The importance of fisheries resource in the Lake Victoria basin cannot be over emphasized as it provides direct employment to about 300000 Tanzanians and other indirect employment to about three million people. Its contribution to export volume dotes to Tshs. 194 billion. This is according to various reports released in conferences. In spite of this crucial importance, fisheries resources are increasingly under serious threat due to various reasons. These include reduced fish stocks, decline of biodiversity, food and nutritional insecurity-all being a result of overfishing and illegal fishing.
The main challenge is that: There is an increasing use of illegal fishing methods and hence destruction of the lake habitats due to inadequate capacity and limited understanding of fisher communities on their roles and responsibilities in the sustainable ways of managing the lake Victoria fisheries resources. This calls for the need to enhance the capacity of the rural fishing communities to help fight poverty through sustainable use and management of the lake resources. The fisheries policy of 1997 and the fisheries Act of 2003 are not well understood by the fisher folk communities and therefore leading to a manifold of emerging problems. Examples are lake pollution, destruction of fish breading sites and agricultural activities in the water catchment areas.
What is required towards change is to empower citizens, community groups and all stakeholders at various levels to actively enhance and promote sustainable utilization of fisheries resources. This in turn, will reduce or lead to abolition of the illegal fishing methods, environmental pollution and finally result into protection of the lake resources for improved livelihoods. The intervention will also be a catalyst for social accountability hence, contributing to poverty reduction through more democratic and transparent governance.
The ecological healthy of lake Victoria has been affected as a result of among others clearance of natural vegetation along the shores and a booming fish-export industry. Other factors include the disappearance of several fish species native to the lake, prolific growth of algae, and dumping of untreated effluent by several industries. As a result, traditional lifestyles of lakeshore communities have been disrupted and are crumbling. This has made the lake to continue to suffer from heavy environmental degradation, putting its future in dilemma. Much of the damage is vast and irreversible. Degradation of the lake is a result of various stakeholders ranging from fisher communities, local government authorities to owners of fish industries in the region.
There are some efforts to alleviate the situation by some authorities but, unfortunately, such efforts have not been able to involve people at the grass root. This approach has helped to worsen the situation and denies people in this sector their rights to more effectively participate in and influence decision making, good governance and accountability for more sustainable management of fisheries resources.
As a facilitator, my main role was to initiate the process by organizing, bringing together different actors and supervising all events and activities happening during the whole process. Also, I was responsible to train and mentor stakeholders at various levels such as training and coaching community animators and other community groups (BMUs and Village Environmental Committees) on the Fisheries Policy (1997) and Fisheries Act No. 22 of 2003).
Deodatus Kiriba-YET 2011