State House engages the Buikwe fishing community to improve their livelihoods through alternative sources of income

The State House has today kicked off a strategic campaign to enhance the livelihoods of the fishing Community in the Buikwe district through alternative income-generating activities.

The Private Secretary to the President In-charge of the Youth Agriculture, Innovation, Value Addition and Export Promotion, Dr. Hillary Emma Musoke Kisanja said President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni through the State House Comptroller, Ms. Jane Barekye gave them an assignment to find out how he can help the fishing communities fight poverty and create wealth through other sources of income.

“Our grandparents were fishermen and farmers as well but currently the youth in the fishing sector don’t know that they can get involved in other income-generating activities like farming. Now as State House and our partners, we said amid efforts to revamp the fishing sector, we decided to first concentrate on changing the mindsets of the youth and old people from the fishing community to embrace other income-generating activities to improve their livelihoods,” Dr. Musoke said during a stakeholders meeting held at Buikwe District Headquarters.

The project started with Buikwe as a pilot district from where it will be enrolled in other fishing communities around the country. The district has 52 fish landing sites.

The alternative sources of income-generating activities include among others; apiculture (bee-keeping), livestock farming, poultry, and commercial crop growing.

Dr. Musoke also advised that arresting and harassing fishermen over illegal fishing was not the solution, rather getting the affected people into other money-generating activities was the way to go.

“Apart from fishing, His Excellency, the President, through deliberate efforts, wants to help the fishing communities create wealth through other sources of income. Once this project becomes a success, we shall enroll it in other fishing communities around the country,” Dr. Musoke emphasized.

“This is not about politics; we want our people regardless of their political affiliation to develop and be able to have money in their pockets.”

The Principal Agriculture Officer- State House, Mr. Charles Kiwuwa said this inception workshop was aimed at sourcing ideas on what should be done to enable the fishing community wholeheartedly to embrace the alternative sources of income approach.

“We want to sensitize these people that they can get involved in other income generating activities other than illegal fishing. We also want to introduce them to the organization or agencies that can support them when they take up alternative projects,” Mr. Kiwuwa remarked.

Mr. Kiwuwa on the other hand commended President Museveni and the State House Comptroller for the support rendered towards the project.

“This project will help to enhance household incomes of the fishing Communities,” he observed.

According to the Assistant Private Secretary to the President who is also the project Coordinator, Ms. Sylvia Nakiwoolo, the government has tried to preserve the lake, but some fishermen have continued to engage in illegal fishing which in the end has led them into trouble with the law.

At State House, Ms. Nakiwoolo said they decided to come up with a project that will see the fishing Community in the district do away with the illegality.

“We are here basically to synergize on how to involve these fishermen in other activities apart from fishing that can help them improve their household incomes,” said Ms. Nakiwoolo.

“Apart from stopping them from conducting illegal fishing,  sometimes the government sets up fishing holidays and we want to ensure that even during such periods, fishermen can sustain their lives and this can only be done through these alternative sources of income,” she explained.

Ms. Nakiwoolo further revealed that most fishermen think that fishing is the only source of income and when they are pushed out of economic activity due to illegal fishing or other causes, they end up losing hope by thinking it is the end of the world for them.

“I request that you embrace this project since it’s going to improve your livelihoods. Community challenges are not selective, they affect us as a whole.  So let us work to improve our welfare,” she said.

During the project, Ms. Nakiwoolo noted that they will train and support the beneficiaries to venture into alternative sources of income.

The Buikwe Deputy District Administrative Officer (CAO), Ms. Nankindu Betty said when policy shifts in the Fisheries management sector come into place, many people especially those who are not able to meet the fishing requirements are affected, and in turn government or responsible parties have to come up with key alternatives to help those groups to survive economically.

“After sustaining their incomes through the alternative means, these affected communities can ably rejoin the fishing business because they are now able to meet the requirements for legal fishing,” Ms. Nankindu said.

Mr. Dan Kiyaga, the Chairperson of Bukunja Foundation (BUFO) disclosed that most fishermen have faced the repercussions of illegal fishing like imprisonment thus leaving their families suffering without any source of income.

“We were engaged by Dr. Kisanja and his team about the project and we now have over 10 groups on each landing site who are willing to embrace the project. They want to practice agriculture among other income-generating activities,” Mr. Kiyaga noted.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Country Representative in Uganda, Mr. Bruno Otto said they realized that the fishing Community lives on a limited source of livelihood and as an organization, they are willing to help them by imparting skills and knowledge to add value to their products from the alternative income generating activities in that they can diversify their incomes.

At the same workshop, the Buikwe Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Hajjat Hawa Ndege Namugenyi advised that as the government looks for other alternative sources of income for the fishing Community, it should also improvise better means of helping the fishermen to stay in business because fishing is what they know to do better.

“They take fishing as their major economic activity. Government should instead provide them with free required equipment. This will help in stopping illegal fishing and improve the sector,” Hajjat Ndege suggested.

Mr. Lawrence Muwanguzi, a former fisherman narrated to the audience that he got injured on the head as he tried to escape an illegal fishing operation by the Fisheries Protection Unit.

He said after the ordeal, he sat down with his colleagues where they brainstormed on how they would survive without fishing.

Currently, Mr. Muwanguzi stated that through his Bivamuntuyo Group, they have been able to engage in beekeeping, soap making, basket and mat making among other projects.

“What we want now is capital to push our projects and we also request the State House to support us with equipment so that we can go back to the lake and carry out legal fishing,” he appealed.

The stakeholders meeting was also attended by officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, NAADS, Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), GIZ, Fisheries Protection Unit, Microfinance Support Centre, Private Sector Foundation Uganda, and Buikwe Fishing Community among others.

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