How can we have fish without water?
It should be common knowledge that fishing communities depend on fish not only for food but also for employment and incomes: all their lives rotate around fish and fishing-related activities. Whilenmen go to fish, both for sale and for family consumption, women stay at home to take care of the children, but also to
engage actively in fish smoking, sun drying of silver fish, and other processing of fish products. This is the day-to-day life of the fisher people in Mpunge landing site in Mukono district. It is the same as other fishing communities around the world. At this particular landing site, life is changing rapidly. Women, men and children are losing access to the water (Lake Victoria) which has been the sole source of their livelihoods, as they fish daily in the lake’s waters. They have witnessed what they have referred to as “selling of the lake”.
In this area, individuals, in the name of “investors” from foreign countries, have taken over large parts of the
lake, and they have established boundaries using “red flags“ and big poles. Fishermen are threatened that the moment they cross those boundaries, they will be “shot dead”, or their boats cut into pieces! The so-called investors have also posted guards to ensure that no fisherman or woman carries out fishing in these particular areas! The families have often been convinced by the “investors” to abandon their households, in exchange of a payment of 30.000 UG SHS (approximately 11 US dollars) to find another place to live! This very unacceptable behaviour has greatly affected the people in the community.
There is very little space left for them to fish, and the circumstances are very risky. When the weather changes during fishing, fishermen should be free to escape by sailing to any part of the lake that they think is safer. With boundaries and guards, the fishermen’s lives are endangered!
We are now left with a few questions that have not yet been answered. Can one have fisher’s rights without access to the water bodies where the fish is found? Who gives authority to such “investors”? And what plans do they have for the local communities that depend on this resource? And furthermore, where are the access rights for fisher communities?