Thursday, November 5, 2009

Malawi's winds of change

A long piece by Charles Mkoka in describes one country’s efforts to adapt: Forty years ago, 60-year-old Willard Nyangu recalls returning to the shores of Lake Malawi after a night fishing with his canoe full of fish. The lake is Africa's third largest with 1,000 cichlids endemic species of fish and its southern part is a Unesco world heritage site. Today it is a very different story. Despite spending a whole night out on the lake, Nyangu returns to shore with only a handful of fish in his canoe.

…The Malawian government estimates that the fishing industry keeps more than 300,000 Malawians in employment. Around 14 per cent of lakeshore communities survive through fishing, fish processing, marketing, boat and gear sales and repairs and other related industries. Fishing is a key factor in the country's food security - contributing as much as 70 per cent of animal protein in rural and urban areas.

However, the average fish catch declined from around 65,000 metric tonnes per year in the 1970s and 1980s to just 50,000 metric tonnes per year in the late 1990s. By 2003, fisheries experts - alarmed by the dwindling fish stocks - embarked on a 10-year strategic plan to restore fish numbers. The plan aims to restore depleted fish stocks to a sustainable level.

Malawi introduced tree-planting programmes to curb the flooding [Charles Mkoka]
Three years ago, Bingu wa Mutharika, the Malawian president, pushed the issue to the fore by launching an initiative to restock lake waters….

Cichlids in the wild in Lake Malawi. Shot by Lars Plougmann, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

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