The Eastern Africa countries of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are implementing a USD 24 million (EUR 21.7 million) fisheries and integrated water management project that would enable the country to effectively address the poor management and deterioration of fisheries on the shared lakes Albert and Edward, to improve production and enhance food security.
The Global Environment Fund, African Development Bank, and the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP) – an investment program of the Nile Basin Initiative – are providing financing for the second phase of the Multinational Lakes Edward & Albert Integrated Fisheries & Water Resources Management Project (LEAF II). The project would, among other benefits, help the two countries to stem overfishing as well as illegal fishing using inappropriate gears and vessels. Additionally, the project will support both countries’ governments to harmonize fisheries and aquaculture laws and regulations by the end of 2019.
At least USD 12.4 million (EUR 11.2 million) of the total LEAF II project costs will be dedicated to financing fisheries resources development for the two lakes that support the livelihoods of 400,000 people, 34 percent of which are fishermen.
Part of this financing is for the acquisition of at least five well-equipped patrol boats as well as equipment meant to boost fisheries monitoring control and surveillance systems on the two lakes. Funds will also be allocated to carrying out a survey to establish the current status of fish stocks and to hone catch assessments in a bid to develop a reliable fishery information system for both water bodies.
Both Uganda and DRC, which are implementing the project through their ministries of Agriculture, Water, and Environment with the coordination of NELSAP, also look forward to harmonizing the two countries’ fisheries and aquaculture policies under LEAF II to improve compliance with standard global fishing regulations and practices.
According to the FAO, DRC, which produces 240,000 metric tons (MT) of fish annually – despite having a potential for 707,000 MT – has “no legal framework regulating aquaculture, because it has so far remained a purely subsistence activity practiced by rural people.”
But with the LEAF II project, the two neighboring countries are expecting to reduce the post-harvest fishing losses – currently estimated at 20 percent to 30 percent – by opening up remote fishing sites through rehabilitation of 120 kilometers of roads and developing standard fish handling facilities at selected landing sites, in addition to marketing harvested fishery products within and beyond East Africa.
It is projected that by the end of this year, LEAF II would have enabled Uganda – which recorded 345,802 MT of capture fisheries in 2018 (down from 398,000 tons a year earlier) – and DRC to reduce illegal fishing by 50 percent and increase catches for under-exploited pelagic species by 25 percent, according to AfDB.
Furthermore, the two countries’ catch per unit effort (CPUE) would increase by 50 percent, while the overall population that is food insecure in DRC and Uganda is likely to reduce from 75 percent and 65 percent, to 50 percent and 45 percent, respectively, according to AfDB estimates.