The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has disclosed that hunger is leading to extinction of fish in Lake Chiuta in Machinga district as residents are now cultivating dried up land.
Lake Chiuta is a shallow lake on the border between Malawi and Mozambique. It lies to the north of Lake Chilwa and to the south of Lake Amaramba, which has no outlet, and the lakes are separated by a sandy ridge. Both lakes lie in a graben which runs northeast-southwest, east of the main African Rift Valley.
According to USAID, the development has posed a risk to fisheries biodiversity as fishers and farmers have converted lakeshore vegetation areas and dry lake beds into gardens where they are growing crops such as maize and vegetables using water from the lake for irrigation and residual moisture.
In a statement, USAID disclosed that the practice is destroying critical fish breeding and nursery habitats which could delay the recovery of fisheries when the lake’s water levels return to normal.
“Since the fishing communities are deemed to be well-off than farmers they do not generally receive food aid. As a consequence, they are resorting to illegal fishing to earn income that they can use to buy food.”
“Unfortunately, the fish catches have also dwindled and this has affected their income. Consequently, the fishers are bearing the brunt of both a failed fishery due to the lake recession, the drought and a policy that does not provide them a food safety net during famine,” reads part of the statement made available to Malawi24.
USAID has since urged government to provide irrigation pumps to farmers to curb growing of crops along biodiversity sensitive areas.
Lake Chiuta’s pan-shaped basin lies on the eastern side of the Mlomba Upland area.
Drainage from the basin flows directly into the lake through a series of affluent streams, controlling both lake level and volume.