The Great Lakes of Africa include some of the largest and most
ecologically diverse freshwater systems on the planet. Twisting
down the two arms of the Great Rift Valley like a chain of
sapphires, the lakes are located in nine countries in East and
Eight of the 15 lakes in this region are
considered to rank as "great lakes," a testimony to their size
and depth. Lake Victoria, located between Uganda to the west and Tanzania
and Kenya to the east, ranks as the second-largest freshwater
lake in the world after the U.S.' Lake Superior. Lake Taganayika,
located on the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo
and Tanzania, ranks as one of the deepest. Each lake has its own
eco-system, dependent on rainfall, proximity to the equator and
The region's rich soils provide a powerful lure for humans.
Several million Bantu-speaking people live within 50 miles of Lake
Victoria, making it one of the most heavily populated areas in
Africa. Population densities are similarly high along the shores of
Lake Tanganyika. Fishing -- primarily of tilapia species, but also of
Nile perch -- provides the main livelihood. With four Great Lakes on its borders, Uganda ranks as
one of the world's largest producers of freshwater fish.
But, pollution, introduction of non-native fish and over-fishing have all
wreaked havoc. Despite their beauty, the Great Lakes also rank as one of the world's most
endangered water systems.