Across generations, ethnic tribes, religions and nationalities, the human race continues to derive vital lessons from ancient stories or prophesies, some of which use animals’ characters. An example of such a prophecy is the ‘Prophecy of the Condor and the Eagle’ whose nativity can be traced to South American communities.
The African Great Lakes are part of the International Waters, meaning these resources belong to and are shared by more than one country. However, each nation is governed by its own set of laws, which may not be convergent or with the same level of stringency in some respects with its neighboring country or countries within the African Great Lakes region.
Lakes Turkana, Victoria, Tanganyika, Kivu, Edward, Malawi and Albert, all found within the tropics, are collectively referred to as The African Great Lakes. The lakes are shared by 10 countries, namely Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Zambia, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo DRC and Mozambique. The African Great Lakes which are all part of the rift valley lakes are endowed with plethora of uniqueness.
Wetlands are some of the zones which have been misused by surrounding communities despite the huge benefits they provide in the ecosystem. Based on a definition by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, a wetland is an area or zone where soil is covered or saturated by water at different times of the year or throughout the year. Wetlands provide habitats for both aquatic and terrestrial species. The aquatic environment offers ideal conditions for the growth and establishment of aquatic plants and promotes the development of soils with aquatic characteristics.
Fish Catch Assessment (CAS) data is required to guide sustainable management of fisheries resources. It monitors removals and changes in fishing effort, abundance of major commercial species and is used to estimate fishing efforts to guide fishery managers in controlling overfishing. The collection of fisheries data in AGL has been very costly leading to inconsistency and gaps in capturing data across years and seasons as well as restrictions in geographical coverage. However, Catch Assessment Survey data has been collected on paper forms in Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika all along.
This project contributes to the Theme on Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture Management in the African Great Lakes Region (AGLR) and the intervention on cage aquaculture which among the priority interventions identified during the African Great Lakes Conference (AGLC) of 5-7th May 2017 that was supported under the African Great Lakes Conservation Fund (AGLF).
The existence of lakes owes much to the presence of catchment areas or water towers, from where they derive some or a majority of their waters. One such example of a catchment area is the Mount Elgon catchment, a transboundary catchment situated at the border between Kenya and Uganda. On the Kenyan side, the catchment consists of a 73,705 hectares forest managed by Kenya Forest Service, a 17,200 hectares nature reserve managed by the Bungoma County Government and a 16,916 hectares national park under the custody of Kenya Wildlife Service (Nabutola et al., 2022).
Adaptive management is an ongoing natural resources management process of planning, doing, assessing, learning and adapting, while also applying what was learned to the next iteration of the natural resources management process. Adaptive management facilitates developing and refining a conservation strategy, making efficient management decisions and using research and monitoring to assess accomplishments and inform future iterations of the conservation strategy.
Lake Victoria is the world's largest tropical lake and the largest lake in the African Great Lakes region. The lake supports the largest freshwater fishery in the world, producing 1 million tons of fish per year and employing 200,000 people in supporting the livelihoods of 4 million people. The major threats to the lake are deforestation, land use change, wetland degradation and discharge from urban areas, industries and farmlands.
Lake Turkana is shallow, but it is the world's largest permanent desert and alkaline lake in the world. The lake water comes from river inflows and all water loss in the lake comes from evaporation. The lake's basin is sparsely populated and residents of the lake lack access to potable water, causing high rates of disease prevalence in the basin. These conditions are compounded by low literacy levels and extremely high poverty levels.
Lake Tanganyika is the deepest lake in Africa and is the largest among the Albertine Rift lakes. The basin has a population of more than 10 million people and the population density within the basin varies between 13 and 250 persons per km2. The countries in the basin are among the poorest in the world. Lake Tanganyika also has one of the richest freshwater ecosystems in the world, with over 2000 species, 500 of them not found anywhere else on earth, making the lake their home.
Lake Malawi/Niassa/Nyasa is the third deepest freshwater lake in the world. The basin is densely populated and has a high prevalence of water borne diseases. The lakes is home to 800 to 1000 fish species, making it the most fish species-rich lank in the world. The lake employs 56,000 fishers who harvest more than 100,000 tons of fish per year. Overall, the fishery supports the livelihoods of more than 1.6 million people. Major threats to the lake include overuse, invasive species, habitat degradation and deforestation, pollution and climate change.
Lake Kivu is one of the two smallest African Great Lakes, but is the third deepest and sits at the highest altitude. Lake Kivu is located in an area with one of the highest population densities and population growth rates in the AGL region. Lake Kivu is home to around 28 fish species, half of which are cichlids found only in Lake Kivu. Lake Kivu is the largest local source of fish in Rwanda, providing more than 20,000 tons of fish per year and subsidizing fish imports for animal protein. The fishery supports 500,000 people in Rwanda and the DRC.
Lake Edward is the smallest among the African Great Lakes, but its basin includes the highly productive Lake George. The majority of the population along the lake lack clean water and have poor sanitation. The basin is home to 81 fish species and the lake's productive fisheries employ around 2000 fishers. Two National Parks, Virunga NP and Queen Elizabeth NP) border the lake, making this area a valuable tourism stop.
Lake Albert is shared between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The lake's water is mainly controlled by the Nile River. Population density in some parts of the lake basin is as high as 149 people/km2. The population growth rate is also quite high. Many people around the lake lack access to clean drinking water, improved sanitation and improved health facilities. This results in a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and water related diseases. Lake Albert has a lower fish diversity than other African Great Lakes, but a high fish catch and dependence on fishing for livelihoods.