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How climate change is draining Lake Malawi and local fishing economy4 minutes read

Hundreds of local traders gather each day at Senga only to find that fish populations are falling in Lake Malawi

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How climate change is draining Lake Malawi and local fishing economy
Malawian fishermen wash themselves with the water from the lake on the shore of the Lake Malawi at the Senga village in Senga, Malawi. (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP)

On the shores of Lake Malawi, a crowd eagerly awaits the arrival of a white and yellow cedar wood boat carrying its haul.

The crew of six deliver a single net of chambo, sardine and tiny usipa fish from the boat, just one of 72 vessels that land their catch every day on the beach at Senga Bay.

But overfishing and climate change have taken their toll.

Hundreds of local traders gather each morning and afternoon at Senga only to find that fish populations are falling in Lake Malawi, Africa’s third-largest body of freshwater.

READ: Sierra Leone tackles overfishing but gets small fry

“We were hoping to catch a half-boat full or maybe a quarter-boat… but I’m afraid the fish are dwindling in numbers,” port manager Alfred Banda told reporters staring wearily at the small catch as it was dragged onto the sand.

“Before, we used to catch a full boat but now we are struggling,” he said, adding that a full boat would earn a team of between six and 12 fishermen about $300.

Bordering three countries — Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique — Lake Malawi stretches across more than 29,000 square kilometres (11,200 square miles) with over 1,000 species of fish.

The 14,000 people living at Senga Bay depend on the lake for food and for their livelihood.

“Seven years ago there was lots more fish than today. In 2019, it is different. There’s no fish in the water,” trader Katrina Male, a 40-year-old mother of six, told reporters as she stalked the nets of newly brought in fish seeking the best deal.

“The fish nowadays are more expensive, because they are becoming scarce,” Male said. “Some children have stopped going to school because their parents can’t find the money.”

‘No alternative to fishing’ –

For both locals and climate experts, declining fish numbers reflect a combination of environmental change and overfishing that augurs ill for the future.

The World Bank ranks Malawi among the top 10 at-risk countries in Africa to climate change, with cyclones and floods among the major threats.

How climate change is draining Lake Malawi and local fishing economy
Malawian fishermen fix their fishing nets as fishing boats are seen on the shore of the Lake Malawi at the Senga village in Senga, Malawi. (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP)

Senga community leader, John White Said says increasing gale-force winds and torrential rains have made it harder for fishermen on the lake.

READ: Sierra Leone bans industrial fishing for a month

“Our men can’t catch fish because of wind which is much stronger than before,” he said, adding that the rains are increasingly unpredictable on the lake.

“The rain before would not destroy houses and nature but now it comes with full power, destroying everything and that affects the water as well.”

According to USAID, the number of rainfalls incidents in the country is likely to decrease — but each rainfall will be more intense, leading to droughts and floods.

The threat was highlighted in March when Malawi was hit by torrential rains from Cyclone Idai, killing 59 people. The storm also cut a swathe through Mozambique and Zimbabwe, leaving nearly 1,000 dead.

On top of the environmental impact, the number of fishermen in Senga had doubled in the last 10 years due to the lack of other jobs, Said said. 

“There is no alternative to fishing.”

One of the few to benefit is 38-year-old boat owner Salim Jackson, who rents out his two vessels.

“I got into fishing 13 years ago because I had no other option, I never went to school. But it has brought me good money,” he said.

‘Unsustainable fishing practices’ –

By sunset, the balls of fishing net lay stretched out on the beach and both buyers and fishermen negotiate prices.

Traders take their purchases in buckets to makeshift reed tables to be dried, smoked, fried or boiled in preparation for the market.

“Declining fish catches are mainly due to unsustainable fishing practices,” said Sosten Chiotha, a Malawian environmental science professor who works for the Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) action group.

“Overfishing is a challenge in Lake Malawi (but) there are efforts on co-management and closed seasons to ensure that the fishery recovers.”

How climate change is draining Lake Malawi and local fishing economy
Malawian fishermen work through their catch on their return ashore on the banks of the Lake Malawi at the Senga village in Senga, Malawi. (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AFP)

Chiotha added that climate change was hitting Malawi with “increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events in the major ecosystems including lakes.”

