Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake by area, the world’s largest tropical lake. The lake has a shoreline of 7,142 km with islands constituting 3.7% of this length. Fishermen around Lake Victoria are soon to benefit from modern boat landing sites the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock Fisheries and Cooperatives is erecting in five of the beaches adversely affected by a rising lake.
Speaking at Sori, Migori County, Fisheries PS Mr. Francis Owino said the government had decommissioned the unfinished landing bay at the beach which has been partly submerged by the rising waters of the lake. The department of fisheries had allocated funds in the 2021/22 Financial Year for the facility which will have the capacity to process and store the fishermen’s catch before it is released into the market.
Since the total estimated catch from the Kenyan waters of Lake Victoria has recently increased, the government has identified higher grounds to reconstruct landing sites for Homa Bay’s Nyandiwa beach, Siaya’s Wichlum and Luanda Kotieno beaches and Kisumu’s Ogal beach, all of which have been affected by rising lake water.
According to the PS, “The government has factored in funds in the financial year 2021/22 to reconstruct the sites on higher ground so that fishermen can benefit from the Blue Economy potential at the lake sites.”
Information from Justus Habari, Sori Beach Management secretary, is that the old landing site was constructed in 2009. He expressed confidence that a fully operational facility will be a source of employment to the residents of Sori highlighting a steady increase in canoe numbers.
Jane Odondi, a fish processor at Sori Beach, decried the expiry of fish especially during the rainy season. “Omena normally goes to waste during the rainy season, but if we have a completely constructed storage facility at the landing site, then we’ll make profits through the year.” She called on the government to fast-track the construction of the modern landing bay so that they can fully exploit the fishing industry as a source of livelihoods.
For example, hippo viewing is one of the key attractions in Dunga Beach boat tour packages and provides visitors with the opportunity to view hippos at close proximity. The wetlands also provide a perfect fish breeding grounds for the fish in Lake Victoria, and host a breeding area for hippos.
Combating Pre-Existing Threats to Beach Life Around Lake Victoria
As for Dunga and Miyandhe, negative impacts due to weed infestation around papyrus, however, outweighed the above advantages by far. Water hyacinth inflicted detrimental impacts on the environment and socio-economic interests on Lake Victoria. The infestation disrupted socio-economic activities especially fishing, water transport, hydro-electricity generation and water abstraction and hiked treatment costs.
Fish species especially the lungfish and mudfish, which tolerate low oxygen levels, flourished on water hyacinth mats close to the more oxygenated zones. Infestation by resident water hyacinth mats along the shoreline seriously degraded near-shore wetlands.
Proper effluent treatment from settlements around the shores of the lake is a necessary prerequisite to improvement of water quality, but such facilities are non-existent, obsolete or inadequate. Unsustainable farming practices especially on the hilly zones of the Lake Victoria basin are seen to generate serious soil erosion during rainy seasons leaving behind a heap of garbage on the beaches.
The Lake Victoria shoreline has had a permanent fringe of water hyacinth. At some point, normal lake activities were completely disrupted in many beaches. Dunga and Miyandhe sites are some of the most reliable destinations in Kenya for the scarce and threatened papyrus yellow warbler.
Fishing villages could neither launch canoes nor land catches. Fishing nets were destroyed by the floating masses of weed. The operations of ferries and lake steamers were severely hampered if not stopped completely. Ports were brought to a complete standstill as boats could not pass through the thick mats of weed and power generation plants had their water intakes clogged.
The beaches around Lake Victoria though a home to these unique species of birds and animals, is under constant threat of degradation due to human activities such as land grabbing and encroachment that the ministry of Fisheries must also address.