By Fostina Mkandawire
Pact Malawi has been awarded a grant of $12 million to implement a project called ‘Restoring Fisheries and Sustainable Livelihoods in Lake Malawi’ (REFRESH) by USAID to be implemented from 2019 to 2024.
Speaking during a startup workshop for the project on Monday, Chief of Party for PACT Malawi, Alan Brooks said the purpose of the REFRESH project is to conserve the freshwater biodiversity of Lake Malawi.
He said the project aims to achieve its goals by restoring the natural fisheries productivity in the lakeshore districts of Karonga, Rumphi, Likoma, Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Salima, Dedza and Mangochi.
Brooks said they want to ensure that Lake Malawi’s aquatic habitats are healthy and well-managed.
“We want to ensure that the endemic fish populations of targeted parts of Lake Malawi are healthy and self-sustaining; and fisheries in the targeted parts of Lake Malawi are managed sustainably by 2024,” he said
“We will build the capacity of fishermen so that they manage their demarcated area of water, through technical expertise, closed seasons and other control measures,” he said.
He said through the project, they would like to make lasting change for the next generation, through equipping communities with skills, resources and opportunities they need to responsibly benefit from the natural resources around them.
Environmental Team Leader from USAID, Keith Mertzner said the startup workshop was aimed at brainstorming new approaches to successfully overcome the threats to freshwater biodiversity and ecosystems in the lake Malawi.
He said the approaches will take into consideration the challenges that the Department of Fisheries has identified such as overfishing, illegal unreported and unregulated fishing and habitat destruction.
“We are going to learn more about the refresh activity’s focused approach to reducing key threats to Malawi’s fisheries biodiversity, we are also going to discuss how REFRESH activity will collaborate with other USAID supported activities to reverse proximate drivers to habitat destruction,” he said.
He said they hoped to see the project collaborating closely with USAID Local Government Accountability and Performance (LGAP) project and District Councils to realize durable and effective decentralized fisheries management systems over the course of time.
The REFRESH project is a follow up project of the Fisheries Integration of Society and Habitats (FISH) project which was also being implemented by USAID and PACT Malawi and it was aimed at increasing social, ecological, and economic resilience to climate change and improving biodiversity conservation through sustainable fisheries co-management.-MANA