|CERES No. 109 (FAO Ceres, 1986, 50 p.)|
For countries like Rwanda, suffering serious consequences from prolonged drought and poor harvests, it is as important to overcome present difficulties as it is to create a solid basis for food production. The opportunities for increasing agricultural production are restricted by the lack of arable land, a consequence of the country's mountainous nature and extremely high population density. This has reached an average of 180 persons per square kilometre, and reaches 390 per square kilometre on the arable land considered alone. This situation appears all the more serious when one considers the rapid growth of population - 3.7 per cent annually. The present level of agricultural production-when harvests are normal - barely covers the minimum food requirements of the population. The average dietary energy availability is around 2 300 calories per day, and animal protein is severely lacking.
Only the intensification of agricultural production and the development of all natural resources can save the country from the dangers of future famine, which could assume proportions comparable to the suffering experienced by some of the Sahelian countries. Among Rwanda's natural resources that have not yet been developed satisfactorily are the fisheries of numerous lakes and rivers. So far, these waters have been exploited in the traditional manner, and techniques that would increase their biological resources have not been introduced.
One exception is the fishery development on Lake Kivu on the border between Rwanda and Zaire. Since the beginning of 1983 some systematic studies have been pursued thanks to an FAO/UNDP project financed jointly with the Netherlands, and fish are being caught with methods completely different from the traditional ones. The project not only embraces the problems of capture technology but also includes biological studies, the processing and marketing of fish, and an evaluation of the economic impact of the development. The project director, Wilhelm Scheffers, is convinced of the value of this integrated approach, considering that fish production is intended to contribute to better nutrition for Rwanda's people.
Lake Kivu, the largest body of water in Rwanda, with a surface, including that part belonging to Zaire, estimated at 2 500 km2, belongs to the region's system of great lakes, including Lakes Tanganyika, Idi Amin-Edward, and Mobutu-Albert. However, it was isolated from the other lakes by the volcanic eruptions of the Virunga massif, which dominates the region. The present link with Lake Tanganyika, some 600 metres lower than Lake Kivu, is the gorge of the Ruzizi River, which is geologically fairly young - about 10 000 years old. Surrounded by mountain peaks at an altitude of 1 450 metres, the 100-km-long Lake Kivu is the highest body of water in the region. Its isolation and its location in a volcanic environment creates a special situation for the development of its biological resources. The lake reaches depths of 485 metres, but from 70 metres below the surface down there is a dead zone deprived of oxygen.
The initial research on Lake Kivu's waters was undertaken before the second world war. Subsequent studies have demonstrated the biological poverty of the lake. Only 21 species of fish have been identified, and their numbers are low, as is their economic utility. However, scientists who studied the lake as early as 1954 confirmed the richness of its plankton resources and the absence of plankton-eating pelagic species. They thus envisaged the artificial stocking of the lake with fish from Lake Tanganyika, which was successfully undertaken in 1959-60. For this purpose the species chosen were Stolothrissa tanganica-Ndagala and the Limnothrissa miodon-Lumpu. Both species resemble sardines in nature and size. Later surveys made in the 1970s established that the fish had adapted but that only the Lumpu were reproducing. This is probably explainable by the great hardiness of this species and especially by the fact that it tends to inhabit shallower water than does the Ndagala species and can take advantage of the upper strata of water which are rich in oxygen.
The establishment of these fish in quantities sufficient for exploitation has attracted the interest of the Rwanda Government in fishing and later resulted, in 1979, in the launching of the FAO/UNDP project which continues today.
The fishery began by employing local methods which soon proved to be inadequate. In 1981, the potential capture of the Lumpu species was estimated at 14 900 tons for the entire lake. Under ideal conditions the catch could reach as high as 35 000 tons. By comparison, productivity of local fish has been estimated at 600 to 800 tons for all of the lake.
Twenty-two pirogues have been buil-catamarans equipped with nets and lamps to attract the fish. The catch is growing systematically. At the beginning, in 1979, only one ton of Lumpu was fished; in 1983, 91 tons were fished and in 1984, 190 tons. In addition to the project's catch, there is that of some private beats on the lake as well as those of the fishery cooperative.
In parallel with this project, a small fishing port has been erected at Gisenyi - a beautiful lakeside village that was the launching point for excursions to the summit of the volcanoes. On this site have now been built a small sales pavilion, a fish-processing plant, a solar drying unit, and a fishery equipment depot.
On returning each night from the fish, each six-man crew brings in an average of about 50 kg of fish. The boats' arrival is awaited by customers who buy fresh fish for either retail or wholesale purposes. What is not sold is dried or processed and the dried waste products are made into fish meal. A small part is frozen. As a result the consumption of fresh fish in the region has increased; dried fish are exported to the interior of Rwanda. Many people have found work and have learned a new trade.