How fish auction has streamlined the trade in L Edward

Fish traders and brokers participate in a fish auction business referred to as 'Okuvuganya' in Nyankole language at Rwenshama Beach of Lake Edward in Bwambara, Western Uganda.[Kevine Omollo,Standard]

It is 9am at Rwenshama Beach in Bwambara, Rukungiri District in Western Uganda.

Loud murmurs emerge from the fish collection points as traders engage in an auction run by brokers.

A fish auction activity referred to as ‘Okuvuganya’ in the local Nyankole language is ongoing, with women shouting at the top of their voices.

A broker lifts fish and shouts to open the bid. Armed with Ugandan currency in their palms, the traders shout back as they mention their bids. And within a short time, the highest bidder takes the day, and the process is repeated.

The activity is common in this lake, with strong structures to enable transparency and fairness.

Thirty-seven-year-old Ahabwe Ali has been doing this job for 10 years now, and he is a famous broker at the beach.

According to Mr Ali, the over 90 brokers at the beach access fish from the fishermen, and take them to the collection point to wait for buyers.

The fish is put in a basin made of concrete, and fish traders bid for each piece until the last fish is sold.

“Broking is allowed here and it is done in a transparent manner. Fishermen spend the night in the lake fishing, and do not need to worry about selling their fish again,” he says.

He says broking is considered part of the vital marketing chain of the fish, and their work helps to reduce risk of losses to both the traders and the fishermen.

“When we come to the beach, we buy all the fish from the fishermen, so they just get back to their homes to rest as they wait to venture into the lake the next evening,” he said.

The brokers then stay with the fish at the beach for as long as buyers come. And in case of fluctuation of the prices of fish, or lack of buyers, they bear the burden.

Mwesigwa Jones is the Parish Chief (head of the beach). His work is to ensure that the business goes on smoothly.

As the accounting officer, he ensures that the fishermen, traders and the brokers pay their rates as provided for by the bylaws, and that the government regulations on use of the lake resources is maintained.

“Like now this beach is allowed to have not more than 60 fishing boats, so we have to ensure that is adhered to,” he said.

He has been a broker before, and he quit when he joined the management of the beach about half a decade ago.

To him, fish auction is the best way to conduct trade in the area, and since he began the trade, he says he is yet to experience any form of exploitation by the brokers.

“The prices here are driven by demand and supply, so when the buyers come, they just bid for the fish they want, and if there is an agreement, they pay for it. Some just come and sit around to wait for the prices to go down, but this depends on the quantity of fish available for the specific day,” he said.

Ananias Mutabazi, the Fisheries Officer at Bwambara Sub County says proper management at Rwenshana fish landing site has seen end to cases of exploitation.

With the help of the military police, the management has managed to instill discipline in the way the run their business, ranging from using best fishing practices, and disposing their catch.

“We have not been able to get reports of improper practices at the landing site, and the fishermen, brokers and traders work harmoniously without any group crying foul. They just have to understand their roles and do it well,” he said.