Zimbabwe fishing co-op facing challenges from environmental crisis

Global heating, overfishing and decreased rainfall has led to reduced catches

Zimbabwe’s first women’s fishing co-op has seen the size of its catches getting smaller due to global heating, overfishing and decreased rainfall, the Guardian has reported.

Members of the Bbindauko Banakazi Kapenta Co-operative told the paper last week that their once lucrative business which operates on Lake Kariba has been facing challenges since 2018.

The co-op was set up by ten women who fish on the lake for the Tanganyika sardine, also known as kapenta. The women rotate their time on a monthly basis to make use of the co-op’s pontoon boat, which was built in 2011 by local charity the Zubo Trust and UN Women.

Since its establishment, the Bbindauko Banakazi Kapenta Co-operative has enabled members to put their children through school and become more financially stable, but depleted numbers of kapenta is now threatening this progress.

Co-operative member Sinikiwe Mwinde said that they used to catch around three tonnes of kapenta a month, but are now lucky to catch just one tonne. Merchants who buy from the women pay USD$150 for a 90kg bag of fish, but reduced catches means that the co-op is now behind on its licence fee payments, for which ts pays $300 every three months.

The co-op has also attempted fish farming but the project fail because they could not afford a pump or the cost of feeding the fish.

The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority(Zimparks) confirmed that reduced rainfall and increased temperatures in recent years has meant that there is less algae in the lake, which kapenta feed on. 

Zimparks has introduced measures to bring back the fish populations, such as a seven day fishing ban over the full moon and increased enforcement of fishing laws to discourage poaching.