READ: Tunisia fishermen are the lifesavers of the Mediterranean

That leaves Malawi’s agriculture-based economy sharply vulnerable to climatic events and entrenched poverty heightens pressure on the environment.

Wearing a black silk thawb robe and white kufi cap, Said stands tall on Senga beach, surveying the scene around him.

“I’m worried,” he said. “In Malawi, most people depend on fishing financially and as a cheap food source.

“The men have to cast their nets further and further away from the beach.”

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East Africa News

Al Shabaab members attack hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital; kills 5

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Al Shabaab members attack hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital; kills 5
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA - DECEMBER 11: Officials take security measures around a park and surroundings, near the hotel where the suspects fled, after gunmen attempting an attack on Somali presidential residence in Mogadishu, Somalia on December 11, 2019. (photo credit: Sadak Mohamed / Anadolu Agency Sadak Mohamed / ANADOLU AGENCY)

Some gunmen suspected to be members of the militant group, Al Shabaab attacked a hotel in Somalia’s capital near the presidential residence on Tuesday, killing 5 people. 

Police said they killed two of the gunmen and rescued dozens of people from inside.

The Deputy Security Commissioner-General Zakia Hussein disclosed that two of the gunmen met their death as they launched the attack outside the hotel, while two others stormed inside. Hussein added that security forces rescued 82 people which included several officials.

In a Twitter post by the Deputy Commissioner, she warned people not to call their relatives who may be in the hotel while the operation was ongoing. See the tweet below:

This is not the first time the militant group would launch an attack in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. In fact, the group had regularly attacked the city in a to topple the government. The group had also attacked the hotel in 2016.

A witness told News Central TV that security forces at the hotel had mistaken the gunmen for police as they approached until they started shooting and throwing bombs.

Another witness narrated how he heard gunfire inside the hotel late into the night on Tuesday.

 “I saw security personnel evacuating people through the back wall using ladders. People where scampering for safety” he continued.

The militant group once controlled most parts of the capital but lost its strongholds when they were forced out of the city in 2011.

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Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed receives Nobel Peace Prize

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Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed collects Nobel Peace Prize
Ethiopia's Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Abiy Ahmed Ali (R) receives the Nobel Peace Prize from Berit Reiss-Andersen (L), chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee during a ceremony at the city hall in Oslo on December 10, 2019. (Photo by Fredrik VARFJELL / AFP)

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was on Tuesday handed his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. 

The event was attended by the Norwegian royal family, government officials and public figures. Ironically, the prize-giving happened at a time ethnic violence was rising in the East African country.

However, the 43-year-old Prime Minister and former Intelligence Chief reaffirmed his readiness to face the challenges that come with peace.

“For me, nurturing peace is like planting and growing trees. Just like trees need water and good soil to grow, peace requires unwavering commitment, infinite patience, and goodwill to cultivate and harvest its dividends.” Ahmed said.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed collects Nobel Peace Prize
Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee Berit Reiss-Andersen (L) and Vice-Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee Henrik Syse (R) applaud Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Abiy Ahmed Ali (C) during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony at the city hall in Oslo, Norway on December 10, 2019. (Photo by Fredrik VARFJELL / AFP)

Following the Nobel Committee’s announcement in October that it was honouring Ahmed for his efforts to decisively resolve the long-running conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Ethiopians have expressed their concerns over the decision to honour him the prestigious award with many saying it came too early to the Prime Minister who only assumed office in April 2018.

Few months after the announcement by Nobel Committee, Ahmed shocked many, including the Committee itself when he disclosed that he was not going to grant interviews to international media or even field questions from young students who are usually given such opportunity at an event hosted by Save the Children.

 Following a meeting held in Asmara, Eritrea’s capital on 9 July 2019, between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki the 20-year-old cold war between the two countries was formally brought to an end.

Recall that the two countries plunged into prolonged hostility following the 1998-2000 border conflict.

The historic achievement happened barely three months after Ahmed assumed office as Ethiopian Prime Minister and was largely due to his diplomacy in tackling the issue.

