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People and the River



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Near water bodies such as rivers, lakes, and water impoundments artisanal fishing (i.e. traditional fishing practices) makes a vital contribution to livelihoods. The intensity can range from subsistence fishing, where the catch is either consumed or sold as part of the family economy, to larger operations.

Catch of the day, Angola.
Source: Tump 2004
( click to enlarge )


Small-scale fishing is an important livelihood for many Angolans, especially in the villages along the coast outside the Kunene river basin such as Tombua, and Baia dos Tigres, which used to be commercial fishing centres (ERM 2009). At the Kunene River mouth there are no fishing activities.

Subsistence or near-subsistence fishing activities within the Kunene basin can be found in Kunene Province, in the lower middle section of the catchment (ERM 2009). The same holds true further upstream in the Middle and Upper Kunene. A variety of fish are delivered to the floodplains in the Middle Kunene basin during the periodic flows of the chanas (called iishana in Namibia). Livelihoods derived from the consumption and sale of these fish complement the livelihoods associated with "regular" fish resources accessible year-round.


In the Namibian part of the basin fish stocks are not currently exploited to a considerable degree, given that population density is low and the Herero-speaking Pastoralists inhabiting the area along the lower part on the Kunene do not normally eat fish.

The following box presents an excerpt on artisanal fishery in the middle reaches of the Kunene basin in Angola.

Artisanal Fishery in the Middle Kunene

In the Middle Kunene fresh fish is no less appreciated than beef, pork, goat, or antelope meat. There are four or five more common species of fish: the catfish (called omuloi, in Latin clarias capensis), the “false sardine” (called onthangu), the onkhunga (a predatory fish similar to the pike), and another good scaled fish, the otyikende. Fishing is practiced by both men and women, although principally by women. It is a particularly profitable activity for the people living directly at the Kunene River and to a lesser extent for those inhabiting the riverine lands of its tributaries: the Kakuluvar and Chitanda Rivers. The best time for fishing is the dry season, when the water of the rivers and lagoons – the so called talas – is at a low level. The people use different methods such as spearing the fish or trapping them in baskets. In the old days they frequently resorted to poisoning the water with toxic plants.

Source: adpated from Estermann 1979




Explore the sub-basins of the Kunene River

Video Interviews about the integrated and transboundary management of the Kunene River basin

View a historical timeline of the Kunene basin countries, including water agreements & infrastructure

Video scenes about the limited access to water of the San in Kunene Province