Caroline Numuhire

Caroline Numuhire

Saturday, 21 July 2018 02:24

Fishing Stories from Jinja

From the horizon, I see the sun taking time to rise; it is an orangey subdued lighting offering its warmth to the waters of Lake Victoria while chasing away the morning mist.

I am watching the sun from the shore of Kingfisher Safari Resort. Also in my view are men that are busy cleaning and pushing their wooden boats into the calm waters. Women are scooping water into their faded buckets and ferrying it home in fast, rhythmic steps.  Some are chatting loudly as they wash clothes. Every few minutes a boat docks at the shore after a night of fishing.  

Godfrey Kasadha is one of these fishermen. His friends have teasingly nicknamed him “wamukisa”- the lucky man.  This morning, he is nonchalantly cleaning a boat. I approach him with a hesitant look and an idiotic smile. I only have 10,000 Ugandan shillings in the back pocket of my red pants, but I omit to say it.  I want a ride, a ride to the source. I want to see the origin of that magic Nile, that Nile that existed from the time of the ancient testament in the Holy Bible, that Nile I have studied in geography. The Nile that makes Africa proud as the longest River in the world.

Kasadha is feeling guilty because the sun woke up before him. As he gives me a ride, he is not very optimistic that will get a big catch but is spotting a big smile nonetheless. B

A small voice full of fear is reminding me that I am in the middle of a 68,000km2 body of water with a stranger that I just met sixteen minutes ago. Yet, my enthusiasm to realize my dream of discovering the source of the Nile slowly silences that voice.

Kasadha’s red boat is joined together by pieces of metal that are skillfully nailed in the wood. Inside there is a small green jerry can that contains his fishing secret – three live moon fishes that serve as baits to the Nile perches that he patiently chases in the warm water.

He relates to me that years of fishing experience have taught him to gratefully accept whatever the lake gives him. He ruthlessly drives holes into the heads of his baits using different hooks and ties them to a kamba, fishing line, which he releases into the lake. He entrusts me with one kambas that I seriously but clumsily hold in the deep calm water.

Lake Victoria’s maximum depth can attain 83 meters.  Today, Kasadha uses one of the 9 types of hooks that fishers utilize in his neighborhood. He chooses fish-hook number 7 because it has a sharp tongue and the Nile perch can never escape from it.

Victoria is the largest tropical lake in the world. It spreads over an area that is more than twice the size of Rwanda. As he paddles in its expansive waters, he carefully watches the movements of the live moon fishes. Any slight movement will communicate to his trained eye whether a perch has swallowed the bait.

It’s like a seduction game and the perch is like a man who blindly follows and falls under a woman’s charm. But unfortunately for the perch, the spell is broken when it takes the bait.

Kasadha doesn’t have a secondary, leave along a bachelor’s degree. But he has a masters in practical fishing. He has definitely mastered his profession and has a firm grasp of the region’s history.

Back in 1906, Jinja was just a small fishing village. It grew gradually to become the second largest city in Uganda.  The name Jinja is said to have been coined by local baganda workers who were employed on the other side of the Nile River; the Basoga side, to break the gigantic stones and clear the land. Jinja means stone and each morning, they would call out to each other, ‘let’s go to that Jinja, to that stone.’ The name stuck and Jinja it is until today.

I am all ears as Kasadha shares the story of Jinja, he changes the paddle from left to right and heads for the “real source” of the Nile.

Along the way, enyange (egrets) and embata (black swans) are the companions of the fishermen.  The panorama in front includes two tiny islands and some rocks. One of these islands is home for birds that have decorated the ground with their whitish droppings. The second island hosts small handcraft businesses sheltered in huts.

At the source, water comes from underground and spins before flowing to Lake Victoria.

There, I allow my spirit to bend over the incomparable beauty of that moment, I am wordlessly grateful of being alive and present at the source of the Nile River. I sample the stillness of the spinning water.

The fishing continues. Kasadha and I have not yet caught anything, he looks with envy at others who came earlier than him and already have piles of perches in their boats.

