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A few crocs may come in handy at Tokwe-Mukosi fisheries

A few crocs may come in handy at Tokwe-Mukosi fisheries

Obert Chifamba Agri-Insight
This other evening, I was watching the ZBC television eight o’clock news when a clip showing Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister, Shuvai Mahofa, overseeing the launch of the Tokwe-Mukosi Command Fisheries programme was played.The ZBC cameraman or woman, or whatever the case may be, aptly captured the scene showing the vast expanses of water as it receded into the distance, essentially exposing the wow factor of this colossal man-made aquatic body, which can easily send water sports enthusiasts stampeding to be the first to explore the waters.

Accompanying Minister Mahofa were officials from National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority that had brought the breeding stock of fish to set the project in motion. There were also people from the local community, who were naturally all smiles and ululating — all happy to see the project taking off.

Covering some 9 640 hectares at full supply level and with a catchment area of over 7 000 square kilometres, the dam that was built at the confluence of the Tokwe and Mukosi rivers (hence its name) at a cost of $255 million will be the springboard of many a business opportunities in the tourism and hospitality industry, agriculture, retail and transport sectors among others. Incidentally, Tokwe-Mukosi Dam happens to be the biggest inland water body in Zimbabwe. But it is the fish project that is taking off in this huge reservoir, which has a capacity to hold 1, 8 billion cubic metres of water that got me excited.

Sooner or later, the fish will have grown to harvestable size and age and logically they have to be harvested. The community has to benefit from the fish that will be collected from the dam, that is, if there are no serious incidents of poaching that may see them harvested to extinction even well before they reach maturity. It is common knowledge that there are always party spoilers that want to bath in a communal well from where all people draw their drinking water.

They will obviously take the slightest opportunity that come their way to poach the fish, usually at night when risks of being spotted are next to none. This is the group that is very dangerous, as they tend to use closely knit nets that capture everything in their path including the breeding stock. Sometimes they even abuse mosquito nets for the job.

Then there is the group that targets big fish and come with equally big nets and set them across the dam before making off with big catches. This is the group that does its business at commercial levels and do not want any revenue to filter through their fingers to the next person.

They will establish markets that are also into unscrupulous business dealing and exploit the resource until it’s finished. I remember on one of my numerous trips to Binga I almost concluded that someone had set up settlement structures and electrified them in the waters of the Mighty Zambezi River but later learnt that it was fishermen at work and the lights are used to bait big fish to the nets. These of course are people with fishing permits and do everything above board.

But for the extraction of a resource supposed to be communally owned from the dam and to be used for the benefit individuals is something else that is as nauseating to those that are excluded from the matrix as it is to those that catch the fish and are compelled by the sense of communalism to share the bounty, so the obvious will happen.

Individuals will fish illegally and leave during the night to sell their catch at daybreak. It will obviously be very difficult to ensure that this does not happen, as human beings are nefarious by nature and can always devise means and ways of escaping scrutiny when they are up to no good.

If armed soldiers and police details guarding the Chiadzwa diamond fields could be eluded by illegal panners who would sneak through the fence and get the precious stones to make good their escape with them, then Tokwe-Mukosi has an even more porous setting.

What I am saying here is that even if there is tight security, these poachers normally have a way of getting to their goal and succeeding in their missions. In some cases they even enlist the services of those tasked with protecting the resource, putting them on their payroll.

The question of who will police the police usually comes to the fore. Obviously there is no clear-cut answer to this one but there has to be a way of protecting the fish from poachers and allowing the community to get its share of the cake too lest Minister Mahofa and entourage’s noble effort to introduce this high quality protein source may come to nought.

If the worst comes to the worst, and assuming that poaching becomes a challenged proving difficult to contain, then turning to nature to protect its own may become necessary.

National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority may just need to introduce a few crocodiles to co-exist with the fish and poachers will be forced to choose between losing a limb or dear life for a few breams or waiting for regulated harvesting in which protection will be guaranteed. Yes, this sounds too harsh and absurd but I guess it may be a solution that can bring sanity to any water body where resource plundering is rife.

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