Southern Province minister Edify Hamukale has said he is considering engaging the military to help curb illegal fishing and poaching in the Kafue River basin.

Hamukaale said this in Monze on Monday when he opened the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) workshop whose objective is to develop a solution-based report card on the Lower Kafue River basin.

He said he would consult President Edgar Lungu on the possibility of allowing the Zambia Army and Zambia Air force officers in curbing illegal fishing in the Kafue River.

“The task that lies before us is huge but not impossible. It will take more than one or two institutions taking the lead. We have a responsibility to better manage our water resources. As some of you may already be aware, the situation in the Kafue River is terrible, the indiscriminate fishing going on is very worrying. Some fishermen have given themselves a permanent resident status on the Kafue river banks, that’s a big problem. But we are planning to involve soldiers now to deal with the situation. I am simply waiting for authority, we’ll clean up that area in four days, I don’t need a week. I think we have to act ruthlessly, it’s getting out of hand. In fact we need to extend the fish ban for five years, no fishing, no one goes there, if you are seen there, you are shot. Because people don’t want to listen, we told them but they don’t want to listen. We’ll have choppers in the air, soldiers down and police all over, four days, it will be game over,” Hamukale said. “I think that’s what would work because people don’t simply listen, we may have to take that route and then give it a grace period, but I first have to consult. So I am actually being held to get this done because I need to consult. If the commander-in-chief gave me permission today, tomorrow there would be twenty choppers hovering around. I don’t need a lot of time.”

He further alleged that some traditional leaders were also involved in poaching and illegal fishing and warned of stern action against anyone who would be found wanting.

“Some headmen are also involved in the illegal activities of poaching and indiscriminate fishing. It’s very disappointing, people who are supposed to help enforce the law are the ones who are being seen to be a problem. We’ll deal with anyone involved in this illegality, whether you are a traditional leader or not. Just because you are a traditional leader it should not make you think you cannot be touched when you go against regulations,” Hamukale said.

He disclosed that the number of Lechwes in the Kafue National Park had continued to reduce due to poaching.

“In the 1950s, there were about two hundred and fifty thousand Lechwes in the Kafue National Park, now there are only less than nineteen thousand. Poachers target the pregnant Lechwes, the lame, those that have just given birth and the small ones too. If we are not careful, there will be no Lechwes to talk about in the next five, ten years. In the whole world, Kafue National Park has been known as home to Lechwes, now they are being killed for meat. Even small ones before they could even grow, they are roasted,” Hamukale said.

He said poaching had continued because of the high demand for game meat which was being sold in some lodges.

“Some of the hotels and lodges are serving game meat…They even put Lechwe, Impala, Buffalo but they won’t tell you where they are getting the game meat from. So we need to engage the market, we need to find a way of tapping some intelligence information from there. If you do that, then you are on your way to help in alleviating this problem. Because if you go where the income is coming from, you are dealing with people who are sustaining this. So we need to deal with it from the consumer side, from the demand side, from the market. Even in Agriculture, if there is no demand for sunflower, who is going to plant it? Nobody, isn’t it? Because there is no consumption but when they hear that sunflower is fetching good prices, they will concentrate on sunflower and the same goes with this, there is great demand for game meat somewhere, let’s deal with it from that end,” Hamukale said.

He also called for more sensitization among community members on the importance of preserving the natural environment.

Hamukaale also appealed to WWF and all stakeholders to help come up with measures that could help to protect the natural resources of the Kafue River Basin.

“We must act in unison and with a positive mindset that fosters innovation, efficient use of resources and leverage on the expertise and capabilities housed in different institutions. We need to work beyond our own fences in order to achieve impact. So we would be very happy if you can put up a logical framework for government to derive benefits from, we want to know what your observation is and what should be done,” said Hamukale. “You are all educated, capable and formidable people, please help us deal with these three problems: wildlife depletion, habitat destruction, encroachment and illegal fishing. We’ll appreciate your input on how we can intervene here.”

And in a speech read on her behalf by policy and advocacy coordinator Bwendo Kabanda, WWF country director Nachilala Nkombo said the workshop was aimed at bringing stakeholders together to discuss the challenges of the Kafue River Basin and come up with solutions using the report card.

“WWF Zambia is alive to such understanding and so together with key stakeholders that include civil society, private companies and government institutions, we have collectively come together in an effort to better understand the risks facing the lower Kafue basin. The group understands that the challenges and opportunities that exist within the basin cannot be harnessed alone,” said Nkombo.
“WWF Zambia is committed to ensuring that catchment areas and wetlands as sources of clean water are protected through this stakeholder engagement we are starting today. We seek to empower stakeholders around the country and beyond to develop and effectively come up with credible, locally owned report cards, fostering sustainable water management across the entire country.”
The three-day workshop held in Monze district has drew participants from government institutions, private sector, research institutions, the media and community leaders.