I imitate him as he checks his kamba often but both moon fishes are still floating in the water. As we slowly round the source, we take time to admire the comeliness of Jinja. He watches a malakayiti; a small multicolored bird with an orange beak. The tiny bird hides constantly in the bushes and it is only by chance that we see it. On another branch, a woodland bird is carelessly hanging.

As we move forward and leave behind the spinning water, Kasadha reflects on how fishing has changed his economy. He reminisces how he lost his father when he was very young. He was obliged to help his mother by carrying food products to the market. He could only earn around 4,000 Ugandan shillings ($1.4). Currently, when he is lucky, he can daily make 200,000 shillings ($71) from fishing and other small jobs.

 “okuvuba kwacyusa oburamu bwangge”- Fishing has changed my life.

It is worth noting that 20% of Uganda is water. In 2010, the country earned $ 83.3 million from fishing industry with the highest peak ever of $ 143,168 million in 2005.

The money that Kasadha gets from his job is spent to educate his son and support his extended family.  

Unlike him, hundreds of other fishermen spoil their earnings wit sex workers. While the national HIV+ incidence is only 7%, it reaches around 40% for fishermen.  Their hazardous job jeopardizes them to risk their lives in the cloudy waters of the Lake Victoria.

They believe in imminent attacks by the crocodiles or drowning accidents. Some have fished the corpses of their friends and are afraid that one day, it would be themselves that other fishermen will bring back.

This lake is the most important inland fishery production in Africa and this sector employs between 1 million and 1.5 million nationals in Uganda.

As this represents a considerable number of individuals who are exposed, the careless sexual behavior of fishermen constitutes an alarming menace to this industry. In addition, access to government health services is still a challenge for the Jinja municipality.

Another obstacle in Jinja is the regulation of fishery activities and the protection of Lake Victoria’s biodiversity. The only restriction imposed to fishermen is the use of the fishing nets.  It’s forbidden for fishers who are not part of a fishing company to use nets; they can only fish with hooks and no moral law prevents the women to pollute the lake when they are cleaning their clothes.

Kasadha observes another group of women with an ironic smile. My eyes follow his regard.

“You see, women’s role is to wash clothes and fetch water. They wait for their husbands’ catches. They can’t fish because once they catch a fish they scream and give jumps. For them, fishing is a joke”.

His ironic smile has turned into a proud and loud laughter that shakes his strong shoulders. I want to confront him but I remember that I’m just here to admire the nature. I calm down my feminist spirit.

For the umpteenth time, Kasadha checks the kamba and concludes that today is not our lucky day, that he is not the wamukisa Kasadha. He takes the moon fish, removes the sharp hook, leaving stains of blood on his grey face and puts it back in the wet green jerry can. He will keep the bait alive for the next perch fishing.

Even if we did not catch anything, he always loves to share his boat with tourists and make them discover the wonders of Jinja without a fee.

  • Now, you are my friend from another country, no money can pay that! He wisely explains.

It’s around 9:00 and the sun is hotly burning our faces. Far in the lake, four boats are still navigating in the lake waters while their occupants are more discussing than fishing.

Once, it took a week for Kasadha to catch fish. Another day with a friend; he caught a 60kg perch measuring 2 meters. The uncertainties, despairs and surprises are part of the fishing stories of Jinja.

The next morning, I will be far away back to my normal life while Kasadha will take his own boat and use worms to fish tilapia. The favorite tilapia….

Friday, 20 July 2018 10:55

Madalina, the Rwandan Water Hunter

When Madalina was born, her family lived near isoko y’amazi atemba, a source of running water. She used to carry an old pot that her mother had exchanged with a potter for three baskets of taro. Her mother used to half- teasingly tell her that if she ever breaks the clay container, she would never find a husband, but that was before. Longtime before her marriage.

The sparkling water that she fetched was transparent with a pleasant taste and an odorless aroma of purity. Now when she goes to visit her mother, she stops by the source. A million tiny dirt particles cloud it.

