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Back on Lake Tanganyika!

Ben Lowe

Fishing boats on the shore of Lake Tanganyika

Fishing boats on the shore of Lake Tanganyika

Lake Tanganyika was were I first encountered the growing impacts of climate change. I spent the summer of 2006 there as part of an NSF funded research project where my focus was on the littoral fishery. Nearly a decade later, I had the opportunity to return to the bustling Tanzanian port city of Kigoma. I was back to participate in the annual meeting for CLEAT – an international research project funded by DANIDA to study the declining fishery on Lake Tanganyika.

It was surreal but great to be back at the Tanzanian Fisheries Research Institute (Kigoma Center). Dr. Ishmael Kimirei was my research mentor out here in 2006 and he now serves as the Center Director. It was also great to see fellow Team Shombo members Anthony Kalangali and Huruma Mgana, and to find a new good friend in Albogast Aman, TAFIRI’s media/technology staffer.

Snorkeling with Amani at Jakobsen's beach

Snorkeling with Amani at Jakobsen's beach

Much of the first week in Kigoma was spent with Gideon Bulengela (PhD student at the University of Dar es Salaam) and Dr. Joan Brehm (sociologist from Illinois State University) visiting landing beaches to interview fishermen, BMU members, and fishery officials. It was an eye-opening time as we learned more about the challenges fishermen are facing today, which include piracy, witchcraft/superstitions, illegal fishing, expanding ring net usage, and changes in the climate that is impacting the lake’s limnology and thus productivity.

Meeting with fisherfolk at a local village/beach management unit

Meeting with fisherfolk at a local village/beach management unit

The second week was focused on meetings with the entire interdisciplinary CLEAT team to update on accomplishments from the first year and plan together for the year ahead. There are three Tanzanian PhD students in this project and four professors from the University of Dar es Salaam, and it was great to hear more about their work. We capped the meetings off with a well attended workshop for fishery stakeholders, which included local fishermen, fish processors, village leaders, and others. A few of us also met with staff at the nearby Tuunganne project, which is doing very encouraging work with fishing villages down south around the Mahale Mountains. 

CLEAT team meetings at TAFIRI-Kigoma

CLEAT team meetings at TAFIRI-Kigoma

Of course, in between things, I was able to fit in multiple snorkeling trips, excursions to the market, meetings with local missionaries, and many, many tasty snacks/meals of sambusas, chapatis,  chipsi mayai, and Stoney Tangawizi. On the last weekend, I also preached in the Kigoma church of the Tanzanian Assemblies of God, where Ishmael and his family worship. I was initially intimidated by the invitation, but everyone was very welcoming and it turned out to be a great joy and blessing. I look forward to the next visit!

With Dr. Ishmael Kimirei's family outside their church

With Dr. Ishmael Kimirei's family outside their church