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Lessons from Lake Ngami fish ban

SHARE   |   Monday, 09 July 2018   |   By Ricardo Kanono
Lake Ngami Lake Ngami

When will policy makers take researchers seriously? Why do we invest in education when credible scientific evidence is disregarded in decision making process? I am informed that an illiterate regional director at department of wildlife said recommendations from a Professor in Fisheries were insane, and government should not take such advice. Well, not surprising  as the guy is close to the former administration who strongly abhored education. The Director does not have any qualification for wildlife management.

What’s the way forward now with Lake Ngami, and the fish that used to benefit a section of the population? We should serously consider developing a proper fisheries industry in Ngamiland. Funds that government is planning to use to procure expensive Grippens and other war artillery could be diverted to create employment through this sector.


Why do we impoverish the Ngamiland residents, is this part of a war against them? I fail to understand how the Ngamiland people are expected to live? First it was the Contagious Bovine Pleuro Pneumonia (commonly known as the cattle lung disease), followed by the hunting ban, and later the fishing ban.

Small-scale fisheries and aquaculture make critical contributions to development in the areas of employment, with over 41 million people worldwide, the vast majority of whom live in developing countries, working in fish production; food security and nutrition, with fish constituting an important source of nutrients for the poor and often being the cheapest form of animal protein; and trade, with a third of fishery commodity production in developing countries destined for export.


The ban was announced through the statutory instrument No. 17 of 2017 in the Botswana government gazette published on March 10 2017 and signed by Minister Tshekedi Khama on February 17. In exercise of his powers conferred on him by Section 3 of the Fish Protection Act, he announced that no person shall export any dry fish produced from Botswana, the prohibition shall be for a period of 12 months. Botswana imposed a 12 month fishing ban which came into effect in March 2017. Environment, Natural Resources and Conservation Minister Tshekedi Khama said the decision was motivated by the continued spate of overfishing which gives foreign traders an unfair advantage over the locals. Various studies carried out in Lake Ngami showed that there was no exploitation of the fish population, and it was an emotive decision. I have realized that despite the significant contributions that fisheries and aquaculture make to employment, nutrition, and trade in Botswana, they are rarely included in national development policy and donor priorities. This is largely due to problems with valuation of small-scale fisheries, as policy makers often do not have access to data which reflect the importance of fisheries and aquaculture to development, this then lead to notorious bans leading to further impoverishing the poor farmers.

  The ecology of the Lake ngami shows that eventual it will dry, as it the situation right now, and  as I passed there over the weekend. I saw its drying, and all the fish that could have been utilized by the locals will eventually die. Why are we so cruel. Ngamiland with many inflows should b having a Fishery market base. With so much fish in the district why Botswana is not havig it own fish products and we are exporting from Namibia?  This is one area that we could utilize to create employment opportunities and divsrify our economy! The importance of fish as a source of protein and other essential nutrients required in the human diet cannot be over-emphasised so alsö is the potential contribution of a developed fisheries subsector to overall development of the national economy.Increased productivity in the fisheries industries would mean more fish food to the ever increasing population of natives and  ensure that the price of such is within the reach of the average Botswana. In our quest to reduce urban rural drift, propmotion of the fish industry along the Ngamiland area would  ncreased fish production, but will also stem the movement of labour prematurely out of the industry in search of urban industry based economies that are not available. You know I like the Rural develop Policy because all these are captured within ther, and its failing deliberately to put of Batswana  from Poverty. You know this country has the potential to be be poverty zero if we use our rsources well.  We always go far places to benchmark, why? Look at the kapenta-(Amatemba) from Zimbabwe and the fish we export from Namibia. 


Apart from such direct contributions, the industry can also contribute in other indirect ways to employment generation. Once a fishing community is established it will require a host of cervices to keep it functioning.  Such facilities and services will include a boatyard, a village store selling fishing equipment, an engine work shop to service and repair broken-down motorized boats, an ice plant or cold rooms a - fish transport/distribution service for efficient marketing. All these facilities and service will be manned by people. Thus, the development of the industry will surely lead to increased employment opportunities in the fishing villages along Ngamiland  and other sectors developed across the country.

We need as a a matter of urgency to develop a SMALL-SCALE FISHERMEN IMPROVEMENT SCHEME. Such scheme  would result in raised income of these fishermen both from the welfare point of view of earning a decent income and from the related point view of provision of gainful employment.


The Masisi led Government should concentrate on building an energetic extension/advisory service to demonstrate the yield potential of new inputs and practices which will convince prospective adopters of the profitability of fish-farming and encourage private investment in the unfamiliar enterprise. The money currently under CEDA please channel that to such an industry.  In this regard, the construction of model fish-farms all over the country is advocated with a caveat that such model farms should be modest in scale and approximate as closely as possible what the average fishermen can afford to replicate. I think the research pedigree could be put inplace, and  having demonstrated the feasibility of making high returns in fish farming, Government should go on to provide the necessary infrastructures to make for the smooth running of production and distribution. The Fisheries Division of Department of Wildlife should be capaciateed to drive such exercise, and I know a former Director who was unceremoniously forced to retire had a dream of taking fisheries to the highest levels. 

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