How are you involved? And what do you do to help make lives better for the creatures that we share this beautiful planet with?
Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake, and one of the deepest in the world, is situated on the borders of Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique. Known for its variety of freshwater fishes, it has the largest number of fish species of any lake in the world. There are approximately one thousand different species swimming around it every day, nearly all endemic. All but five of an estimated three hundred and fifty species of Cichlidae are endemic to Malawi, and thirty percent of all known cichlid species swim in this lake. These fish have developed adaptive radiation and speciation due to the isolation of the remarkably clear lake from other bodies of water. 2 Unfortunately, with a population of over nine million, overfishing is diminishing the number of fish in Lake Malawi, and pollution through the use of fertilizers, and chemicals is damaging the ecosystem. 1
The Chambo Fish
The Chambo fish species, only found in Lake Malawi, are most commonly found either offshore on the lake, or at weedy points in the river. Typically swimming in groups, their numbers have been decreasing drastically. Besides overfishing and pollution, the water levels in Lake Malawi are dropping rapidly, and climate change is also affecting their numbers. Studies have shown that the water levels in the lake will continue to drop in the coming years, due to less rainfall and increased evaporation. The Chambo fish is facing extinction.
The government has reported that Lake Malawi may hold oil and gas reserves, which, if mining began, could lead to further losses. It is recognized, even by environmentalists how important oil is the country, but they are afraid that by discovering it the country will lose more biodiversity, and that the water sources will be badly impacted. Nearby uranium mining is also a huge pollution concern.
Local authorities and fisherman have been working together to address the dangers and concerns that the lake is faced with. Penalties have been put into place for those who break the rules, and they have been working on educating residents about the need to protect the lake. 3
The Outreach Scout Foundation
Jepher Ngwira is a volunteer leader with the Outreach Scout Foundation, which is the brainchild of Amon Lukhele. Outreach Scout Foundation is a non-profit group with a youth branch, consisting of youths who volunteer their time in part to conserve and protect the Chambo fish from extinction. First established in 2002, they are working towards the construction of fishponds specifically to raise these fish. They are also working on awareness campaigns so the residents located on the lakeshore resist the idea of overfishing. Most of the volunteers are between fourteen and thirty years old and from a variety of backgrounds. They don’t require a background in science or animals; they are people who are concerned about the depletion of natural living things. Their goal is to conserve about ninety percent of the Malawi environment and as many natural resources as possible. Agriculture, environmental, recycling, and the reusing of resources, water and sanitation, and youth empowerment are also addressed. In the past they have directly helped plant trees and educate society on why, and how, conservation of natural resources is so important.
The group’s mission is to make sure that living things, mainly animals, do not become extinct and are conserved. Their objectives include:
- To conserve fish species in Malawi’s water bodies
- To conserve other wild animals in Malawi
- To foster tree planting exercises
- To reduce deforestation
- To lobby government to enforce laws on game reserves and national parks
- To bring awareness to the people, especially in rural areas, to find alternative ways to find money rather than exploiting the environment.
- To sensitize the citizens of Malawi on the need to conserve natural living things, such as animals and fish
- To provide alternative ways to sourcing money through education and training for communities
- To introduce animal clubs in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions
- To introduce fish ponds in many areas of Malawi
As a group they also participate in organized hikes to view birds and other wild animals, and in the future they would also like to get into more agricultural work by establishing gardens and growing produce.
“WHAT WE DREAM IS TO CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE ANIMALS AND OTHER CREATURES SUFFER NO MORE EXTINCT ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH!”-Jepher Ngwira and the Outreach Scout Foundation Youths