By Jessica Mwansa in Lunga
GOVERNMENT should provide us with alternative sources of income during the fish ban which leaves us impoverished from December to March every year, fishmongers and fishermen in Luapula’s Lunga District have said.
Lunga is surrounded by water bodies including the Lake Bangweulu on one side which is fed by many rivers including the Chambeshi which drains south into the Luapula River.
Most of the locals rely on fishing and fish mongering for survival and it is therefore not surprising to see children, as young as six, paddling a canoe without adult supervision in the canals that drain the lake whilst fishing with unconventional fishing rods.
But some fishermen and traders from Chief Bwalya Mponda’s area have lamented that despite the annual fish ban which is meant to promote breeding and sustainability of fishing, the fish population on the lake has been depleting every year thereby posing a challenge to their survival.
Alfred Mwaba, an experienced fisherman on the lake, has narrated how hard it has become to conduct business now compared to the past years because measures to promote fish breeding are not yielding positive results due to implementation challenges.
On one of his fishing sprees with his young brother Andrew, Mr. Mwaba told The Scoop that lack of restocking of fish species and adherence to the annual fish ban are some of the major causes of the depletion of fish on the lake.
“People here have little regard for the fish ban because fishing is their source of livelihood since farming is a seasonal venture which cannot be fully relied upon,” he said.
Mr. Mwaba believes even with the presence of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) in the area to ensure adherence to proper fishing methods, fishermen have continued sneaking onto the lake during the fish ban because the DNPW does not patrol the water bodies.
“It is no longer a surprise to return from the lake with an empty bucket today because there is less fish and the number of fishermen is increasing daily, most of them illegal ones,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Mwaba has lamented that the Government seems to have forgotten the people of Lunga as most of the pronounced developmental programs like empowerment initiatives such as those under the Constituency Development Funds (CDF) rarely reach the rural communities.
“We have heard a lot about how our friends in other towns are benefitting from empowerment programs but we haven’t seen such. We want the Government to move in quickly because we are relying on fishing to sustain our lives,” he said.