Fri Oct 21 15:14:28 SAST 2016

FEAR of the Zambezi

By unknown | Nov 16, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

SHANGOMBO - The Zambezi is home to the fishing community on Mbeta Island in Zambia.

SHANGOMBO - The Zambezi is home to the fishing community on Mbeta Island in Zambia.

But after the river rose and "swallowed" their homes last year, they have learnt to fear it as well.

Mulemwa Kalaluka is a renowned fisherman on the island. He said he prefered catching fish the traditional way, using a spear and fish trap as he expertly navigates the river in his fishing boat.

He was happy and said this season the fish was plentiful because he managed to catch enough to feed his family and to sell some to traders from bigger towns.

Mbeta is mainly a fishing community, but residents do a little farming as well, especially during periods when water levels are high or when there is a government closure of fishing activities to allow fish to breed.

Last year's floods - which submerged this large island, forcing people to flee - are still fresh in the minds of people as the rainy season begins again.

"Those were particularly hard times," said Kalaluka when asked what he remembers about the 2008-09 floods, the worst since 1958, according to locals.

"At first we ignored the announcement by local leaders to move. We thought the rain would pass like it does every year," he said.

Kalaluka said by the time they realised that something unusual was happening, it was too late to prepare. Hundreds sheltered at the Mbeta basic school, but after two days the school itself was flooded.

People were evacuated from the island in fishing boats and on rafts as the water rose seemingly by the second. In the rush livestock was lost and very little of the maize, rice and other staples were saved.

The whole district of Shangombo, where Mbeta Island is, was flooded and completely cut off from the rest of the country as bridges were washed away. Residents were evacuated to higher lands such as a former refugee camp at Namgweshi. - Sapa-IPS


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