By Francis Kagolo
THE Swedish government is funding activities to increase fish stocks in Lake Victoria.
The Sustainable Utilisation of Lake Victoria Resources Project also intends to fight the high rate of pollution and the water hyacinth that has re-invaded the lake.
Sida, a Swedish agency, has channelled about sh3.5b through a regional NGO, the East African Communitiesâ€™ Organisation for the Management of Lake Victoria Resources (ECOVIC).
ECOVICâ€™s regional coordinator Keefa Kaweesa said the project would last three years. He was recently speaking at a meeting on the projectâ€™s environment impact assessment in Kampala.
The fast rate at which fish stocks, especially the Nile perch, are declining has caused concern among the three countries (Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania) that share the lake.
The Government recently revealed that fish stocks in the lake had reduced from 1.9 million tonnes in 1999 to 370,000 tonnes currently.
As a result, Ugandaâ€™s fish exports dropped by $60m (about sh96b) last year, according to fisheries state minister Fred Mukisa.
He said over 30 fish factories have closed, while those still existing operate below capacity at less than 40% due to the inadequate fish resource.
The problem is attributed to the increase in the number of fishermen, indiscriminate fishing and pollution of the lake.
The Government recently threatened to halt fishing on the lake if catching immature fish does not end.
Under the project, a total of $35,000 (about sh70m) will be allocated for community services in each of the three countries.
Kaweesa said fish farming and other environmentally-friendly economic activities would be set up for the communities around the lake in order to curb overfishing.
He said more effort in fighting overfishing would be put in Kenya where the problem is highest.
â€œKenya owns just 6% of the lake, but due to indiscriminate fishing, sometimes it harvests more fish tonnes than Uganda,â€ Kaweesa said.
Re-forestation, constructing Ecosan toilets to prevent residents from disposing of human waste in the lake and ensuring that factories around the water body treat their waste, are other activities ECOVIC will use in conserving the lake.