The Sudanese proverb raises the question: Does the fool drown in his search for water or is he saved by it? And who is, in fact, this fool? Given the wasteful and unfair dealings of mankind with this dwindling resource – aren’t we all? While doing research on water, The Niles correspondents in South Sudan and Sudan met fishermen who deal carefully with the water that nourishes them and business people who exploit the resource without restraint. They report on conflicts around water but also on exemplary projects where water is shared peacefully. In short, the fool is still swimming, but for how long?
16 The Niles Fish & Ships Some of the most common fish in the Nile 1. Bayad (Bagrus bajad) 2. Fahaka pufferfish (Tetraodon lineatus) 3. Electric catfish (Malapterurus electricus) Illustrations by Mayu Nakai “We await October with much hope and high expectations.” “Blue Nile fish are tastier” Zadu Abdullah Hussein, from Wad Hamid district, River Nile State, is an old hand at fishing and lives in a straw cottage, just a stone’s throw from the Blue Nile River. Amid the refreshing drizzle, ‘Am (uncle) Zadu’ stands at the entrance to Al-Mawrada port in the ancient city of Omdurman, surrounded by the flowing Blue Nile water. He offers a warm smile and the energetic handshake of a 20-year-old lad. Osman Shinger | Khartoum How long have you been a fisherman in this river? I have worked as a fisherman for more than 36 years. I get up at five in the morning, pull my boat toward the deep water and wait for my ordained fortune given by the bounteous river waters. Are there plenty of fish in this river? My livelihood is a God-ordained thing. Sometimes, I have plenty of fish. Once, I started my fishing day from early morning until sunrise without catching a single fish. On other occasions, though, the quantity of caught fish overweighed the market’s need. Livelihood is a matter destined by God. Which is the best fishing time of the year? October is the best fishing season. We await this season with much hope and high expectations. In that month, we sell a lot of fish and save enough money to cover our families’ day-to-day needs. Why is October the best fishing season? In October, plenty of water comes rushing from upper Blue Nile carrying fertile silt with lots of food for the fish. It is the bumper fishing season. You have been in this job for more than 36 years. You must have a lot of stories and anecdotes to tell about the sea. There are of course plenty of tales, but most of them are popular folk tales. For example, most of the stories about crocodiles are not true. Some say crocs kill their victims by their tails which is pure fabrication. They in fact kill their victims with their teeth, but their swift attack and awful manoeuvrability mislead some people into believing that they kill their victims by their tail. Have you ever encountered a crocodile? Do you have any stories about them? Of course, I have seen many crocodiles, but I have never been attacked by them. There is a small island, 12 kilometres from the Blue Nile River where crocodiles rest. Once, I sailed to that island. I was a bit tired and decided to have a short nap under the shade of a tree. When I opened my eyes, I found five crocodiles sleeping near me. They were amazingly quiet and unmoving. I left the place quietly and they did not wake up. “The White Nile is like an old man.” Is there anything else in the sea that could threaten humans? There is of course the large hippo. This animal though is not available in the Blue Nile. Did you hear about the Ethiopian ‘Renaissance Dam’? It is said this dam will boost fishing in the coming years. Yes, I heard about it on TV, but I do not have much knowledge about it. As you know, we are simple fishermen who earn their living from the river. Our livelihood lies in this deep water. We have no complaints of any sort. There is plenty of fish in here, praise the Lord. However, if this dam will give us more fish, that is also good. Some believe that Blue Nile fish taste better than White Nile fish. Why is that? That is true. Blue Nile fish has a distinctive taste, much better than White Nile fish because Blue Nile water is in constant rolling water which gives the fish a more distinctive taste unlike the comparatively slow moving waters of White Nile with no fatty food for the fishes. What fish species do you catch? There are numerous species. Many species are in demand in the market. However, two species are particularly preferred by the people here, namely the Nile Perch and the Nile Catfish. Have you fished in the White Nile River? Yes, that was many years ago. As I told you, White Nile water is unchangeable and comparatively stagnant. Therefore, the fish there is not tasty. That is why I turned to Blue Nile for fishing. It is a fast flowing river. So you are not fond of the White Nile River. (Laughing) This is not entirely true. It is all a question of sustenance. My source of living is the Blue Nile. I got used to this river for the past many years to the extent that I do not visit my family very often because my fishing job takes much of my time. And both the White and Blue Nile constitute the mighty Nile, don’t they? That is right. To me, the Blue Nile looks like a sturdy young man. Its water is so powerful while the White Nile is like an old man who walks quietly and slowly. Old like me! (He laughs). Fresh fish thanks to an old man. Zadu Abdullah Hussein at work. Photo: Osman Shinger theniles6_20151123.indd 16 2015/11/23 2:13 PM
The Niles 17 Fishing in Juba A chat with two fishermen and their customer along the banks of the Nile in Juba. Simon Bingo | Juba “If God blesses you and you catch two fish, you don’t eat it all.” South Sudan’s natural resources extend beyond its oil. The Nile has abundant fish, enabling some locals to feed their families or even earn a basic income. But despite the local fish stocks, South Sudan currently imports fish. Fishermen and their customer gathered on the banks of the Nile in Juba and discussed their trade. Farsala Ismail, fisherman: “You know what? The fish they bring in from abroad don’t taste of anything. Our fish tastes great. It is fresh and has no chemicals. Everybody loves it. Fishing is tricky. We depend on luck. If God blesses you and you catch two fish, you don’t eat it all. You eat like a rat, nibbling small pieces. You sell one fish to pay for your children’s school fees and you use the rest of your money to buy food. Sometimes, if it is a bad day, the boat will be idle and you and the children will not eat that day. That is our life here.” Jackson Wani, a businessman who buys fish from the fishermen: “Juba people like Juba fish because it is fresh. Look at this one, they have just caught it from the river now, I will take it alive to the market. Everything is fresh. The fish from outside South Sudan takes two, three, or even four days to arrive. It is not fresh. This fish here is still alive.” Stephen Wani, fisherman: “What we want from the government is support - timber and fishing nets. That would help us feed our families and supply Juba with fish. That is what we lack. If the government is listening to us, let them help us.” theniles6_20151123.indd 17 2015/11/23 2:13 PM