Research focus

Making sense of freshwater biodiversity and inland fisheries

“The idea is to go from numbers to information to understanding”Hans Rosling (1948-2017).

The world development agenda, at least for the next 15 years will be shaped by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A packet of 17, the SDGs aim at transforming the world, with the goals focusing on virtually all aspects of humanity, the earth and the problems they face. The goals are perceived as the greatest tool for development than any other set before. The consultation process that resulted into the goals was described by Ban Ki-moon, the former UN secretary General as the “most inclusive and transparent negotiation process in UN history”. Indeed, the UN and partners facilitated My World surveys that reached about 5 million people spread over the world during the consultation.  Wide consultation was intended to ensure that SDGs were universal, to leave behind no aspects of humanity and the earth.

However, inland fisheries are paradoxically missing in the SDGs (Cook et al. 2016) with no goal specific to the fisheries on which millions of people, particularly in developing countries depend.

Acknowledging that the achievement on some targets spread across goals such as 6, 12, 13, and 15 can benefit inland fisheries, they are primarily developed for the respective key aspects such as sanitation and terrestrial ecosystems. Cooke et al (2016) indicate that lack of reliable data on inland fisheries and their importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services is responsible for recurrent absence of inland fisheries in high policy documents despite their immense importance to food security in poor communities.  The African Great Lakes, together with other inland fisheries resources in Africa will suffer most from the absence of inland fisheries in sustainable development frameworks because inland fisheries in Africa are the most threatened than anywhere in the world apart from Asia (Welcomme et al. 2010). They suffer multiple stressors including climate change (Ogutu-ohwayo et al. 2016).

Our work, that is in its early period seeks to mobilize and use data to increase the understanding of the importance of inland aquatic biodiversity and fisheries in Africa as well as their challenges. This is indispensable for guiding innovations for sustainability and resilience. It is envisaged this will also develop capacity of policy makers, fishery managers, local communities and civil organizations to manage and conserve inland aquatic biodiversity and fisheries in Africa. The goal is to contribute to the sustainability and resilience of the African Great Lakes and inland fisheries.

We embrace research projects/activities that involve data mobilization, developing capacity, biodiversity conservation and fisheries management, dissemination and outreach.


Cooke, S.J. et al. 2016. On the sustainability of inland fisheries: Finding a future for the forgotten. Ambio, DOI 10.1007/s13280-016-0787-4.

Ogutu-Ohwayo, R., et al. 2016. Implications of climate variability and change for African lake ecosystems, fisheries productivity, and livelihoods, Journal of Great Lakes Research, 42(3), 498-510.

Welcomme, R.L. et al. 2010. Inland capture fisheries. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B. Biol. Sci., 365(1554): 2881–2896.

An indication of major inland lake ecosystems in Africa (Source: Wikipedia; The African Great Lakes of Africa). The basins of these lakes are comprised of several other small lakes, rivers and streams of immense importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services.