Children used to believe that during the rainy seasons, the mountains generously provided a lot of pure water. Madalina could see new little sources from the hills. Children didn’t need to dream of going to Canada to admire Niagara’s Falls. That mountain where their scattered houses were built used to offer its own falls.  

Madalina can’t remember exactly when the chemical fertilizers that they applied in their fields started to alter the quality of their water.

According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the increase in population and advances made in farming technology has resulted in an increase of contaminants polluting soil and waterways.

The complaint about water quality is not an isolated case for Madalina and Rwanda, it is becoming a worldwide issue: the price for the technological advance. In the United States of America, the 2000 National Water Quality inventory reported that agricultural pollution caused by rainfall and snowmelt movements was impacting on the water quality of surveyed rivers, lakes, wetlands, estuaries and ground water.

Why did the mountains become stingy with the pure water in their bowels? Madalina always asks herself. The small Madalinas who fetch water these days are students in school uniforms and it takes them longer to fill a7-liter container. They are the new generation, the hope of tomorrow, they are her children’s age mates; those who dream of being secretaries, teachers or nurses. They have never carried akabindi, the clay pot on their heads. Madalina imagines that it would damage their precious brains.

Now civilization has brought new domestic items, only the extremely poor women carry the traditional akabindi as they can’t afford a yellow 20-liter jerrican. These jerricans are oil containers that women clean using ibivuzo, remains of fermented sorghum beer.

Currently, most water in Rwanda comes from its rains. The hydrology is characterized by a dense network of lakes, rivers and wetlands. Rwanda is nicknamed both the heart of Africa and the land of a thousand hills. However, the large number of hills and mountains don’t facilitate access to water especially for communities living in remote rural areas such as Madalina’s.

The current water company, Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC), has built a community tap that provides water to households from three hills in Madalina’s village. The water has a chlorine taste and it delays to come during the dry months of July and August. However, according to WASAC, 40% of the constructed water facilities are not functioning due to the lack of proper operation and maintenance.

The tap that the water company has built is downhill in the marshland. When Madalina wants to wash her family’s clothes, she brings them to the tap, cleans them from there and hangs them on the nearby napier grass till they dry. When her little children want to bath, they go downhill as do their livestock when they want to quench their thirst. The water that she fetches, is used for cooking, washing dishes, adults’ irregular baths and washing the faces of the children every morning before they go to school or church.

Madalina lives on a small farm in the rural district of Gastibo. She is not the only Rwandan who struggles with regular and reliable access to water because miles away in the capital of Kigali, during the dry season, long queues always form at pubic water tanks.

In August, it’s a common scene in Kigali to see many people, especially house maids and boys, carrying yellow jerry cans full of water.

While 75.2% of the Rwandan population accesses clean water, only 69% live in the countryside against 79% located in urban areas. THis is quite commendable because in 2004, the nationwide distribution of drinkable water was estimated at 54% with only 44% in the rural regions. This is the result of the Rwandan government’s effort to provide basic services to citizens.

This progress gives hope to Madalina that her grandchildren will have less trouble accessing clean water.

Today, Madalina waits for the sunset before taking her yellow jerrican and going to fetch water; she hears her soul quietly sigh:

With my Head which carried loads of baskets and heaps

 With my Hair torn off from my head as an upshot of heavy loads

With my Eyes worn out by sandy winds that are blown away my forty seven years

 With my Ears that heard everything and kept all

With my Mouth that ate the fruits of my labor and drunk the tears of heaviness

With my Jaws tightened to hold my tears from flowing on my wrinkled cheeks

With my Teeth that chew sorghum stalk instead of a sugar cane

With my Neck chronically cramped by the ache of the heaviness of a 20 liter jerrican

With my Shoulders arched by my age

With my Belly that carried seven pregnancies

With my Back broken by carrying more than seven children, mine and others’

With my Heart tired by insouciance of my husband and the insatiable desires of my progeny

With my Lungs which breathed in and breathed out often-times

With my Stomach that starved itself to feed my kids and ulcerated by a steady hunger

With my Arms that fed and fetched water for my children

With my Fingers that joined in a prayer to get a drop from the tab

With my Hips which endured the pregnancy and the weight of a water jerrican

With my Legs which trembled resisting to the heavy weight of jerrican under gust of rain

With my Feet that ascended and descended a hill searching for water

With my Toes that hooked in the rocky pathways avoiding to glide

With my Skin flayed by unpitying sun rays

With my Husband who has never borne a baby nor a jerrican

With my Children who so often forget to say “thank you mother!”

