Fishing Decline in Southern Africa Due to El Nino-Induced Drought

– Fishing communities devastated by El Nino-induced drought are facing unprecedented challenges as the fish in the river are gone, fisher lamented.

Source: Changa Safari Camp from the 2021 Tiger Fishing in Lake Kariba

John Cassim

Harare, Zimbabwe – Fishing communities in Southern Africa are reeling from the devastating impacts of the El Nino-induced drought, as the once-thriving fisheries now face unprecedented challenges. “The fish in the river are gone,” lamented Juliet Kamwi, a local fisherwoman from Sesheke District, Zambia, encapsulating the dire situation felt across the region.

This stark reality reverberates as Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia declare a state of disaster, confronting a severe food security crisis affecting over 20 million people. 

The El Nino-induced drought has decimated fish populations in local rivers, intensifying the struggle for survival among fishers who rely on these waters for sustenance and income.

Reduced water levels, as reported by the Zambezi River Authority, have left fishing areas barren, making it increasingly difficult for communities to secure enough fish to feed their families and sustain their livelihoods. 

Juliet Kamwi’s reflection mirrors the collective anguish experienced by many, where reliance on river fish once ensured food security and educational opportunities for their children. 

Now, with the disappearance of fish, life has become uncertain, plunging families deeper into poverty and hunger.

Recognizing the urgent need for intervention, ActionAid calls for emergency action to address the crisis. 

While immediate food assistance is crucial, long-term solutions are necessary to ensure the sustainability of fishing livelihoods in the region.

Jovina Nawenzake, Interim Executive Director at ActionAid Zambia, emphasizes the importance of investing in these communities’ futures, given their heavy reliance on fishing for both sustenance and income. 

As the region contends with rising costs of living compounded by drought-induced challenges, urgent humanitarian aid is imperative to alleviate the suffering of those most affected.

In 2022, concerns arose regarding the potential disappearance of kapenta fishing in Lake Kariba if measures were not taken to curb poaching and overfishing. 

Chartwell Tanga Kanhema, chairman of the Zimbabwe Kapenta Fishermen Association (ZKFA), urged the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe to implement measures to address these challenges.

Nesbert Mapfumo, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Kapenta Producers Association (ZKPA), highlighted the stark decline in kapenta catch compared to previous decades, citing overfishing and illegal fishing practices as major contributing factors.

Introduced into Lake Kariba in 1967, kapenta has supported a significant fishery for Zimbabwe and Zambia. However, the current situation is exacerbated by the El Nino-induced drought, further straining the already fragile ecosystem.

Kariba Town Council documents reveal the discrepancy between licensed and illegal fishing activities, underscoring the urgent need for regulatory enforcement. As the region grapples with multifaceted challenges, concerted efforts are required to safeguard the future of fisheries and the livelihoods they support.

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