At the start of the year, authorities in districts sharing Lake Kyoga suspended fishing activities for two months to allow the Fisheries Protection Unit to coordinate the registration of fishermen and their boats so as to regulate illegal fishing activities.
“We have announced amnesty for everybody with illegal fishing gear to hand it over for destruction,” said Sam Kigula, the chairperson of Lake Kyoga Integrated Management Organisation (Lakimo) during a meeting at Amolatar district headquarters.
However, in October, the ban was extended to December to allow restoration of fish stock in the lake but the move left many people around the area, whose only source of livelihood was fish from the lake with no alternative source of income and food.
“Fishing was my only source of income and after it was banned, I am struggling to make ends meet. The future has been uncertain since then,” says Paul Kirabira,40 a local fisherman.
Many other locals insist that life has never been the same since the ban was effected on Lake Victoria as most of them are either working as fishermen or benefitting directly from the sale of fish from the lake.
Rhino Fund comes to their help
However, despite all the trials and tribulations that locals around Lake Victoria have gone through, all hope is not lost after Rhino Fund Uganda came to their help.
In October, Rhino Fund allowed fishermen from nearby villages of Kibuye, Zengebe and Munami in Nakasongola district to access the sanctuary in line with its mission.
In a big to ensure there is a grin of hope, some of the locals who mostly depended on fishing are now employed in the sanctuary.
“Because we need to clear the bush and removing young trees at the sanctuary, it is these people who are employed to do that so they can something until the lake is reopened,” says Ange Genade, the executive director at Rhino Fund Uganda.
“Through conservation education and community projects, we aim to win the hearts and minds of the surrounding communities.”
She adds that it is a trial project to see if it can work for the locals who in the past depended on fishing but since the ban on the activity, they have nothing to do.
“We want to see if the fishermen will cope with this new project but also to see if it can work for both parties,” she says adding that they are targeting at least 80 fishermen in Rwampanga sub-county.
The locals are engaged in clearance of bushes to ease the feeding of rhinos and in return, they paid a small fee that can sustain them as they wait for the ban to be lifted.
According to the fishermen, there is at least a ray of hope for them following the ban on fishing in Lake Kyoga which was their source of livelihood.
“We can now feed our families, thanks to the new project by Rhino Fund Uganda,” says Hassan Kagira.
The fishermen add that though fishing is lucrative, at least the new project by Rhino Fund Uganda can give something to feed their families.
“You cannot compare this work to fishing but because of unemployment, this is rewarding because we can get something to put in the pockets. This project can sustain us until the ban on fishing is lifted,” says George Mutende.
Lt.Sam Kigula, the Nakasongola district chairperson says the new project gives solace to fishermen who are no longer allowed anywhere near Lake Kyoga.
“Since these people (fishermen) lack school fees for their children and food, this project is a grin of hope for them” he says.
Rhino Fund Uganda is a non -governmental organization established in 1997 aiming at repopulating the country with rhinos.
The organization is taking charge of Zziwa rhino sanctuary lying on 7,000 hectares in Nakasongola District and is home to 30 Southern White Rhinos, up from first six which were translocated from Kenya and USA in 2005 and 2006. T
The other(two) remaining rhinos in the country can be found at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, Entebbe.
At the sanctuary in Nakasongola district, the endangered species are accomodated.