We Sit Down with Joyce Ikwaput Nyeko, Our Newest Board Member

2020, while a difficult year in many regards, signalled many promising opportunities for ACARE. One of these was the announcement of Joyce Ikwaput Nyeko as a member of our Board of Directors.

While the announcement was exciting enough, we wanted to sit down with Joyce to get a better sense of the work she does, and what fresh perspectives she hopes to bring to how ACARE works to protect the African Great Lakes.

Amid a power cut and a ten-hour time difference, we managed to virtually sit down with Joyce to discover more…

Tell us about yourself, Joyce—who you are, the work that you do, and why you love it so much…

I am the Acting Director of Fisheries Resources Management for Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries of the Government of Uganda and I am based here in Entebbe, Uganda.

Basically, that means I am the technical head of the sector. I am responsible for legal and policy issues, development of strategy and guidelines, and overall supervision of what goes on in Uganda’s fisheries sector. It’s a lot of work—my phone is always ringing, and I am always in meetings!

I have a massive passion for it, and I have done it for years. I also get to travel around the country and see all of our lakes, learning a lot from others and the diversity of our land. So yes, I love my work!

It all stems from my education; when I was at university studying biology I always tended towards fisheries. I was born and had grown up on the shores of Lake Kyoga, and so fisheries was an obvious fit, and the rest of my education and career stemmed from there.

How long have you been working with ACARE?

I actually haven’t been working with ACARE for too long; I was introduced to their work when I participated in a workshop with them here in Entebbe. My long-time friend Ted Lawrence (Executive Director of ACARE) first made the connection. I have known him for ten years, ever since he came to Uganda to do field research and data collection.

ACARE has gone through so many great changes in the last year. Partnering with the International Institute for Sustainable Development was an exciting move that has opened up endless possibilities of making clear connections with the Laurentian Great Lakes—sharing knowledge and finding shared solutions.

What do you hope to bring to ACARE as a member of the Board of Directors? How do you want to take ACARE to the next level?

When I first joined ACARE, and started attending the meetings, I realized the organization was mostly a cohort of researchers discussing mainly research issues. I have always felt that research is incredibly important, but it has greatest impact when it links up with and leads to management, if we were truly intend to improve the health of our fisheries.

I therefore helped to bring about a more diverse composition of the advisory groups, to include managers who are on the ground who can inform where research needs to go and what questions need to be answered.

This is where the role of science communication comes in. Academic papers can exist in small circles and in publications on shelves for years, but if their findings are communicated to a wider range of actors, they take life in management structures and practices—to have the impact on the ground that they need to have.

As part of the Board of Directors, I am hoping to further this process.

We are, unfortunately, speaking in 2021 while the world is still amid a global pandemic, and the measures implemented in response.
How has COVID affected your work and the Ugandan fisheries sector more broadly?

There has been a massive impact.

Here in Uganda, like most countries, we went into lockdown. Luckily, I was issued a sticker to permit me, deemed an essential worker, to maintain a skeletal presence at the office. People working in the field, however, were limited in their movement to minimize the chance to transferring the disease.

Trade has also been greatly affected from Uganda. First up, fishermen have had limited access to lakes which limits their production. Then, cargo planes and other modes of transportation out of the country have been reduced, limiting how much can be exported from the country.

The result of this? Many lost jobs and an impact on the economy and therefore government revenue.

Of course, we can recover, but it all depends on when a solution is found, and how much time we can make up.

The African Center for Aquatic Research and Education (ACARE) was established to help strengthen and harmonize science and information exchange through a highly collaborative network of freshwater experts.

The international team of multi-disciplinary experts at the International Institute for Sustainable Development delivers the knowledge to act. We tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems by conducting innovative research, generating evidence and championing sustainable solutions.

For more information about the content on this page, the IISD-ACARE program, or ACARE, contact:
Dr. Ted Lawrence

Executive Director, ACARE

+1.734.730.2038

ted@agl-acare.org