Fish farmers stick to farming fish on land, not lake patches

30Sep 2021
The Guardian
Fish farmers stick to farming fish on land, not lake patches

THESE days of receiving investors from all places and climes is also a situation of having to set clear bearings on what is workable and what is not, and in some regards, having a nose on potential resource conflicts which can be ignited if certain levels of administrators aren’t prudent enough.

This worry comes to view when it is heard that ways to make better use of Lake Victoria resources like identifying areas for fish farming blocks as well as protected areas for traditional fishing activities are being examined. This is what top officials of the relevant ministry are saying, and actually give signals they are already decided.

Deputy Minister Abdallah Ulega of the Livestock and Fisheries portfolio made this observation at a visit to Tangreen Ltd, a Chinese block fish farming company wishing to use lake resources for its business.

The ministerial administrator intoned that implementing the plan would stop interaction of fish farming and traditional fishing activities, which he said was a move to strengthen the blue economy sector, as the plan will attract more investors to the lake and that the government was ready to welcome them. If he said there is no possible interaction that would be fine but to stop interactions is to stop the locals, a bad move.

While data can’t be updated each passing day there are reports of over-fishing in Lake Victoria, in which case the possible zone for fish farming would be Lake Tanganyika if it doesn’t experience sufficient population pressure. It can’t be said of the Victoria zone, and not surprisingly fishermen in neighbouring countries may also protest about fishing companies with trawlers, taking the lion’s share of the fish. In a sense the firm and any others need to seek land purchases (inducement to transfer occupancy rights, as peasants don’t own the land anyway) to farm on the land, letting fishermen enjoy breadth of space, luck.

As a matter of principle, foreign companies can’t have the same right of access to limited or fixed land-based resources with local people unless they make a prior purchase of their belonging to that area. Locals expect to make a living out of the resources that foreign companies are trying to access, mechanically outdoing them in getting the fish. When they are now ’separated,’ it means pushing aside local residents so that foreign companies access those resources, since land (or the lake) belongs to the government. That is faulty; the government exercises sovereignty on behalf of the people, without extra right or other duty.

Land in Tanzania has not yet been parcelled out for individuals to own their plots of land, thus being able to sell and get capital to do something else, and even when they can sell outlying plots without acute clan settlements, the lack of dual citizenship and residence permits by having substantial levels of capital dampens land prices, as only built up urban areas fetch high land prices. When such transactions occur they add to disposable capital and consumption, which uplifts local market prospects and its dynamism.

When farmers around the lake can obtain much capital by selling plots of land, they could then compete with foreign investors. The latter rent blocks of lake territory and the former buy small plots for intensive zero grazing, chicken, piggery or horticulture. That isn’t the case at the moment so we must exercise care.

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