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The fisherwoman of Kasenyi - sustainable fishing
Tuesday, December 17, 2002

New Vision (Kampala, Uganda)Joshua Kato

As the sun rises over Kasenyi Landing site, on the shores of lake Victoria, Lukia Ssebaduka, 43, unloads fish from her boat. She is a well built lady, dressed in a kitenge, draped with a lesu (wrapper).

She had a good catch and has every reason to be happy.

"Normally, we get an average of 300kgs of fish per night, but today we have nearly 350kgs," she says. Lukia is one of three ladies involved in active fishing at Kasenyi.

Traditionally, the fishing in Uganda has been a preserve of men. According to Yona Kitaka, 55, one of the main fishermen at Kasyeni Landing Site, the main reason why women were not involved in direct fishing on the lake, was that they were considered weak, thus could not push the boats, or canoes through.

"There was also a belief that, it is a taboo for women to go fishing on the lake, because it would annoy the gods of the seas, but these were just beliefs, of course," Kitaka said.

Women were only involved in smoking and salting of the fish. This has changed. "With the advent of modern fish preservation methods, smoking and salting are no longer widely used. Instead, fish is iced in vans.

Lukia Ssebaduka is just one of the women involved in active fishing at Kasenyi Landing Site. Others are Josephine Nanyonga and Ruth Nakiwala. She is a well built mother, who wore a smile during the course of the interview.

"I have been in this business for close to 10 years now," Ssebaduka says. She explained that it was after serious thought that she decided to start fishing.

"I used to go to the lake and fish," she says. Men would look at her and wonder what had befallen the sacred traditions of the lake that prohibited women to engage in fishing.

"Some of them even told me that we women were consecrating the lake by fishing. I did not listen to them," the housewife and mother said.

Due to her hard work, she has now got a total of 10 fishing boats, two insulated boats which she uses for keeping fish cooled at the lake and a passenger boat.

For her efforts, Ssebaduka is now the Vice Chairperson of the Association of Fishers and Lake Users of Uganda (AFALU).

Ssebaduka no longer goes to the lake to fish, but manages her business off shore. On her fleet of boats, she employs more than 60 men.

"It makes me happy to feel that as a woman I can also employ men. This is the kind of living all of us women should strive to achieve," she says.

Optimistically, Ssebaduka pointed out that since she and the three other women have started this business, she wants their children to take over.

"Our children need to take this kind of work seriously because we have invested a lot of money into it," she says.

Ssebaduka is not only working to develop her business, but also assisting many other people to develop.

"I employ more than 70 people as fishermen on my boats," she said. She is able to effectively look after her home, educate her children, thanks to the fishing business."

Just like Ssebaduka, the other fisherwoman, Josephine Nanyonga, also has a large story behind joining the fishing business.

"I have been fishing for over eight years," she says. She explains that prior to this fishing business, she was doing some odd jobs before she finally decided to embrace the man's job.

"With one of her six children on her back, she says, "It was a very hard job in the beginning. I used to go to the lake and fish. This was when I still had one boat," she says.

Today, Nanyonga is a proud owner of six boats, complete with their engines and nets. Everyday, her boats bring in a catch close to 200kgs of fish, mainly Nile Perch.

With each kilogramme selling at sh1,500, this is close to sh300,000, daily. This she shares with her employees, most of whom are men.

"I feel happy that I am able to help other people live. I am happy that I am contributing something to the development of Uganda," she says.

From this, she has been able to look after her family, build herself a decent house and run the day to day financial needs of her home.

The fishing business, is not always rosy. Like men in the business, these women are faced with the same problems.

"Acquiring the equipment is another expensive venture," says Lukia. For example, an average engine costs about sh2.7m, while each of the nets costs sh24,000.

"I need 140 nets for my boats," Nanyonga says. This adds up to close to sh3m. Each night, the six boats consume more than 50 litres of fuel.

And once they have acquired a fishing boat, their worries have only just began.

"I spend sleepless nights worrying over the safety of my engines. They are stolen by pirates on the lake," Nanyonga said.

Recently, one of her engines was stolen from the lake. A security officer at the landing site said that these stolen engines are usually taken to Lake Albert, or across Lake Victoria to Tanzania.

The three ladies were greatly affected by the fish poisoning and Cholera outbreak era.

"We are just recovering from the scare. We used to do normal fishing, but end up selling the fish at very low prices," Nanyonga said.

The women are also affected by the unstable prices that characterise fish selling.

"Sometimes we sell at nearly half of the previous day's price and this really hurts our businesses," Ssebaduka said.

The three sell most of their catch to several fish exporting factories based at the landing site.

According to Fabius Byaruhanga, minister of state for fisheries the number of women involved in active fishing is but surely going up.

"They have been out of active fishing for many years, but now there are several who are seriously involved," the minister says.

Byaruhanga said if these women form an organisation, they would be assisted with modern fishing.

"These women ought to be given credit they have being able to use their limited resources to start modern fishing," he said on a final note.

Copyright 2003 New Vision. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). Click here to contact the copyright holder directly for corrections -- or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material.

 

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