This weet Gerald Kitabu talked to environmentalist and chair of the Blue Belt and Water Control (BLUBE-WASCO) Henry Mwinuka on the effects of traditional fishing in Kilombero and Ulanga districts. Excerpts:
QUESTION: Why did you decide to run your project in Kilombero and Ulanga districts?
ANSWER: We decided to start the environmental project in Kilombero and Ulanga districts because of the magnitude and seriousness of environmental degradation there. Dupala and Mchamba traditional methods of fishing are so dominant in the areas which threaten marine organisms and other resources.
However, it is where main rivers originate, which are used by a large section of the community for domestic, agriculture, and livestock keeping. Lack of environmental education compelled us to move into the areas to raise awareness, especially after realising that the communities there were using dynamite fishing.
Q: What is dupala and mchamba traditional methods of fishing?
A: This is a local method of catching fish which destroys breeding grounds and pollutes water. Dupala and mchamba are tree species, which are crushed and dried up into a powder form, which is very bitter and venomous. Once applied, it kills all the fish.
Q: How many projects are you carrying out in the area?
A: The first one is a community participatory campaign against the use of dupala and mchamba which is a long-term project. At present, the project is in its second phase. The second project is participatory training, conservation and management of coral reef ecosystem along western Indian Ocean shoreline of Tanga region.
Here the communities living along the six collaborative fishery management areas are fully involved. The third project is beekeeping located at Taweta and Mpanga villages in Taweta ward, Mlimba division, Kilombero district. The aim of this project is to empower different communities alleviate poverty without compromising the state of the environment.
The fourth project is protection and conservation of Mindu dam in Morogoro. The aim is to manage the dam and its environment for sustainable development.
Q: What are the challenges you face?
A: One of the challenges is that normally any environmental management project relates directly with general life and daily activities of the people which means if they don’t have alternative sources of income, it is very difficult to convince them stop their harmful practices.
Normally, the environment activities do not attract the general public, if people know that the project is threatening their daily income or if they realize that they will not benefit direct from the project, many tend to use every possible means to make sure that such projects doesn’t see the sun of the day. Some may simply decline to support.
Another challenge is lack of funds. Normally donors are not interested in small and young projects because of uncertainties. They will come in only when the projects have matured and sustainable.
Another thing is the communication problems especially when one want to reach the grassroots level during the rainy season, most of the roads are impassable. However, I should commend the government efforts for supporting the projects although sometimes the support comes not on time.
Usually the government acts on policies. The environmental policies are very good but the problem is implementation. Laws governing the environment is too laxity. No reinforcement at all, that’s why you see garbage and other pollution materials in different streets of Dar es Salaam,. However, environmental education has not yet reached a wider community such that it is very uphill task to undertake a certain environment project due to lack of direct support from the community living around that particular area.
Q: What are your achievements?
A: First of all our sensitisation campaigns have managed to raise awareness on the environmental management and wise use of natural resources in different communities that we have visited so far. Some communities are now ready to join in, and they have shown great zeal and curiosity to back up our efforts.
In all areas we have managed to establish environmental management groups, these groups have been trained and are now involved in managing small environmental projects and they are disseminating the same education to others. For us we think this is a big achievement.
Some of the riverbanks and catchments areas that were previously prone to cultivating are now being re-greened. Mangrove forests are now been planted to restore nature.
We have successfully used community participatory approach. This is an approach where local people are the primary focus. It is a method which considers local people’s voice and perspectives right from planning stage to implementation stage.
During this process, local people, community based organizations and other environmental players decide together how to they will go about a certain project and measure results together. So, depending on the situation of a particular area, sometimes we use different techniques such as animation skills and documentary film show.
Q: Generally what is the state of the environment at present?
A: The socio-economic and development activities, population increase, and human settlements have impacted heavily on the environment. Climate change has also worsened the situation on the ground. There is more deforestation of our natural forests than ever before due to lack of alternative source of income for the communities living around forest resources.
There is increasingly illegal fishing, invasion of water sources for agriculture and settlement, unsustainable beekeeping activities, use of industry fertilizers along rivers and other water pollutants. So without enforcing the laws, the situation might get out of hand.
Q: What is your advice?
A: I would like to call upon the general public to value the environment because it is life. The environment is all about development. Without proper environment management, obviously there would be no life.
The government and donor community should come in and support non governmental organization and other voluntary groups working in remote areas to build capacity for them to effectively and efficiently manage the environment.