Watching the news on NBC I became aware of the 2010 international angling (a fancy type of fishing) competition in Rundu. As I watched anglers speak about how the event promotes sustainable fishing, the irony of this event came into sharp focus. The anglers interviewed and filmed in action at the Kavango river were all whites and I wonder whether any black anglers from Namibia or other SADC countries are taking part. How ironic it is that these white men and women – who traveled from afar – are spreading a message of sustainable fishing, while the local black fishing community appears to be absent from the event. I do not blame the local black people for being absent; they probably cannot afford the angling rod let alone the motor powered boats necessary to compete. If people in the Kavango have come under fire from our politicians for using mosquito nets for fishing, one can only speculate on how destitute these local fishermen (and women) are. Hence, the angling competition allows me to discuss a challenge to malaria prevention in way that you will hopefully find entertaining.
I nearly burst out in laughter when the NBC reporter said that this competition was founded in 1999 by local anglers. Fair enough, there could be local anglers in Rundu, but I presume they constitute a minority that one would not call Okavango speaking. I sincerely hope they were some black, Okavango speaking, anglers who navigated the water of the Kavango rivers in search of those big fish. At least then these people would be ambassadors of their respective local communities. These people could disseminate the message of sustainable fishing and good – non mosquito net – fishing practices to the locals, who would perceive them as “one of our own”.
Fishing with mosquito nets is definitely a way of catching food when one has no other means. I wonder whether cooperation between the angling community, the local government and local fishers can find a sustainable alternative to use of mosquito nets. Indeed, it is easy to bemoan the misuse of nets and tell people that using them for fishing is “unacceptable” but it is more challenging to find a solution to this problem. Hunger is the underlying issue and I feel that all the relevant stakeholders (especially those with no steak) can work together to find a solution.
Now, do you expect me to come with a solution in this letter? Sorry, I need to read about the evolution of the malaria Plasmodium vivax parasite and how it affects Asians who were previously genetically resistant to it. In Namibia too, I have heard anecdotal accounts of people living in malaria zones of being “immune” to the parasite, which may not be as dubious as it sounds given resistance observed in West Africa. However, we must remember that the parasite is also evolving and so must our public health intervention. So would anyone like to donate some fishing nets?