By Martin Chiwanda – Mana

There has been a boom in fishing business in Machinga after Lake Chilwa, which has been almost dry for over a decade, has now plenty of water courtesy of Cyclone Freddy.

If one visits the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Mchinguza where a large part of Lake Chilwa is allocated in Machinga, they can appreciate the saying which goes, “one man’s poison is another man’s food.”

Cyclone Freddy triggered torrential rains that led to flooding, mudslides and massive devastation in the southern part of Malawi including Machinga district leaving a lot of people displaced and destitute.

In the area of TA Mchinguza alone, Lake Chirwa has displaced communities from their settlements as their land is covered by a huge body of water which will unlikely subside in the foreseeable future.

Ironically, this means the fishing business is back in full swing after faltering over the past decade.

Fishing has been an important occupation in poverty alleviation and rural economic growth along lakeshore areas in Malawi. The incomes and asset status of households involved in fishing, particularly those of boat and gear owners, are significantly higher than those of non-fishing households currently along and within Lake Chirwa but also from all corners of the country.

A fisherman at Mphonde fishing dock, Kusala Kwanala said every day he catches over 50 dozen fish as compared to the time when the lake was dry which was before the floods.

“When the lake was almost dry, we scrambled for the limited fishing docks that were available and we caught meager fish which severely affected our trade.

“But now, despite the storm which has caused enormous havoc to several communities, we are reaping from it. Our livelihoods have improved for the better,” he explained.

Fred Chamange from Zomba Chisi has employed people to operate the three fishing boats he possesses and earns over K 100,000 per day through the fish trade.

He smokes or dries the fish and sells them in Blantyre. Additionally, he gets orders from vendors across the country.

However, Chamange said while they are appreciating the now booming fishing business, transportation of the fish to markets like Blantyre where we could fetch more money, has been a challenge as they only depend on rail transport which is sporadic.

“The road which connects to Nsanama where there is a tarmac road, is in bad shape. As such, we always wait for either Sundays or Tuesdays to travel by train.

“While we wait for the train days, our fish often go bad leading to massive losses,” he complained.

Chamange called upon the government to complete the construction of Nayuchi Road so that fishermen could realize more proceeds from their business.

Wilson Nkumbira from Masalima, Zomba who is the chairperson of Likhonyowa fishing dock calls upon people whose crops were submerged by the floods to try fishing as a way of compensating for their untold miseries caused by the Cyclone.

He too, complained of poor road network to connect to good markets.

Marriam Mikisi, who buys fish Lake Chirwa fishermen and sells them in other districts like Ntcheu, says fish from lake Chirwa has always been loved by many across Malawi.

She says when the lake almost dried up, both fishermen and middlemen could not meet the demand of fish in several markets.

“But now, we are able to meet the demand because more fish are being caught from Lake Chirwa. The only problem is transportation to destinated markets.

“Fishing business requires fast transportation as such I implore authorities to look into this problem,” Makisi said.

District Commissioner DC for Machinga, Lucia Chidalengwa conceded that disasters have negative impact on the livelihood of communities some of which being food insecurity.

She noted that Lake Chilwa has of late been the main source of livelihood for people living around it and other close districts after the Cyclone.

On the poor road network, the district commissioner assured the concerned citizens that government is determined to complete the Nsanama-Nayuchi road.

“Government is doing all it can to ensure that the road to Nayuchi is completed.

“First phase of the construction has already been completed, and second phase will start very shortly,” Chidalengwa assured.


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