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High Costs of Gears Push Kwania Fishermen Out of Fishing

The government lifted the suspension in July 2020 but only allowed fishermen with the recommended boat sizes, a restriction that has pushed fishermen out of business.
Lt. Col James Nwagaba, FPU Commander, Kwania leaders during the reopening of fishing activities on Kwania landing sites last yr. (Photo by Solomon Okabo)

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More than 11,000 fishermen along Lake Kyoga and Lake Kwania have remained jobless since the resumption of fishing activities.

In March 2019 the government suspended fishing activities on Lake Kwania and Lake Kyoga respectively on the request from Lake Kyoga Integrated Management Organization (LAKIMO) over concerns of depletion of fish species due to poor fishing methods.

The suspension was expected to replenish the fish stock and enable fishermen to acquire standard fishing boats and gears. However, the government lifted the suspension in July 2020 but only allowed fishermen with the recommended boat sizes, a restriction that has pushed fishermen out of business.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Husbandry, boat owners are required to have the recommended 28 sizes of boats and fishing gears, Tax Identification Numbers and National Identity Cards. Of the 21,764 fishermen from the 10,882 landing sites on both Lake Kwania and Kyoga, only 10,159 are operating on the Lake.

Several fishermen across the landing sites in Kwania district say they have failed to procure the required boat size, which costs about 1.7 Million Shillings and the standard fishing that costs 1 Million Shillings.  The standard boat also requires an engine which costs about 2.5 Million Shillings.

Simon Ongu, one of the fishermen who missed out among those registered in Abei Landing Site in Chawente Sub County, says he is unable to cater for his family after failing to resume fishing, adding that the price of the recommended boat is high for a poor fisherman.

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Francis Okello is among hundreds of fishermen at Abali landing site that used to rely on fishing as a livelihood but could not make it to the lake. Okello has been operating on the lake since 2011, he says he has now resorted to wheelbarrow pushing in Lira town to earn a living.

Jolly Joe Otim, the secretary of Chawente Fishing Community says that the fishermen have to part with at least 8 Million Shillings to get all the gear to resume business. He wants the government to offer soft loans to fishermen to enable them to resume fishing.

The Kwania LCV Chairperson Geoffrey Alex Ogwal Adyebo says that hundreds of fishermen, who have been earning a living for decades through fishing, were left out during the registration process. He, however, says that he will engage the government to ensure an alternative livelihood source for the affected fishermen.

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Joyce Ikwaput, the Commissioner of Aquaculture in the Ministry of Fisheries says that the government is in its final stage in constructing fish ponds under the aquaculture project, an alternative livelihood source expected to benefit the unlicensed fishermen.

"On the issue of the fish pond, the government is already in final stages, we will soon establish a fishing processing factory in Amolatar district that will offer employment opportunities to the local population, and priority will be given to affected fishermen,” Ikwaput said.