On the eastern shores of Lake Albert, the extraction of oil is a popular business. British oil company Turlow Oil is supporting local Ugandan fishermen through a Trias project. Their main objective is to convince them to partially put agriculture on the agenda
Over the past few years, many people have settled in Bunyoro. Some of them came from Congo by crossing Lake Albert, whereas others simply originate from other regions in Uganda. “Those people have one thing in common: they are equally poor and they all depend on fishing in order to survive,” says Trias-employee Mirjam Ssenyonga.
Fishing on Lake Albert, however, is subjected to great pressure due to overfishing. The use of coarse-mesh nets is now mandatory, so that smaller fish will not get caught in them. This way, fish have enough time to grow and to procreate. Although it is a noble initiative, many fishermen cannot afford fishing nets which are in accordance with regulations.
Tomatoes or goats?
“That is why it is important for fishermen to acquire a new source of income. A shift towards agriculture can be interesting,” Ssenyonga says. These shifting fishermen are learning a lot thanks to Hodfa, a Ugandan farmers’ organisation with whom Trias has been cooperating for quite some time. Advisors are training fishermen in their rational decision making; they analyse what proportion the income from fishing bears to the potential income from agriculture.
“The most sustainable agricultural activity on the shores of Lake Albert is the cultures of tomatoes, water melons, and oranges. But cattle breeding can be lucrative as well,” Ssenyonga explains. “Meat demand is increasing due to the onrush of workers for the oil industry. So we are aiming at quality goat species. We need to build better fences, because otherwise goats will feed off our crops.
An appropriate business plan
Where does Trias fit in? “We are reinforcing Hodfa in order for the advisors to train fishermen who, in the end, will decide for themselves which activity to undertake,” Ssenyonga emphasizes. Furthermore, appropriate business plans make room for another Ugandan Trias partner, called Hofokam which grants microloans to small-scale farmers. “Trias’ integrated approach will allow farmers to get their share of the oil industry.”