Paul Peter Andrea Tifude and his sons Paul Gaaniko and Paul Emmanuel say their family have been fishermen as long as they can remember.
Tifude and his two sons set off at six in the morning after preparing the fishing gear and collecting safari ants to lure the fish. They go to Nakpangau, a manmade lake in Western Equatoria State.
Typically, they arrive at the lake at around nine and set their banana stem onto the lake. Before he had the idea of floating a large banana stem as a raft, Tifude used baskets and nets for fishing. However, they prevented him from reaching the deeper parts of the lake and he faced the constant threat of reptiles.
The innovation of the banana stem boat, therefore, was a last-ditch attempt to keep his sons and himself safe and continue his profession.
“I have very little education,” says Tifude. “I was educated in Arabic schools but I did not go far, I therefore had to find out how to survive outside the office circles,” he explains, adding that his sons are also learning fishing, while also studying at school.
The ability to swim is key for fishermen, he says: “If you don’t know how to swim then the chances of drowning are very high. My sons and I are experts at swimming so there is no threat.”
Tifude explains that the best time for fishing is between ten in the morning and 12, because the fish are in the top layer of water scouting for food and there are no predators like water bats, flying birds and ducks hunting them because of the coldness.
While he is talking, his sons tie the nets and shove the banana stem boat into the water. “On a good day we catch over 50 fish,” Tifude says, adding that some of the fish that are caught are very small and so they return them into the water so they can continue growing.
Tifude says it did not cost him much to start the business. “I only invested 150 South Sudanese Pounds to start the business, this money helped me buy the net and the rest is down to my labour and constructive innovation,” he says.
After the catch, Tifude and family earn about 420 SSP daily and spend only a few pounds for buying essentials for their home. They save the rest.
“From the earnings, I have managed to acquire two plots of land and one and a half fedan of land,” Tifude says proudly, adding that his next project is to construct a permanent house for the family.
The 38-year-old Tifude hopes to build himself a wooden boat in the future instead of using the Banana stem boat that he has to replace every month, he also intends to get protective gear as they often face dangerous reptiles and water-borne diseases.
Tifude says it was vital that locals respect the water body: “In Zande culture, water is respect, blessings and life and should be treated as that, there is only one manmade lake here, if it is not protected and respected then it will die off,” he says, adding that some people wash cars, clothes and motorcycles in the lake and all rubbish from the surrounding recreational areas is thrown in the lake.
He says that this does not only pollute the water but also the living organisms in the lake. He therefore advises the people to stop using it for drinking as it is not good for consumption. The pollution weighs on the variety of fish available in the river, he says, causing problems for this generation and the next.