With my Mother who convinced me this is my destiny

With all of this, I have cried, cried, cried and …… I have smiled

Despite this, I have smiled as it is my role as a mother and I played it well

Despite all of this, I will wake up tomorrow at dawn, take my jerrican, go and fetch water

It’s a holy walk to take

It’s a walk for searching clean water.

Friday, 20 July 2018 07:38

Nkombo, Lake Kivu's Dazzling Island

Not many people know that Rwanda has an island. But it does. Nkombo Island, which sits squarely in Lake Kivu.

Located on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lake Kivu is surrounded by five districts from North to South: Rubavu, Rutsiro, Karongi, Nyamasheke and Rusizi.  Nkombo is one of the multiple islands of the Lake with merely 22 km2 and around 18,000 inhabitants living on the one spacious and two smaller islands. Felix is a young boy from Nkombo Island. He sees Rwanda as another country, a country where he would love to live. He has recently started primary school and is learning Kinyarwanda language at Gihaya, one of the four primary schools on the island. Before joining school, he only used to speak amashi, the native local language in his neighborhood.

For 40 minutes, a semi-traditional motor boat transports, from Rusizi town back to the island, local Nkombo men and women who came earlier to sell fish. During the ride, they intone songs in amashi accompanied by a stench of decomposing fish from their baskets.  On the other side of the strand, Felix and more other kids are excitedly waiting for adults to return from the city with nice things, maybe.

Just like many other Rwandans, farmers on the island plant soybeans, climbing beans, cassava, banana plantation,….and their soils slowly run-off in the Lake.

Felix was born in April 2008, just after the earthquake that ravaged the island. He has experienced Nkombo’s transformation over the years. He has seen engineers installing electric cables. Every night, he has light in his house and he has seen adults map out the roads even if no car has yet driven there.

 In his free time, the young boy imitates men by fishing and capturing fishes from Lake Kivu. Afterwards, he hides the breathing fishes in his jacket pocket and tries to sell them to strangers who come to his land. With other boys of his age, they bargain and set the prices in amashi language so that visitors don’t understand. The fishes that these boys sell are among the  40 species of fish that were inventoried in Rwanda but only 4 are of economic importance; the Lake Tanganyika sardine Limnithrissa miodon (locally called isambaza), the Nile tilapia Oreochromis niloticus, the African catfish Clarias gariepinus and Haplchromis sp. .And today, Felix’s catch is of course isambaza.

This Tanganyika Sardine is a small pelagic clupeid living in Kivu as a non-native species. L. miodon was voluntarily introduced in 1959 into Lake Kivu, where no planktivorous fish existed before. Adults live in the pelagic areas while reproducing populations and juveniles inhabit bays and shores. This species becomes omnivorous at the adult stage, feeding on diverse preys: zooplankton, insect larvae and adults, other small fishes and their own young stages.

Since its introduction in Kivu, it has slowly been delivered on the Rwandan and Congolese fish markets with other species. According to Rwanda Development Board, the fish market demand consists of 90% of tilapia, 5% isambaza, and 5% of other spcies like cat fish.

Nkombo island inhabitants supply isambaza to Rusizi town and cook the rest with peanut oil in their households that are densely settled and scattered on the island.

As in any other part of Rwanda, Nkombo’s biodiversity is also threatened by population increase, land use changes, destruction of habitats and natural disasters.  In Africa, while Rwanda has one of the biggest population densities, Nkombo’s demographic pressure is even more alarming as 818 people live on just 1 km2 compared to the national level of 450 persons living on the same surface.

