DIMINISHING fish harvests on Lake Kariba and its environs are forcing its fishermen to break with an ages old tradition.
Instead of concentrating on fishing alone, they are taking time to teach tourists how to fish — and it has proven to be a game changing development.
Through the encouragement of innovative livelihood programmes being introduced by several agencies, a significant number of the fishermen have taken advantage of higher tourist arrivals to improve their incomes.
In his small fishing boat, Edmore Khumalo Muleya last week hauled two nets from the waters, before inspecting the harvest.
“This is a poor catch,” he told the Zimbabwe Independent, as he narrated how climate change has changed the way his family lives.
“I need US$30 a day to survive. But currently, I am managing US$10 if I don’t diversify.”
He is the latest of generations of fishermen in his ancestry, who have survived on the business in Mujele, one of the richest fishing corridors, about halfway along the 280-kilometre-long water repository.
Those who came before him were much less equipped to catch fish.
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But he says none of his ancestors experienced periods of dry harvests as he has done.
“My father and grandfather only concentrated on fishing but they had enough,” Muleya said.
“When I entered this trade, I only concentrated on fishing as well. But now I can’t survive. I need to do something else,” he added.
Muleya’s desperation has been addressed, in a significant way.
The launch of Lake Kariba Inshore Fisheries Management Plan (2023-2032) through the Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) between the Government of Zimbabwe and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) last month in Kariba has widened his horizons.
The programme transforms aquatic systems and promotes responsible and sustainable management of aquatic food systems.
It has been implemented in line with FAO’s strategic framework, which guides the transformation to efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems.
Muleya is among those championing the programme, and says by working with tourists, his incomes have improved.
“With tourists, I don’t need to catch 100kg of fish. It is enough to catch 5kg for their lunch,” he said.
Fishing tourism is just one of several projects being implemented on Lake Kariba.
Sustainable operations are also encouraged.
“The fishermen’s hands-on experience of the fishing on the lake, combined with scientific knowledge (gained from the programme) is fundamental for the fate of the Lake,” said Gache-Gache fishing camp chairperson, Tichaona Manzungu.
“The full involvement of fishermen in fisheries management in protected areas will ensure the sustainability of marine resources in the long term. Only by working together can we make the right decisions and see positive results.”
“To be honest, we are also just starting to understand fishing tourism,” added Manzungu.
“We are not trying to get fishermen to stop fishing. We want the fishing tradition to be preserved. But if we continue overfishing, it becomes difficult. Not everyone has to do fishing tourism. If five out of 32 fishermen do fishing tourism then the rest can continue with fishing only.”
Authorities also agree.
“The fishing sector must provide diversification of livelihood options, while enhancing value addition to broaden income earning for the benefit of people in the Zambezi Valley. This is the only way we can broaden economic opportunities to progress towards Vision 2030. We count on the sustainable management of the fisheries to contribute to the gross domestic product (GDP),” said Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndhlovu, minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality at the launch of the programme recently.
“Fish yields in the lake have been declining due to several factors, which include overfishing and the use of unsustainable fishing practices. Climate change has also played a part in negatively impacting total fish catches and lowering household income. With the Lake Kariba Inshore Fishery Management Plan now in place, these challenges can be addressed.
“Climate change has affected Lake Kariba and its environs as envisaged by fluctuating water levels that have affected electricity availability. Fisheries have also been affected by the changes. Research conducted in Lake Kariba has shown that increasing temperatures affect fisheries productivity and the fluctuating lake water levels affect the actual fishing activities by fishery-dependent communities, Ndhlovu added.