Fish production surges as Rwanda restores two lakes
Monday, June 03, 2024
According to the statistics fish production has significantly increased following extensive restoration efforts. Courtesy

Fish production in Cyohoha Lake in the Mayange, Mareba, and Ngeruka sectors of Bugesera district, as well as Kibare Lake in Kayonza District, has significantly increased following extensive restoration efforts.

These lakes had previously dried up due to climate change.

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In 1999 and 2000, Cyohoha Lake dried up completely, causing a massive fish die-off, Damien Habukize, a fish farmer from Mareba sector says.

"I used to harvest Tilapia, Mamba fish, catfish, and more, but they all vanished due to encroachment and the lake drying up," he said.

Before the restoration, residents faced severe water shortages. "We had to dig into the lakebed to access groundwater," Habukize added.

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Today, fish production has improved, and the lake now supports solar-powered irrigation.

"We now harvest 10 kilograms of catfish, 40 kilograms of Mamba fish, and six kilograms of Tilapia per day," Habukize said. "The lake is open for fishing four days a week and closed for two months to allow for fish reproduction."

Workers remove some wild plants during the rehabilitation of Lake Cyohoha in Bugesera District on October 13, 2015. File

Residents have also formed a fishing cooperative with 350 members to ensure sustainable production. Phocas Ntiyamira, president of the Komeza Imihigo Cooperative, highlighted the benefits of restoration, including water for irrigation and soil erosion control. Bamboos were planted in buffer zones, and solar-powered irrigation is now in place.

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Joseline Yamfashije, another farmer, noted that agroforestry trees have been planted to control soil erosion around the lake and wetland.

"We are working to prevent pollution to boost fish production," she said.

Sylvie Uwacu, a forestry official in Bugesera District, emphasised that deforestation and human activities had led to the drying up of lakes and rivers.

"We planted native tree species in buffer zones to restore these water bodies," she said.

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Servand Niyitegeka, a rehabilitation expert from the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), noted that water levels have risen in both the lake and wetland post-rehabilitation.

"Rehabilitation covered 52 hectares of the wetland and 645 hectares of Cyohoha Lake. The fishing cooperative members have even bought a vehicle and built a commercial house due to increased fish production," he added.

Fish production has risen from 900 kg to 3,450 kg per month. Additionally, 115 hectares of aquatic weeds have been cleared from the lake. Murago Swamp has also been proposed as a Ramsar site, designated for international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

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Saving Kibare Lake

The government has also restored Kibare Lake in Kayonza District. Covering 336 hectares, Lake Kibare is home to Nile Tilapia, African Catfish, and Haplochromis species. Before 2018, unsustainable agriculture severely degraded much of its riparian zone.

Through a project to build resilience in degraded wetlands, forests, and savannas, REMA restored the land and banned activities in the riparian zone.

"The lake was drying up due to market activities and waste dumping," Niyitegeka explained. "Now, a proper market and waste management system have been established."

Bamboo and agroforestry plantations now cover 80 hectares of the restored lakeshores. The construction of Kibare Market and storage cost Rwf 103 million.

A recent REMA investigation found that construction, agriculture, and waste discharge continue to pollute major lakes in Rwanda. However, ongoing restoration efforts aim to mitigate these impacts and ensure the sustainability of these vital ecosystems.