 This large population on the island is using natural resources at an alarming rate. They were used to cultivate all land till the banks of Kivu, overfish isambaza for market supply and family consumption as well as using various trees for fire wood.  

The Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) calls for the protection of Lake Kivu’s shores as well on Nkombo islands. This denotes that 50 meters from the lake shores and 10 meters from the river banks have to be protected from human exploitation.

Nkombo islands have already started to implement the EDPRS target of planting 320,000 agroforestry trees and to creating 50 hectares of progressive terraces to prevent soil erosion. A special tree nursery has been established on the island and more than 140,000 seedlings of different species have been produced.

And to valorize the biodiversity, a hotel is under construction at Nkombo as a way of developing tourism potential of the area that local community can economically benefit from. As the beauty of the nature attracts an increased number of tourists, local people will be more motivated to protect their source of revenues: biodiversity. According to REMA, Rwanda Environment Management Authority, Kivu islands are not hotbeds of island endemics because nearly all species found there also exist in the mainland. However, in a recent study, 14 islands [1] of Lake Kivu were surveyed and the results clearly showed that 142 plant species, 80 species of birds, 52 invertebrates, 6 mammals, 6 reptiles and 5 species of amphibians exist on these islands.

Additionally, these islands shelter 3 migratory bird species namely cossypha natalensis, milvus migrans as well as bulbucus ibis and some endangered species like marsh mongoose, water birds and snakes. It’s worth noting that half of birds registered on Lake Kivu islands are on the IUCN[2] red list. Furthermore, this research for the conservation plan of Kivu Lake islands clearly shows that these islands comprise the key zones in Rwanda for biodiversity conservation, tourism and recreation.

Felix notices several inquisitive sightseers coming to Nkombo; although they don’t usually buy his fishes. They give him hope that the island has something particularly unique to offer that attracts people from Kigali, the capital, and other countries. Local kids always shout to those visitors, in either amashi or Kinyarwanda:

 Ompe ehyo hicupa hyaminji ,wampaye agacupa. Give me the water bottle, Give me the water bottle.

The belief is that tourism development with all associated facilities will create and generate more jobs and income for Nkombo residents and local children will get a better access to clean water and more water bottles. Currently, they mainly fetch the Kivu water for domestic use.

Nkombo’s residents desperately need new opportunities. Most of them fish in a lake with poor fish reserves with the national fish production from Rwanda’s 24 lakes estimated at only 13,000 tons, annually. According to the ministry of Agriculture and animal resources, the low fish production is generally caused by increased fish pressure, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and increased unmonitored fish movements, all driven by higher fish demand, inadequate fisheries and aquaculture management framework. This fishery sub sector has potential of contributing to 2.7% of the GDP if a total of 115,000 tons is produced by 2017.

 In the Rwandan Kivu, which consists of 48% of the total Lake surface, Nkombo fishers are not allowed to fish all the time. They have to stop one week in a month and they are not allowed to fish on the Congolese part of Kivu. During their free time, some cultivate their lands but this year kirabiranya (Xanthomonas wilt) has invaded their banana plantation and this disease constitutes another whack to the island’s agro-biodiversity already menaced by overpopulation and climate change.

In 2014, agro-biodiversity has contributed to national economy with a share of 30.5% of the GDP. But Rwanda being reliant on rain-fed agriculture is still extremely vulnerable to climate change. This phenomenon is not only a threat to the agriculture industry but also the biodiversity of the Lake Kivu islands and little is known about the economic cost of biodiversity loss.

Apart from the worst worldwide water hyacinth, there are other invasive species that affect the Lake Kivu islands biodiversity and these led to the extinction of some species in the past and threaten more that are endemic. But again, even if invasive species are the core current menace, climate change is predicted to be the key threat to islands in the future.

