Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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The interaction of residents of Hawassa city and rural areas with the lake takes different forms and involves diverse interests - livelihood interest being the most important one. This study mainly focused on understanding the local people’s livelihood-based interaction with Lake Hawassa through fishing practices. The study further aimed at exploring the socio-economic and legal (policy) factors that have been affecting, positively or negatively, the fishers-lake interaction. Data has been collected through qualitative (observation, in-depth interviews, FGDs and case studies) method and supported with some quantitative (questionnaire survey) method. The study result reveals that Lake Hawassa provides diverse services to the population inhabiting its catchments: scenic setting for tourism and associated diverse businesses, and water for irrigation and city beautification, all contributing to people’s livelihood in one way or another. In the two major fish landing sites, Amora Gedel and Fiker Hayik, which are the focus of the present study, fishing and related activities constitute either the major livelihood strategy or a supplementary means of income for 1000-1500 people. Main actors in these activities include: individual fishers, fishers organized into cooperatives and suppliers of fish products for market at Lake Hawassa. In this regard, social networks play a key role serving as a means of value/supply chain, employment and cluster-based fishing practices. Fishing activities at Lake Hawassa seem to be increasing over time. For instance, while the maximum carrying capacity of the lake’s fishing is said to be 750nets/day, currently there are 1200-1400 nets/day operating on the lake. The number of people involved in fishing at the two major landing sites also increased three times from around 300 in the past five years to around 900. Currently the daily income of fishers ranges between 250 and 500 ETB, which correspond to the production of 32 and 50 Kgs of fish respectively. Fishers try to maximize their livelihood interest or fish production and income by using officially prohibited gill nets, reducing the mesh size and fishing more than once per day. These informal ways of trying to increase fishing with the aim of improving livelihood goals obviously put pressure on the fish resources at the lake. In addition, competing claims between members of different cooperatives over access to fishing grounds by setting imaginary or informal boundaries are causing net thefts and leading to conflict. Therefore, local communities’ increasing socioeconomic interests in fish resources, their struggle to maintain access to the lake to sustain their livelihood on the one hand, and inadequate management practices or rules by institutions in charge of natural resources management on the other, are exposing the lake’s fishery and other resources to pressure. This is creating conditions that could serve as a threat to the sustainability of the lake's resources and people’s relations as well as livelihood in the long run.