In May 2013, President Museveni directed officials in the Ministry of Agriculture to work out modalities to restock the lake and improve its productivity as well as create jobs for the fishing community.
However, since then, ministry officials are yet to fulfil the Presidential directive.Ms Joyce Ikwaput Nyeko, the acting director of Fisheries Resources in the Agriculture ministry, said restocking of the lake has been delayed due to insufficient funds.
Waiting for funds
“Restocking a lake is not as simple as a fish pond where you need fewer resources. It needs to be a fully-funded project so that we don’t do shoddy work,” she told Daily Monitor at the weekend. Ms Nyeko, however, declined to disclose the exact amount of money needed.
The lake has a few fish species such as silver fish (mukene), Sprat fish (nkejje), Cray fish (nsonzi) and some poor quality Tilapia, which have not financially benefited the fishing community.
Mr Hadad Mulindwa, the minister of agriculture in Kooki cultural institution, said they have tried to engage the responsible government officials over the matter but they have not been successful.
“As a cultural institution, we reached out to the director responsible for fishing. The community would have gained more from the lake if the presidential directive had been implemented, ” Mr Mulindwa said.
“They did not mind because even replying to us [was difficult]. We pray that the government prioritises this issue so that the community improves its livelihood,” he said.
Mr Mulindwa said a recent study revealed that the lake can harbour other fish species such as Nile Perch and Tilapia.“Fishing can be a game changer for our people and it is only government’s support which is lacking,” he added.
Mr Mulindwa added that there are some farmers who have decided to rear fish using cages on the lake and they have gained from the projects.“I also appeal to the community members to stop encroaching on the swamps around the lake because they are the major breeding grounds for the fish,” Mr Mulindwa said.
Ms Nyeko said plans are underway to engage cultural leaders and Rakai officials on how to restock the lake.There are about 4,000 fishermen operating on the lake, and the average catch is 10 Tilapia per day.
The price of Tilapia fish ranges from between Shs5,000 and Shs8,000.“We have about 4,000 fishermen on the eight fishing sites, but the figures keep changing due to the unstable fish catching,” Mr Francis Masindano, the district fisheries officer, said.
“We have tried with the local fishermen to put different fish species in the lake to see whether they can grow, and we are registering some success,” he added.
Available records show that Uganda produces up to 15,000 tonnes of fish from aquaculture, including production from small-scale fish farmers, emerging commercial fish farmers and stocked community water reservoirs and minor lakes.
There are an estimated 20,000 fishing ponds throughout the country. Production ranges between 1,500 kg per hectare per year for subsistence farmers to 15,000kg per hectare per year for emerging commercial fish farmers.