites in Nakasongola District starving, with a few having a single meal per day.

Mr Margaret Komuhangi, the Nakasongola District Woman MP, said the fishing communities were not prepared for the suspension of all fishing activities.

"It is true that we have already contacted agencies, including the Ministry for Disaster Preparedness for possible assistance in terms of food items for our people, whose livelihoods are affected by the suspension of fishing on Lake Kyoga. We are not condemning the suspension because we agreed as leaders to support the initiative. We only need to secure some assistance as FPU clears the lake," Ms Komuhangi said in an interview on Tuesday

The exercise was planned to last two months, it has since extended into the third month.

"It is unfortunate that communities at the different fish landing sites do not have alternate income-generating activities, which partly explains the bad situation. They [fishers] can only buy food from sales generated from the fishing activity," the MP added.

Mr Sam Kigula, the Nakasongala District chairperson, said the district has presented a budget to the concerned relief agencies, including the Office of the Prime Minister, detailing the possible category of affected groups, including the expected intervention.

The most affected fishing communities, according to Mr Kigula, are at landing sites including Kitalaganya, Moone, Lwampanga, Kikoiro, Kibuye and Ninga.

Residents starving

Mr Joseph Etyang, 56, a resident of Ninga Landing Site in Nabiswera Sub-county, told this newspaper on Tuesday that the area has more than 300 households, but many have nothing to eat.

"We earn from the lake. Any activity that stops us from getting into the water to get the fish will certainly affect the livelihood of our people," Mr Etyang, who looks after a family of five people, said.

Mr Jimmy Obukwa, a resident of Lwampanga Landing Site, said even after the suspension is lifted, many people at the landing site may not easily go back to the lake to fish because of the strict measures, including the type of boats that are supposed to operate on the lake.

"All our boats were destroyed by the soldiers, who insisted that they were not of the standard size. We shall need capital to buy the required fishing gear before going back to the lake," Mr Obukwa said.

Background

The suspension. Last month, soldiers under Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) launched a full scale operation on Lake Kyoga as a follow-up on the resolution made by leaders from the 15 districts under the Lake Kyoga Integrated Management Organisation (Lakimo) that share Lake Kyoga waters.

The districts under Lakimo include Nakasongola, Pallisa, Amolatar, Kamuli, Apac, Dokolo, Buyende, Kaliro, Soroti, Kaberamaido, Serere, Katakwi, Ngora, Dokolo and Kumi.

The leaders resolved to have a two-month suspension of all fishing activities on the lake and allow FPU register all fishermen and destroy all illegal fishing gear.

Illegal fishing. Illegal fishing on Ugandan lakes has caused a reduction in fish stocks, especially in species like tilapia, Nile perch and sliver fish, something that has drastically affected the country's export earnings from fish.

This, in January 2017, forced President Museveni to establish FPU to crackdown on illegal fishing on the lakes, which was blamed for the dwindling fish stocks in the country. This has in the last couple of years seen fish stock, especially Nile Perch, significantly increase in size.

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