With water levels at Lake Ngami at a worrying low, the region’s long-suffering fisherman are set to suffer more economic distress.
The lack of water has led to a lack of fish, putting the start of the fishing season, which is scheduled to commence next Thursday (1st of March), in doubt.
Concerned locals remain hopeful that the current rains together with the expected annual flooding between June/July will top up the lake before it dries completely.
Located roughly 100kms away from Maun, Lake Ngami has long been an important source of economy for communities in Ngamiland who practiced commercial fishing at the area.
However, the flow of a promising business was recently disrupted by the Government, through the Ministry of Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, who suspended fishing activity in the area for 2015 and much of 2016.
The community has also been hit hard by the on-going 12 month ban on exporting dried fish to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia – a ban that was introduced in April last year in an effort to replenish the dwindling numbers of fish in the lake.
Speaking to Voice Money this week, a biologist at the University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute, Professor Keta Mosepele, warned that the drying of the lake spells disaster for the region.
“We have long said that while there is water at Lake Ngami, people should be allowed to fish because we knew that eventually that lake was going to dry.
“As it is right now, if the water level at the lake has decreased, fish production for sure will also decrease,” he highlighted.
Mosepele was especially critical of the Government’s dried fish exportation ban, which he explained had taken away the fishermen’s main source of income.
“The major problem for fishermen in Ngamiland has always been finding a market so the DRC and Zambian market was a lucrative deal for them,” he said, adding that if the market remains closed, only a few people will return to fish as the majority mainly did it for the purpose of dried fish.
He stressed that very few people catch fresh fish to sell locally.
The professor advised policy makers to work closely with scientists in the future to ensure any decisions they take ‘will be influenced by science’.