Thandi Ncube sells fish in the densely populated townships of Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe. But business is not what it used to be. It is proving difficult to find enough fish to sell to families searching for cheaper alternatives to meats like beef and chicken.
Mrs. Ncube complains, “The fisherman say their catch is getting low.” The fish seller used to sell one kilogram of bream for around $3 US, while the same portion of beef costs up to $5 US.
She buys her fish in bulk—mostly kapenta and bream—from fishermen just outside Bulawayo. But she is struggling to find any kind of fish to sell, in any quantities.
And, even though demand exceeds supply, Mrs. Ncube cannot raise her prices, or she will be left with unsold fish.
Rudo Sanyanga is the Africa programme director for International Rivers, a global NGO that works with people affected by dams to protect the environment and communities. Mrs. Sanyanga says fish stocks normally peak during periods of high rainfall, and decline when water levels fall. But the recent downpours in early March weren’t sufficient to replenish reservoirs and ponds around Bulawayo. The heavy March rains were the first significant rainfall since last September.
Reservoirs in Zimbabwe are at 50% of capacity, with the Upper Ncema dam at less than 2%. The Upper Ncema dam in Matabeland South was previously the site of a thriving fishery.
Thamsanqa Mloyi is a farmer in Filabusi, about 150 kilometres south of Bulawayo. He says, “Ponds that used to provide us with fish have dried up.”
Mrs. Sanyanga blames changing rainfall patterns for the recent fish shortage. But she says human activity is also a factor.
Wilson Mhlanga agrees. Mr. Mhlanga is a researcher at the University of Zimbabwe’s Lake Kariba Fisheries Research Institute. He says the country needs to do more to protect its fisheries. He fears that laws against poaching are not effective at protecting the fish stocks. He explains, “The challenge is the effective enforcement of this legislation.”
Mr. Mhlanga says fishermen need to do more to prevent overfishing. He adds, “Another solution would be to raise awareness among populations who subsist on fisheries of the need to protect fish resources.”
With the situation as it is, Mrs. Ncube has had to be creative. She explains, “I have to sell other items such as tomatoes to survive.”
To read the full article on which this story is based, Amid drought, fish disappear from Zimbabwe’s markets, go to: http://news.trust.org/item/20160401072223-24y2k/