Lake Victoria is the second largest freshwater lake in the world, boasting the world’s largest freshwater fishery. Over time, unsustainable fishing and farming practices, as well as increased demand for resources from rapidly growing population, has overwhelmed fisheries that have traditionally supported the basin. A new approach to conservation in the basin—to save families as well as the fish and their habitats—is the Health of People and Environment in the Lake Victoria Basin: Beach Management Units project's work with Beach Management Units. HoPE-LVB seeks to reduce threats to biodiversity conservation and ecosystem degradation while simultaneously increasing access to family planning and reproductive health services.
Lake Victoria is the second largest freshwater lake in the world, boasting the world’s largest freshwater fishery. It is the source-feed of the world’s longest river, the Nile, supporting an estimated 42 million people along its shores. Over time, unsustainable fishing and farming practices, as well as increased demand for resources from a rapidly growing population, has overwhelmed fisheries that have traditionally supported the basin. In the last few decades, activities in the basin have increasingly created stress, resulting in the environmental instability of the lake.
Experts warn that more than ever before, the lake basin is facing numerous threats. So the question is: how can such threats be addressed simultaneously, in a holistic and integrated fashion, in a way that respects communities’ needs and rights?
The Health of People and Environment in the Lake Victoria Basin (HoPE-LVB) project is taking a new approach to conservation in the basin, working to save families as well as fish and their habitats. HoPE-LVB seeks to reduce threats to biodiversity conservation and ecosystem degradation in the LVB while simultaneously increasing access to family planning and reproductive health services, in order to improve maternal and child health in project communities in Uganda and Kenya. By integrating the delivery of reproductive health, livelihood, and conservation education and services in these communities, HoPE-LVB is improving reproductive health and natural resource management in the basin more successfully than programs focused exclusively on reproductive health or the environment. One part of the HoPE-LVB project is focused on fisheries and Beach Management Units (BMUs)
HoPE-LVB has worked with key communities along the shores of Lake Victoria to set up BMUs. A BMU is made up of and assembly of people engaged in fisheries activities from that beach along with a group of members that includes boat owners, crew members, managers/supervisors, artisanal fish processors and traders, fishing gear and equipment dealers/repairers, boat makers and agents of industrial fish processors operating at the beach. The committee consists of 9-15 elected officials who are responsible for the day to day running of the BMUs. The committee has a chairperson, secretary, treasurer, storekeeper and any other post as agreed by the BMU assembly.(1)
Through HoPE-LVB project's work with BMUs, communities on Bussi Island were able to identify important areas for fish breeding and work together to ensure that no one fishes within those areas. The island community has learned how to best work together to set up fisheries patrols and report illegal fishing. HoPE-LVB builds the capacity of BMUs to take collective responsibility to actively protect and restore fish stocks, their habitat, and the entire ecosystem they depend on. BMUs are also learning the importance of harvest management— establishing who, when and where to fish, as well as tracking and documenting the fish catches. At each stage in their growth, fish have specific needs and are vulnerable to threats, mainly mortality, predation, increased fishing pressures and environmental factors. For the continued health of the fish stock, it is important that fishers do not catch young fish, before they reach maturity and are able to breed. This will ensure there are always enough fish for fishing now and in the future. BMUs call these protected breeding sites “maternity wards.”
Through HoPE-LVB, all sustainable fishing activities are done in tandem with the delivery of reproductive health and family planning services. Some BMU members also serve on Village Health Teams. Members of these teams have been trained to provide information to pregnant women and teach them about the importance of antenatal care. They also talk to people about sanitation.
Some BMUs have also been able to engage women’s and youth groups on activities like beekeeping so they can earn money and fight poverty. One particular BMU, the Kyanjanzi BMU on Bussi Island, was able to raise more than 600,000 tree seedlings and plant over 578,100 trees on the lake shore and in the community so far, demonstrating their understanding of the lake's importance not just for fisheries, but as a natural resource.(2)
1. Luomba, J. and D.M. Kristofferson. 2013. Role of Beach Management Units in Implementing Fisheries Policy: A Case Study of Two BMUs in Lake Victoria, Tanzania. United Nations University Fisheries Training Programme.
2. Pathfinder International. 2016. HoPE-LVB Beach Management Units: Bringing Fishing and Planning for Families Together in the Basin. http://www.pathfinder.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/HoPE-LVB-Beach-Mana...(link is external)