Ahmed also showed his eagerness to boost the nation’s democracy when he released dissidents from jail, apologised for state brutality, welcomed home exiled armed groups, established a national reconciliation committee and lifted the ban on some political parties.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed collects Nobel Peace Prize
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Abiy Ahmed Ali speaks after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize during a ceremony at the city hall in Oslo on December 10, 2019. (Photo by Fredrik VARFJELL / AFP)

Notwithstanding all the laudable reforms, Ahmed still faces some major challenges.

His commitment to hold the first “free, fair and democratic” elections since 2005 is being threatened by ethnic violence.

About 80 people have been killed in protests in the country in less than two weeks after his Nobel Peace Prize announcement.

On arrival in Oslo, Ahmed told a Norwegian journalist that:

“The situation in Ethiopia has… new challenges but without challenges, there is no way that we can do something new,” 

“We consider those challenges as a great opportunity to do something positive.”

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Austrian, Rosenberger, Triumphant at 2019 Safaricom East African Safari Classic Rally

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After 9 exhilarating race days across Kenya and Tanzania, Kris Rosenberger emerged as the new Safaricom East African Safari Classic Rally champion, after powering his Tuthill Porsche 911 to victory in Mombasa on Saturday.

The Austrian and co-driver Nicola Bleicher finished ahead of 2015 Safari Classic champion Stig Blomqvist, also in a Porsche 911. Rosenberger held a 1 minute 19.40 seconds advantage over Blomqvist before the final stage and went on to finish second in the final Mombasa Cement stage. The Austrian, who last rallied in Kenya in 1989, cruised to the finish of the 9-day endurance rally to claim victory by 13:01:48.

“It was a fantastic rally, our tactics were 100% right. We know Stig, he is obviously the best and we knew if we stay close to him and we had the pace and as we rallied through the last stage we pushed really hard. We also know that it’s really hard to beat Blomqvist and we are aware of that for sure. He had more problems than us and we still think he is the man and we are happy to be here”, said Rosenberger.

Blomqvist, navigated by compatriot Jorgen Fornander, applied his extensive experience in endurance rallying when things got tougher in the last two days of the rally. In the last section on Friday, his Porsche 911 steering dumper broke 50Km into the last stage, while on Saturday, he had a soft roll in the last Mombasa Cement stage thus losing some time and ultimately placing second.

Kabras Sugar Racing’s Onkar Rai completed the podium dash, finishing third in a Porsche 911 navigated by Drew Sturrock. Onkar managed to post the fastest times in 6 out of the 20 run competitive stages.

“I span in this last stage and luckily we are here. To be honest, it’s been a quick safari and to be able to beat people like Stig is a pretty big achievement for me. Drew has been on the notes and I have been on the pace. We had a bit of bad luck, it’s part of rallying and we get over it and we would like to be back in 2021, Onkar said.

Other best placed Kenyans include Onkar’s older brother Tejveer Rai/Gavin Laurence who finished 8th, ALS Motorsports Aslam Khan/Imran Khan who finished 11th,, while Kabras Sugar Racing’s Baldev Charger/Ravi Sini finished 14th.

Another notable driver who emerged as the new driver to watch was 27-year-old Welshman Osian Pryce, navigated by fellow countryman Dale Furnish. Osian set the quickest time in the prologue and went on to rack up the fastest times in 4 stages, including the 14Km last stage at Mombasa Cement in Kenya’s Kilifi County.

Local rally ace Baldev Charger was the events front runner in the early days, before falling behind. He did however, manage to post fastest times in 4 stages. Out of the 20 competitors that started the 3,390km journey, 17 survived the demanding course across Kenya and Tanzania. Italy’s Gilberto Sandretto navigated by legend Fabrizia Ponz, was forced to end his run, citing important personal reasons back at home that he had to attend to. Another exit was Kenya’s Rommy Bhamra who left the rally unexplained.

In staying true to the nature of the safari classic rally, the weather played a major role in the cancellation or revision of several stages: The Day 3 itinerary was cancelled after torrential rain and subsequent flash floods rendered several sectors of the stages impassable, forcing the organizers to give the competitors a near full extra day service in Arusha, Tanzania.

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