To prevent the detrimental consequences of the degradation of ecosystems, Rwanda has set 16 new major policies, laws and strategies to promote biodiversity conservation and socio-economic development. Despites the existence of these, the value of biodiversity is not yet reflected in broader policies. However, the first needed step which is to recognize the importance of conservation has been made and established measures help to raise awareness about the protection of the country’s natural capital.

With this national will, Nkombo hopes that the biodiversity conservation and tourism expansion will contribute to the sustainable socio-economic development of the island. so that while Felix and his age mate friends grow up, they will be able to understand that there is a future on their native area, that they can conquer the rest of Rwanda or neighboring Congo or any other broader land.  But above all, Nkombo residents dream to have a young generation that always remember that their beautiful Nkombo have choices to offer to its children. To achieve this dream, they first have to grimly preserve, conserve and protect their biodiversity so that natural resources keep providing them a source of economic, social and nutritional benefits.

 

[1] Mapfundugu Islands Complex, Karugaruka, Nyanamo, Karinga, Nyamunini, Mbabara, Mukondwe, Shegesha, Amahoro, Nyenyeri, Mpangara and Nyarugaba, Ishyute and Ireba Islands

[2] International Union for Conservation of Nature

The panorama offered by Gisenyi bay beach is a scenic expanse of blue water that ends on the Congolese hillside.  Gisenyi town is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Rwanda. In the middle of the Lake Kivu stands a pole. From far, it looks like a giant tree that grew from the deepest lake bed. But it is the methane gas extraction plant.

On the other side of the lake lives a farmers’ community.  They raise their children and send them to public schools. Clarisse, 13 years old, is a young girl born in that community. She speaks normal Kinyarwanda tinted with the sweet Swahili accent. She knows the secrets of the water that she has paddled in with her brothers since her tender childhood. But the biggest secret she holds is the marvels of the thermal waters, amashyuza.

When you reach the water source, small children, boys and girls together are taking everlasting baths. The hot vapors that come from underground wrap their tiny bodies like invisible robes. These hot waters provide livelihoods opportunities for Clarisse and her young neighbors. After class, she fervently explains to tourists the curative powers and benefits of amashyuza before offering a massage using local herbs.

From her rural land, she has a picturesque view of the methane gas extraction plant. She doesn’t know the role of that pole in her Lake Kivu but she heard from her big brothers that it generates electricity and that they can’t fish in the 30 meters around it.

With its pacific blue, Lake Kivu itself offers a spectacular sight while its waters provide a meaning as a source of drinking water, for fisheries and a transportation corridor to the livelihoods of more than two million people from Rwandan and Congolese communities, including Clarisse’s family. 

The main economic activities of these inhabitants are farming and fishing with the most abundant fish being isambaza, the Tanganyika sardines (Limnithrissa miodon). They were introduced into the lake in the 1960s to fill the obvious vacant niche of Kivu. Currently, only 31 fish species live in this lake compared to 400 species of Lake Tanganyika. This poor diversity in terms of biota is due to the steepness of the banks, age and the nature of the lake’s bottom.

The biodiversity of Rwanda is mainly conserved in protected areas like the three terrestrial national parks but these parks don’t represent the whole biodiversity and ecosystems of the country. For instance even if Lake Kivu’s fauna is poor due to its physical isolation or doesn’t shelter either hippopotamuses or crocodiles; it has several aquatic biodiversity, phytoplankton, zooplankton, more than 200 Afro-tropical superior plant species and vegetation.

Lake Kivu, situated around 100 miles north of Lake Tanganyika is a volcanic Lake of 2370 km2,  almost the size of Mauritius or Moscow city, with a maximum depth that can attain 485m. It is located in the East African Rift Valley between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Its uniqueness consists of the prodigious quantity of dissolved gases (carbon dioxide and methane gas) in the deep water and far from the mountainous shores.

Kivu is among the 3 lakes in the world with high dissolves volumes of CO2, the two others being Nyos and Monoum from Cameroon. But contrary to them, it contains a considerable amount of methane gas and if not exploited might erupt within a century.

