Lake Kyoga

Lake Kyoga in Uganda

Lake Kyoga is a big shallow lake located in central Uganda, 914 m above sea level. Kyoga has finger-like extensions with a surface of 1,720 square kilometers. The lake’s normal depth is 3 metres with a maximum depth of 5.7 metres. The Victoria Nile runs via Lake Kyoga from Lake Victoria to Lake Albert.

Lake extensions of the Lake Kyoga are Lake Kwania, Lake Opeta and Lake Bisina. The finger-like lakes are visibly surrounded by marshland. Almost all the lakes in Lake Kyoga basin are low, typically getting a depth of only roughly 8 meters with Lake Opeta forming a separate lake during arid seasons.

Lake Kyoga has got three different ecological zones including the open water deeper than 3 m; the water less than 3 m, which is covered wholly with water lilies and water hyacinth plus the swamps largely papyrus that outlay the shores. The papyrus is extensively used for making mats, roof thatches, fishing floats as well as water rafts.

The lake is endowed with a wider biodiversity including flora and fauna like the Cyperus Papyrus, Cattail (Typha spp.), Hyppo Grass (Vossia Cuspidate), Water Lettuce (Pistia stratiodes) and Water Lily (Nymphea spp) among others. There are also huge crocodile populations in the lake.

There are 46 diverse fish species that inhabit the Lake Kyoga most of which are widespread. The Lates niloticus commonly known as the Nile Perch was brought into the lake in the late 1950s to upsurge the fish production in the country. The Nile Perch increase led to nearly complete elimination of many domestic fish species like the Tilapia esculenta, Clarias mossambicus, Synodontis victoriae, Tilapia variabilis, Barbus kiogae, Engraulicypris argentus, Schilbe mystus, Haplochromis macrodon and Mormyrus kanumme among the many.

Lake Kyoga formation was due to a complex of earth movement that began in the Miocene Epoch (earliest major global division of the Neogene Period (23 million years to 2.6 million years ago) that extended from 23 million to 5.3 million years ago). The Miocene Epoch eventually resulted into the Western Rift Valley faulting brought by reversal of the preceding east-west drainage. In the process, River Kafu once flowing westwards started to flow eastwards leading to the formation Lake Kyoga by the ponding-back of the Kafu River. The lake thus is positioned in the flooded branches of the low west-flowing Kafu River. The lake get the outflow from the Victoria Nile and is drained northward and then westward over the low northern side of the Rift scarp (the Murchison Falls) to Lake Albert.

Lake Kyoga has got enough water due to the fact that it gets two rainy seasons, the first one running from October to December, whereas the second one falls between March and May. During the dry season of December to February, the temperatures in Northern Uganda get higher than in the South. Therefore, the lake together with Uganda at large have in common tropical climate moderated by the height above sea level.

Lake Kyoga has a catchment expanse of about 75,000 sq. km with the main human accomplishments in the Lake Basin being fishing, cultivation and livestock farming.

Lake Kyoga is also dotted with bulky islands of papyrus and water hyacinth mats (sudds). Due to poor farming practices in the lake’s catchment area and siltation brought by the Victoria Nile made the sudds habitable by fishermen around 1997-1998. These bad practices and occurrences have continuously reduced the quality and quantity of the lake at large.