In Africa, subsistence-level pond-based system has been the focus since the 1950s, with cage aquaculture starting in the 1980s in sub-Saharan Africa. The benefits of cage fish farming include: poverty alleviation, employment, community development, reduction of exploitation of wild fish stocks, increase in fish supplies and export earnings for the country. However, cage operations also affect water environment and socio-economic activities of other resource users. NaFIRRI has been monitoring the water environment within and around cages but there is scarcity of information on impact of cages on socio-economic activities of surrounding communities. Since socio-economic elements are at the core of most developmental initiatives, a study was carried out in the communities (Bugungu, Busaana and Namusenyu-Buikwe district) close to established cage fish farms on Lake Victoria. The aim was to assess whether established cages are threatening fishing, navigation/transport, recreation, tourism, cultural services, or agricultural activities of the surrounding communities.
Therefore, a cross-sectional study was carried out on households at or near landing sites close to cage fish farms. Data was collected from: capture fishers, navigators, farmers, fish traders, retail business (restaurants, bars, shops and other small business), local leaders as well as fish farms managers. Of the total (n=178) respondents, 57.3% were fishers, 1.12% were involved in shipping, 10% in crop or livestock farming, 23.6% were fish traders while 6.8% were involved in retail business (restaurants, bars, shops and other small business) at the landing sites. Of the total respondents (n=178), 59.5% (n=106) reported negative impact of the farms on fishing. Among these (n=106) respondents, 50 (47%) were from Busaana, 36 (34%) were from Bugungu and the rest, 20 (19%) were residents of Namusenyu. Complaints such as: cages reduced fishing space and restriction of fishers and navigators from operating close to cages by farms were reported in all the communities studied, with the severity of these impacts varying according to the locality and fish farm operation. Other perceived negative impacts such as: dispersion of fish making it hard to catch due to the use of what they termed “noise equipment” was reported in Busaana; while dispersion of fish by light from fish farms was reported at Namusenyu. Respondents also indicated to have benefited from some cage fish farms through buying fish and gaining income through part time jobs. These results suggest that fishing was the most negatively affected of all the socio-economic activities. It is important that farm management put in place all considerations agreed upon during the initial stages of the project to create trust and ensure cooperation with the residents of communities the farm is located.