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Nankabirwa Weed Devastates Kaliro, Buyende Fishing Communities

The weed was first seen on Uganda's water bodies in 2013, according to data at the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute and has since spread to cover parts of Lake Kyoga and Albert. According to water and fisheries experts, the giant Salvinia Molesta is worse than the water hyacinth.
A fisherman from Lugonyolo landing site struggles to sail through lake Kyoga.

Audio 3

A wild water weed covering the shores of Lake Kyoga continues to frustrate the economic activities of fishermen in the districts of Kaliro and Buyende. Known locally as Nankabirwa, the weed forms dense mats that affect the movement of fish, block boat access and other fishing activities.  

The weed was first seen on Uganda's water bodies in 2013, according to data at the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute and has since spread to cover parts of Lake Kyoga and Albert. According to water and fisheries experts, the giant Salvinia Molesta is worse than the water hyacinth. 

Researchers say that the weed can double its population in two days upon getting a favourable habitat, thereby clogging waterways and covering up the entire surface of the lake. It reproduces through vegetative propagation and spreads with the aid of fishnets, human activity and birds that feed on some of its parts.  

The International Conservation Union ranks the weed among the worst 100 invasive weeds in the world.  

Hamidu Kibenge, a fisherman at Irundu landing site in Buyende district says that many of their boats can no longer sail through the Lake Kyoga waters.  Similarly, Abuneri Buyinza, a fisherman at Iyingo landing site says that it has become hard for them to cast nets for fishing activities as the weed continues to spread further across the Lake. 

//Cue in; “buti…  

Cue out…obwidakuku.”// 

Ali Yekobowamu, the chairperson of Lugonyola landing site in Bukamba Sub County, Kaliro district, says that their economic lives have been shuttered adding that the weed is a threat to the health and social lives of the communities whose livelihood depends on fishing. 

//cue in; “ekiddo kino…  

Cue out…bibagema.”// 

Samuel Ngugo, a fisherman from Nawaikoke landing site says that they have tried to uproot the weed in vain. 

//cue in; “nsaba…  

Cue out…bubi.”// 

Kaliro District Chairperson Wycliffe Ibanda told URN in a phone call interview that the weed has also affected the district revenue. 

Uganda last battled such a weed in the early 1990s when the water hyacinth invaded Lake Victoria. During its peak, the water hyacinth reduced the supply of clean water, caused difficulties in water extraction, increased transportation costs and reduced fish catches. It also disrupted power generation at Jinja due to a build-up of the weed on the dam.