As the yearlong fishing ban at Lake Ngami in the North West District nears end, the Lake Ngami Conversation Trust has received a grant of over P3 million to kick-start their project aimed at taking over management of fishing at the lake.
The chairperson of Lake Ngami Conversation Trust, Frisco Gabokakangwe told this publication that the project has been long coming. According to Gabokakangwe if all goes according to plan they should have completed all the necessary structures to get the trust’s campsite up and running by February next year, a month before the fishing ban lapse.
Gabokakangwe said all those who are interested in fishing in the lake will then be expected to go through the trust. “We still have not decided on the actual pricing yet, but they will be expected to pay a certain amount to the trust from for fishing and they will also be charged for their stay in our campsite,” he said.
Gabokakangwe further said because they now have funds at their disposal, they are only waiting for the Environmental Impact Assessment to be completed and then they can start construction. “The contractor carrying out the assessment has been paid already, though it takes three months we have asked for a lesser time and we expect it by at least mid-December,” he said.
The chairperson expressed gratitude for the funds saying this development was not only good for the conservation of the environment but will also benefit communities of villages surrounding the lake. “ money generated by the trust will be used to develop communities of Sehithwa, Bothatogo, Bodibeng, Kareng, Legothwana and Toteng,” he said.
He however bemoaned that there are still some individuals who have decided to go against the law and catch fish from the lake despite the ban. He warned that such individuals’ names have been noted by the trust and will be denied licenses in future.
Earlier this year, Former senior research fellow at Botswana Institute of Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) Professor Roman Grynberg wrote an article chronicling the somehow unregulated fish trade in Northern Botswana, particularly at Lake Ngami. Grynberg opined that the Ngamiland fishery has become a lawless “wild west” of Botswana and government needs to act. Botswana, according to the professor, was silently becoming a significant exporter of unknown quantities of tilapia and catfish to water rich countries like Zambia and the democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Despite this Grynberg says Lake Ngami fishing is completely unsustainable as the lake will one day disappear as it has in the past but it is also unsustainable because the rate of extraction of fish is not controlled. The Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama announced the decision to ban any fishing activity at the lake from March 2015 until March 2016. Speaking to this publication earlier this year Khama said his ministry decided to impose the ban as a way of protecting the interests of Batswana and putting more stringent regulatory measures in place.