Botswana: Ngamiland Fishermen Cry Out!

Ngamiland fishermen have complained by the number of restrictions in their trade as they are not allowed to operate but the government has opened other sectors of the economy after being in lockdown for more than two months.

Fishermen have called for Department of Wildlife and National Parks to allow them to fish as they are in a peak season as there is plenty of water due to flooding of the river. they say this is the time of the year where they generate income but the department of wildlife is not allowing them to fish.

Othuseng Kemo a fisherman from Ditshiping settlement in the Okavango delta raised concern that he was harassed by the law enforcement officers after he was coming from fishing. He explained that he was with accompanied with his niece when they were stopped by wildlife officers who told them that they are not allowed to fish and they threaten to confiscate their fish and equipment.

He stated that before the outbreak of novel coronavirus, a group of fishermen approached the DWNP to seek clarity on whether they can fish while their fishing license has expired, which they were given a green light to operate but now they are told not to operate.

'Now we are told not to fish we are confused and fishing is the only trade we are depended on,' he stated

The North West regional wildlife officer, Dimakatso Ntshebe has clarifies that the department has taken a decision not to renew license for commercial fishermen in the Ngamiland which expires last year. He added that they were influx of people applying for license in the Ngamiland and therefore took a decision to temporarily suspend issuance of license for commercial while resolving some issues.

He further explained they have divided the river into seven fishing zones or areas from Okavango sub district up to lake Ngami and each zone has number of quotas to be allocated. He added quota changes every year depending on the availability of water. He also stated another delay they encountered is the flooding of the delta as some fishing zones have no water and they are avoiding to issue licenses while they are no water in others areas such as lake Ngami as fishermen while crowd in other areas.

'Now since there is water in most rivers except lake Ngami, we will issue license in July and we will explain all the procedure whether is raffle or other means, 'he said

He however stated that as a result, they are allowing people to fish for subsistence by using angling method than to use a fishing net.

Ntshebe also stated that fishermen who are beneficiaries of poverty eradications will not be affected by the new process. Poverty beneficiaries are allowed to operate and we will be subtracting them from the quota when raffles begin for commercial licenses, he said adding that if they are at areas where there is no water will be allowed to fish elsewhere.

A fish biologist at BUAN, Professor, Keta Mosepele is of the view that the main challenge when it comes to fisheries management in Botswana is because it's into two-fold such as fish farming and capture fishing which is divided into two ministries. He says Fish farming or aquaculture is at the ministry of Agriculture while capture fishing is at Ministry of Environment but it's the same resources and its management becomes difficult the human resources; financial resources are split into two ministries. That's the main reason its not efficient to manage the resources and other issues by the department is just an excuse

Mosepele further advised that the best efficient way to manage these resources is fisheries should be in one ministry and in this case, it should be in ministry of Agriculture because the objectives fisheries management are similar to the ones of Agriculture which is food security, so that where the problem.

He stated in cases where fishermen want to fish but the department want to resolved some issues, its going to be difficult to come up with immediate solutions because resources have been split between two ministries. He said it's a structural problem because licenses must expire at the same time and its going to be difficult to allocate license expeditiously more so that there an influx of fisherman and the issue of covid.

Mosepele also advocate for fishing policy to manage fisheries resources as it provides a framework to manage the resource for the benefit of Batswana, for food security, nutrition and for economic empowerment of rural areas. he added that a resource like fish can be used as a vehicle to uplift the economic conditions of Ngamiland people. 'National fisheries policy is paramount and long overdue,' Mosepele stated

He also advises that one thing about Okavango river is very dynamic, as it can have more water today and tomorrow might not be there. 'We must take advantage of that and utilize the resources today because tomorrow we might not have and fish would not be. our management should react to these dynamic, he said

'Already stretching limited resources and if you do that one thing is going to suffer which is fishermen, 'he said

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