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The First Meeting

After introduction formalities by Peter Makaula, Professor Stauffer outlined the background of LMSRP. In his presentation he described trends that have been observed since the 1970’s where abundance of snail eating fishes in the lake was associated with low prevalence of schistosomiasis. However, when the population of these fishes declined due to over fishing, it resulted in increase of reported cases of schistosomiasis. This observation caused some people to start conducting research in Lake Malawi which has shown that there is a relationship between these fishes which breed in shallow waters and incidence of schistosomiasis. Dr. Madsen also explained how certain snail species peculiar in open waters of Lake Malawi were incriminated to be responsible for schistosomiasis in Cape Maclear. In the discussion that ensued, it was explained that the current research by the LMSRP in Cape Maclear is trying to demonstrate the linkage between snail-eating fishes, snails and incidence of schistosomiasis. However, for the research to draw up any meaningful conclusions there was a challenge to demonstrate that fishermen in Cape Maclear were over fishing the snail-eating fishes, including the young fishes, by fishing in shallow waters of the lake. There was a need to get them to stop this practice that threatens survival of fish populations in the lake. Previous attempts under Dr. McKaye have not succeeded as LMSRP does not believe in confrontational approaches. This is why LMSRP decided to invite the extension workers in order to get their views on how best to achieve a shallow water fishing ban by engaging the community in a dialogue.

In response, the extension workers were in agreement that it would be possible to achieve shallow water fishing ban objective by engaging the community in dialogue. They explained that through dialogue, community members would be made to understand the problems associated with shallow water fishing. Mr Chinguwo explained how the department of parks and wildlife is shifting from the law enforcement approach, where his department mostly clashed with the villagers, to a community-based approach where committees are formed and empowered to take a leading role in the conservation of natural resources, including fishes, in the park. He said that the community based approach is proving to be popular and successful. Mr Mataka concurred by explaining how cooperative fishermen are if approached through Beach Village Committees (BVC). In the end, there was consensus among the extension workers that LMSRP would be able to get the fishermen in Chembe to stop shallow water fishing if they sensitized them through the decentralized governance structures such as the village development committee (VDC) and BVC etc. However, it was observed that for the extension workers to successfully undertake this task, there was a need for some logistical support from LMSRP. To which Professor Stauffer and Dr Madsen agreed to help. The extension workers were asked to go back to discuss and come up with an implementation plan outlining what support they would need from LMSRP.