Malawi-Lake Malawi, one of Africa's Great Lakes, is facing a major challenge of overfishing that is threatening the existence of Mbuna fish (cichlids), a key species in the lake's ecosystem, writes Brenda Chunga.
Ripple Africa, a non-profit organization based in Malawi, with funding from UNESCO, has launched a conservation project aimed at reducing illegal fishing in protected areas of Lake Malawi.
"Encroaching and illegal fishing are major challenges along the lake, as communities along the lake use fishing as a source of income," said Force Ngwira, the Country Director for Ripple Africa.
However, the Mbuna fish conservation project, plus competition among the Beach Village and Natural Resources Committees, is geared toward ending the malpractice.
The project's aim is to encourage and train people on how to conserve Mbuna fish and other natural resources along the lake.
Since its inception, the project has already shown progress, as it has managed to train village natural resources and beach village committees to prevent the use of illegal fishing gear that can contribute to the depopulation of Mbuna fish.
It also sensitizes communities not to catch fish in protected areas on the lake.
"Since the project started, people are understanding the importance of conserving the Mbuna fish in the lake. The project has managed to train the Village Natural Resource and Beach Village Committee in making sure that fishermen are not using illegal fishing gear that can contribute to the depopulation of Mbuna fish and also sensitizing communities not to catch fish in protected areas on the lake," disclosed Ngwira.
Chiefs in the area have also spoken highly of the project and have vowed to work hand in hand with communities to end the malpractice.
"As chiefs, we have enacted by-laws to protect Mbuna fish, and fines are imposed on chiefs and communities that are not abiding by those by-laws," said Senior Chief Namkumba.
However, just like any other project, Ripple Africa is having a tedious time changing the mindset of communities that have, for a long time, been fishing without regard for the conservation and replenishment of the fish.
The communities have also become used to destroying the flora and fauna along the lake.
"Chiefs and their subordinates' negligence in enforcing by-laws on the destruction of natural resources, like cutting trees carelessly, is also contributing to the extinction of aquatic animals. Communities are cutting down trees carelessly, which causes flooding and the wash-away of some fish species," added Ngwira.
Village Natural Resource Committee Chairperson, Edward Tsegula, said another challenge the project continues to face around national parks and lakeshore areas is the lack of waste management, which also leads to a decrease in the number of fish in the lake.
"Some people throw plastic paper and diapers in the lake. This puts the lives of fish in the lake at risk," said Tsegula.
The Mbuna (Cichlids) Fish Conservation Project plans to extend its efforts for two more years, educating surrounding communities and fighting encroachment in National Parks and Lake Malawi.
According to Ripple Africa, the project will collaborate with all stakeholders, including chiefs and communities, to achieve its goals.
Chiefs in the targeted areas have also committed to enforcing by-laws to protect the National Parks along the lake and the Mbuna Fish, ensuring they continue to attract tourists.
The reporters need to dig deeper on this one: "The Mbuna (Cichlids) Fish Conservation Project plans to extend its efforts for two more years, educating surrounding communities and fighting encroachment in National Parks and Lake Malawi."
The encroachment is by our own government (elected and hired officials). Our tax dollars and donations destroying planet which will destroy people. Read more here about the destruction going on in LMNP: https://www.change.org/p/government-of-malawi-department-of-national-parks-waterboard-a-world-heritage-site-on-lake-malawi-is-under-threat-and-needs-your-support-now
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