Hoima, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | More than 1000 fishermen have left various landing sites on the shores of Lake Albert in Hoima, Kikuube and Buliisa district citing starvation because of the suspension of fishing activities. In March this year, Hoima and Kikuube district security committees suspended fishing activities and boat operations on Lake Albert to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Security officials explained that some Ugandan fishermen cross up to the Democratic Republic of Congo-DRC where they mix freely with fishermen there and cross back to Uganda which exposes them to coronavirus infection. Although fishermen protested the suspension of their activities, security insisted that the directive stands until the situation normalises.
The suspension has impacted negatively on the livelihood of the fishermen since fishing is their main stay activity. This has prompted several fishermen to vacate the lake saying life has become difficult since they can’t even afford a meal a day.
The most affected are Kaiso, Kiryamboga, Kijangi, Rwentale and Fofo landing site in Buseruka sub county in Hoima district. The others are Kyehoro, Ssenjojo and Buguma landing sites in Kyangwali and Kabwoya sub counties in Kikuube district and Butiaba, Bugoigo, Somsio and Walukuba landing site in Buliisa district among others.
Fathum Ngooyi, who has been operating at Kaiso landing site in Hoima district says he cannot afford staying without food yet he has five children and two wives to look after.
70-year-old Gilbert Opoka has been fishing at Kaiso landing site since 1985. He however,says he has been forced to vacate the landing site simply because he has nothing to eat adding that many families are on the verge of starvation unless government allows them to resume fishing.
Robert Gingyera, a fisherman at Mbegu landing site in Kabaale sub county says some families have started battering their clothes in exchange for food.
Kenneth Busobozi, a fisherman at Kyehoro landing site in Kikuube district says he has resorted to cultivation. He says majority of fishermen live hand to mouth which means they are unable to provide for their families because of the current suspension.
Jackson Pirwoth, a fisherman at Butiaba landing site faults government for abandoning them yet the lake is the only source of livelihood to thousands of people.
Vicente Alpha Opio, the Kabwoya sub county LC5 Councilor in Kikuube district wonders why government has turned a deaf ear yet hundreds of people at various landing sites on the shores of Lake Albert are starving.
Samuel Kisembo, the Hoima Resident District Commissioner says they cannot allow fishing activities to continue at the moment saying they are still assessing the COVID-19 situation.
Lake Albert employs approximately 56,000 fishermen who harvest more than 100,000 tons of fish per year. Overall, fishing supports the livelihood of more than 1.6 million people in Uganda.