Kenya: The Lake Victoria Basin in Distress
BY CARL ODERA, 14 JANUARY 2014
Standing at Gabba, a fish-landing site in Kampala, Uganda, a rising sun painted a swathe of yellow gold, dotted with dark silhouettes of boats and fishermen returning ashore after a night’s fishing expedition.
For generations men and women have fished the waters of the Lake Victoria and the River Nile for subsistence and recently for commercial export. The lake is the second largest freshwater lake in the world and boasts the world’s largest freshwater fishery. It is the source-feed of the world’s longest river, the Nile, supporting some estimated 30 million riparian populations.
The lake’s total fish production is estimated at one million tonnes, worth $650 million, according to a 2007 Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation report.
In Uganda, the National Environment Management Authority estimates that “over two million people are directly or indirectly employed in the fishing industry… contributing 2.5 per cent of the country’s GDP”.
In 1992-2000, it contributed more than 93 per cent of the fish that landed annually in Kenya. In the last few decades, activities on the basin have increasingly come into conflict, with the result of making the Lake environmentally unstable. Experts warn that more than ever before, the lake basin is facing numerous threats.
An evening boat trip with a group of fishermen in Kisumu revealed the agonising reality of declining stocks on the lake. After four hours of trawling the lake, Joseph Otieno was a dejected man. The trawl had only harvested a handful daggas and Nile Perch fingerlings. Otieno has witnessed the constant decline in fish stock since his 2005 start as a fisherman. “In 2006 my brother took a loan to build a few boats. We were doing well, but nowadays it is very bad. I cannot make enough (money) to take my children to school.”
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