Uganda Ban on Lake George Fishing Cripples Attendance at Kahendero Humanist School
By Bwambale Robert Musabaho
(Photo above: small boats without licenses are burned at Kahendero Landing site)
The ban on fishing on Lake George has already taken toll on the livelihoods of people living around the lake. The ban was necessary to restock the lake and to improve fishing methods.
Fish stocks in Lake George have declined considerably over the last eight years. In 2008, 899 tonnes of fish were harvested from the lake.
Although many fishermen on Lake George welcome the measure they say they cannot afford to stay in the area. Several of them have migrated to other landing sites in Western Uganda to seek employment.
Most fishermen at Kahendero landing site in Kasese are saying they were not given more time to prepare for the ban. They say the ban was abrupt and they could not secure another source of income in time. Most of them have grown up fishing and its the only economic activity they know.
Moving around Kahendero fishing village, it is their padlocks that welcomes you, most house units have locks on their doors, the fishermen have temporary migrated to other lakes in the country, others have been made to try their luck elsewhere and do any kind of job that might come at their disposal.
Lake George is shared by the districts of Rubirizi, Kasese and Kamwenge. All eight landing sites are within the Queen Elizabeth National Park and people living there are not permitted to conduct any other economic activity but fishing. As a result, almost all of the 17,500 landing site residents have returned to their homes in the region in search of casual jobs to occupy them till the completion of the ban.
The ban on fishing has severely affected revenue collection in the sub-counties in which landing sites are located. Some locals even at the landing sites have been harassed, beaten if found in possession of under grown fish. Motorcycle riders commonly known as boda bodas if found with a customer carrying the banned fish, the motorcycle, the passenger and the rider all will be taken to the courts and face justice.
Traders who rely on doing business with the fishermen are also anticipating a downturn in their monthly earnings.
To make matters worse, there is a new policy of ensuring only licensed boats with numbers should fish but the other limitation is that the boat size should be big enough and powered by an out board engine. Research has it that only a few or none of the residents in Kahendero can manage a boat build up worthy 700$ US and to be powered by an engine worthy 2000$US accompanied with recommended nets worth 500$US.
Kasese Humanist School - Kahendero campus have been managing two boats, the bigger one for tourism purposes and a medium sized one for fishing activities and by comparison purposes our boats have been among the biggest boats but under the current setting, they want us to get bigger ones than what we already have.
Lake George is among the shallowest fresh water lake we have and the canoes would work perfect due to the low water depth. The bigger boats will most likely get stuck in the waters and some people are bringing in conspiracy theories that may be there is a hidden agenda aimed at complicating life for the people of Kahendero so that they abandon the landing site and government take on the fishing activity.
The fact that people in Kahendero struggle to make ends meet, very few or none will afford to buy an outboard engine, the recommended boat and engine so as to fish.
Very few people on this landing site have licensed numbers that allow them to go fishing so this leaves the majority out to go fishing.
Another theory could be locals could remain as workers of the rich who might put up fish processing factories working on fish for export.
Lastly, the mineral prospects issue might also come in, issues of land grabbing might follow suit since this area lies within the albertine valley going all the way to Hoima area where oil mining and drilling is currently in progress.
The challenge we have as the Kahendero School:
We need a bigger boat, recommended new fishing nets since soon; we are going to dismantle what we currently use.
Our enrollment of pupils at the Kahendero School has reduced from 215 as of last term to now 94 pupils. The reason being, the parents have shifted with them to new areas where they can earn a living.
Our teachers are having challenges with inadequate salary payment since the school expected income is low.