Island on Lake Victoria
Photo Credit: Damalie Hirwa

MAF conducts survey flight on Lake Victoria, as it prepares to use a float plane to serve isolated communities on over 200 islands. 

Some of the world’s most unreached people live on the islands of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake and second-largest freshwater lake in the world, shared by three East African countries; Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.

There is lack of essential facilities like schools and hospitals due to the complex geographical location of the islands, that make transport to those areas very difficult. 

Mission Aviation Fellowship has for over 20 years flown Jesus Film Ministries, a Christian NGO to Lake Victoria’s Bukasa islands, from where they connect to other islands by boat, to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Unfortunately, due to transport challenges, Jesus Film Ministries like other organisations are unable to serve all the 200 plus islands on the lake. The main transport means is canoes, which have led to some major accidents and loss of lives. 

“A float plane will mean that island communities can be reached easily in terms of time and safety of transport. It will also help to connect to all islands directly. Some people don’t go to the islands because they fear to travel on boat, a float plane will encourage the work of the church and other humanitarian organisations on the islands,” said Sam Tsapwe, Director, Jesus Film Ministries.

“The health conditions on the islands are very poor and it’s like that’s the way it should be because professionals are not attracted to go there as they fear for their lives due to accidents on the lake.” 

MAF flies Jesus Film Ministries to Bukasa Airfield
Photo Credit: Damalie Hirwa

On August 2, 2023, 25 people died in a boat that capsized on Lake Victoria. Most of the people that died came from a community that Jesus Film Ministries, supported by MAF, serves.

This incident, coupled with requests from a number of partners, and a strong desire to serve people in remote communities, has prompted MAF to embark on a project to purchase a float plane, that will help deliver help, hope and healing to the islands of Lake Victoria. 

“Bringing a float plane to MAF Uganda will allow us to continue our mission to bring help, hope and healing to remote communities by enabling us to reach some of the most isolated people in the country, on Lake Victoria,” MAF Uganda’s country director, Ruth Jack, said. 

“The people who live on the small islands scattered across the lake have little or no access to health or education resources, and the quality of life for many is very poor. We’re excited to be able to reach them with essential services and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Lwanabatya fishing community
Photo Credit: Damalie Hirwa

The float plane would go a long way in helping these communities. Lake Victoria has one privately owned airstrip, located on Bukasa island. The rest of the 200 plus islands have no airstrips and would need to be served by a float plane.

In their preliminary stages of establishing what it would take for them to have a float plane serve communities on Lake Victoria, MAF’s survey flight aimed to answer these questions.

  • Where the people in need are located on the islands?
  • Where it is safe for a MAF plane to land their aircraft?
  • The water conditions on the islands, how smooth it is in the different possible docking places?
  • What could be the suitable areas for routine flight services?

Once all this is established, MAF will then work to establish the nature of aircraft suitable to serve on the lake.

Pilot Martin Zimmermann who made the survey flight said, “Before the flight, seven possible sites were determined. Two on Bugala Island, one on Nukusa Island, one on Buyovu Island, one on Bukasa Island, and two on Bubeke Island; all part of Ssese Islands. 

“The farthest community we surveyed on this flight was 90 km from Kajjansi. By air we can get there in about 30 minutes but it would take several hours if you have to get there by car and boat.

“It is exciting to think what ministry opportunities the float plane will offer to these communities.” 

Lwanabatya landing site
Photo Credit: Damalie Hirwa