Besides attracting tourists because of their picturesque beaches, districts along the shores of Lake Malawi are also a natural hub of various economic activities such as fishing, fish processing and trading.
Multitudes of people from all walks of life go to various designated sites spread along the lakeshore to buy both fresh and dried fish. However, these fish landing sites lack appropriate shelters and other fish processing facilities which hugely affects Malawi’s small-scale fisheries sector.
The good news is that the Department of Fisheries has now embarked on a drive to rehabilitate and construct fish landing facilities at various sites along Lake Malawi. The facilities will provide cold rooms, fish processing shelters and store rooms.
The Fisheries Department is providing the facilities through Sustainable Fisheries, Aquaculture Development and Watershed Management (SFAD-WM) project with support from the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Malawi Government. The SFAD-WM is a five-year project to improve the resilience of the fishing and fish farming communities, taking into account the prevalent climate variability as well as the risks associated with climate change.
The project’s components include sustainable capture fisheries and watershed management, aquaculture development as well as fish value chain strengthening.
According to SFAD-WM project coordinator in the Department of Fisheries Dr. Robert Kafakoma, 15 fish landing facilities will be constructed in five lakeshore districts of Mangochi, Salima, Nkhotakota, Nkhata Bay and Karonga. This will also include provision of sanitary facilities and solar power pumps at the sites. The construction of the landing sites will cost over K2.9 billion and if all the construction works proceed as planned, people will start accessing the facilities by December this year.
Meanwhile, these facilities will be provided at Kaporo, Chipamira, Ngala and Chilumba in Karonga. In Nkhata Bay, Tukombo is the site while, Chia Fish Market, Liwaladzi and Linga will benefit in Nkhotakota. Similar facilities will be constructed at Kafumu, Chilambula, Chikombe and Senga Bay in Salima as well as at Malembo, Msaka and Makawa in Mangochi. The project will also rehabilitate a cold room and ice making machines on Likoma Island.
Kafakoma is very optimistic that handling of fish during and after harvest will greatly improve with the provision of the facilities.
“It is expected that these facilities will contribute towards efforts to avoid post-harvest losses and waste and also help to create fish value addition,” he says.
Kafakoma says: “Storage and transportation of fish to the market is going to improve. The project has procured seven refrigerated tracks to help with the transportation of fish from the landing sites to the market throughout the country as a way of improving the post-harvest condition of fish.
The project coordinator adds that the facilities will help to improve women’s access to fish and their bargaining power, saying currently fish is currently sold in boats such that most women find difficulties to compete with men when buying fish under the circumstances.
The initiative to provide fish landing structures has excited a lot of people. Senior Chief Nankumba of Mangochi could not hide his happiness, saying construction of the facilities will help boost business in the district and asked government to ensure that the project should really take off.
“This is a very important project and I can only hope that it will indeed take off because people in my area are excited about and are looking forward to seeing it completed,” says the traditional leader.
Senior Chief Makanjira of Salima also commended the Department of Fisheries for the plans to construct the landing facility at Chikombe and Kafumu in his area.
“I am particularly excited about this project but my appeal is that they should speed up because very soon we will be in a rainy season and they might face mobility challenges because roads become muddy and slippery,” he advised.
Makanjira is well known for his interest in sustainable fishing activities and in advising fishing communities around his area to religiously abide by rules and regulations to preserve fish in Lake Malawi for sustainable socio-economic development.
Speaking when he presided over a ground breaking ceremony for the construction of the fish landing facilities at Malembo recently, the Minister of Natural Resources and Climate Change Eisenhower Mkaka said the facilities will help improve the country’s small-scale fisheries sector which contributes massively to national socio-economic development.
He says with 20 percent of Malawi’s surface area covered by water, the fisheries sector contributes significantly to food and nutritional security, livelihoods of the rural population and economic growth of the country.
“The sector contributes over 60 percent of the dietary animal protein intake of Malawians and 40 percent of the total protein supply,” says Mkaka, adding that the sector also contributes an estimated 4 percent of the gross domestic product ( in addition to employing directly over 65 000 fishers and indirectly over 500 000 who are involved in fish processing, fish marketing, boat building and engine repair.
Just like the project’s coordinator, the minister says landing facilities will help to strengthen the role women play in the sector as they make up more than half of the workforce in the capture fisheries sub-sector where most of them are engaged in post-harvest activities thereby making a significant contribution to food security, livelihoods and household incomes.
He then warns contractors against constructing substandard structures and dillydallying, stressing that the construction should be done within agreed time and according to specifications.
Deputy Minister of Health Enock Phale, who witnessed the ground breaking and handing over of fish landing site to a contractor at Malembo, says inclusion of water and sanitation facilities in the project will improve hygiene around the landing facilities and prevent spread of waterborne diseases like dysentery and cholera outbreaks.
“I come from the lakeshore district and I know how important these sanitary facilities are towards improvement of the health of community members,” The deputy minister who is Salima North West legislator, adds.
The small-scale fishery contributes 95 percent to the estimated 170 000 tonnes of fish produced annually in the country as such the rehabilitation and construction of fish landing facilities will ensure sustainable management of the small-scale fisheries sector as well as adding colour to the scenic shores of Lake Malawi.