On August 21, 1986, Lake Nyos emitted CO2 and suffocated fauna, flora, livestock and caused a loss of around 1800 human lives.

To shun such a disaster, Rwanda has started the extraction of methane from Kivu. The origin of this gas is not yet very well known and there have been hot debates around the subject. Scientists don’t agree on its origin, some assume that it is caused by earthquakes and volcanic activity. However, according to Dr Klaus Tietze, a German scientist, this gas is a result of bacterial reduction of the magmatic CO2 that leads to methane but along with bacterial fermentation of acetate[1] in sediments.

Currently, there is no imminent danger of explosion in Lake Kivu that threatens Clarisse’s community because gases are trapped below 260 meters. Up till now, these gases are not harmful to the biodiversity although they hinder the development and expansion of numerous species accommodated inside the water. The surface water is totally isolated from deep water where carbon dioxide and methane gas are located. The living organisms and biodiversity, especially fish species, are found in the biozone comprising only between the first 50 and 60 meters from the surface. Biozone is the part of the lake provided with sufficient oxygen to support life.

As the risk of “bang” is relatively low, Clarisse will still be able to earn some cash from amashyuza and contemplate the lonely triple-colored national flag fluttering on the methane gas extraction site.  What prevents Kivu’s methane gas from exploding is the presence of several layers with different densities in addition to the fact that the water pressure is twice higher than the total of partial pressures from the gases.  The bigger hydrostatic pressures from the water block the methane gas and CO2 from ascending to the surface and to have a calamitous effect on the lake’s biodiversity.

In order to reduce the accumulation of the gases in Kivu, the Rwandan Ministry of infrastructure and the Congolese Ministry of hydrocarbons operate hand in hand to ensure safe, environmental friendly and economically sustainable extraction of methane gas in the lake.

The Rwandan government has contracted private investors to start the degassing process. Since 2008, work has been ongoing on a government funded pilot project called Kibuye Power Ltd (PK1) under the Rwandan Energy Company. This company is currently extracting methane and produce electricity in Gisenyi, generating 3.6 MW. The KivuWatt is another project that is supposed to start in a near future with a potential of producing 100 MW, almost equal to the current national power consumption. Captivatingly, Lake Kivu has an opportunity of producing 700 MW of power over the next 50 years.

It’s worth noting that Rwanda has established Lake Kivu Monitoring Program (LKMP) to circumvent negative impacts of a wrong extraction technology to the surrounding environment.  This unit is mainly in charge of overseeing the plant inspection, near plants and lake wide levels.  According to Mrs Augusta M. Christine Umutoni, the LKMP Programme manager, LKMP ensures public safety by maintaining the stability of the lake and preventing any potential gas eruption, thus avoiding any hazardous impacts on the environment and people as well as maximizing the socio economic benefits.

The effectiveness of Kivu Lake Monitoring Program to prevent environmental hazards will enable   the few fish species to evolve in the waters this of the smaller and younger lakes of East African Rift valley. The local people will keep fishing in Lake Kivu; will continue to offer tourism boat tours and to trade with the neighboring Congo. But also Rwanda has obtained another source of power generation that gradually will help to reduce the gap between national electricity need and supply.

Even if Methane gas is being extracted and averts the outburst risk, the volume of electricity produced under KP1 is still insignificant considering the national consumption and Lake Kivu neighboring communities do not yet benefit from this power that their natural resource breeds. Clarisse is currently using the tadowa, a kerosene traditional lamp, to do her school homework. She is hoping that that electricity produced in Gisenyi and channeled in the national grid, will one day reach her house through the national rural electrification program.

But s long as the methane gas extraction prevents the detriment of the ecosystems, Gisenyi local communities gain from the surrounding biodiversity to earn their livings. Clarisse’s parents will still be able to farm their lands and pay her school fees. Her older brothers income from fishing will allow them to build their future households and she will keep making pocket money from the massage and satisfy her adolescence basic needs.

 

[1] Acetate is a salt or ester of acetic acid especially used to make fibers or plastic.

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