Lake Victoria is the second biggest fresh water lake in the world and Africa’s most important source of inland fishery.
The lake yields over 800,000 metric tons of fish every year that supports over 200,000 families direct and a total population of two million people.
Before 2017 the fish yields in the lake had experienced a significant decline to 90,000 metric tons annually.
The decline in the fish production in Lake Victoria can be associated with overfishing, illegal fishing, water hyacinth as well as failure to embrace modern fishing methods.
In November 2019, President Uhuru Kenyatta through the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock announced the government’s plan to revive and push fish production in Lake Victoria from 90,000 metric tons to 200,000 metric tons annually by 2022. The revival of the lake would also see the government optimize on its blue economy opportunities.
This would start with a strong enforcement in the lake to curb the menace of illegal fishing in the lake.
In December 2019 the deployed the Coast Guard in the area to help protect sections of Lake Victoria from insecurity facing fishermen and also stop illegal fishing.
The fishing industry contributes about 2.5 percent of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but at the same time Kenya loses over $100 million through Illegal fishing.
Illegal fishing leads to bad fishing practices such as catching immature fish which affects the quality of Kenyan fish in the international markets.
Also, the caging culture was introduced to increase fish production in Lake Victoria which had been on a downward trajectory up until 2015. This project has been spearheaded by the government of Kenya in collaboration with county governments and other development partners.
According to a survey done in 2017, cages increased from 1,663 in 2015 to 3,696 in 2016 leading to production estimate of 3.18 metric tons which were valued at USD9.6 million.
The water hyacinth in the Lake Victoria has been a big menace, and has been one of the key reasons attributed to the low yields in fisheries and tourism sector.
Water hyacinth in Lake Victoria increases the cost of fishing and tourism as the locals have to spend double the money they use to fuel their speeds bouts. This has a ripple effect on the cost of tourism with tourist shying away because the cost is too high.
In 2016 the government through the ministry of devolution initiated a manual removal of the water hyacinth which led to recruitment of 500 youths for deployment supported by 200 servicemen from the National Youth Service.
Also, the government in collaboration with the world bank invested in a Ksh76 million dredging machine to remove the evasive hyacinth so that movement is made easy and aquatic life is supported.
The ministry of environment and forestry bought an Ksh80 million water hyacinth harvester machine to clear the water hyacinth and initiative that has been commended world over.
By clearing and eliminating water hyacinth from Lake Victoria completely, it would lead to increased inflows of tourists in Nyanza who want to go for speed boat rides in the lake.
From the blue economy stand view, the hyacinth is considered as evasive, destructive and undesirable for aquatic life. However, with the continued government efforts to eradicate the weed some locals have found value in the weed and turned it into a business.
For instance, Duncan Omondi a carpenter has found value in using the dry branches of the water hyacinths from Lake Victoria to make furniture. He says from this venture he has been able to pay school fees for his kids, dress them and house them well. For him through harvesting of the water hyacinth his livelihood has improved.
Achenyo Idachaba a Nigerian living in Kenya has found a good use of the water hyacinth in Kenya. She uses the water hyacinth to make fabric for interior décor, clothes and other garments.
Similarly, Michael Otieno, a form two drop out who only got some paper making skills has been using the harvested water hyacinth to make paper.
Others use water hyacinth as firewood in order to reduce deforestation.
A well connected and elaborate lake and road infrastructure that the government is undertaking, will open up new markets increase demand for fish, attract investors and improve tourism and hospitality industry in Kisumu.
The government has also made sure that Kisumu County has a world class laboratory that will serve the Western region in assessing the quality of fish fit for human consumption
The government is also undertaking development of six fish landing beaches in the counties of Busia, Kisumu, Homa Bay and Migori, to increase the efficiency of fish handling. Consequently, the government is developing more sites to improve handling of fish to reduce post-harvest losses and access of fish to the international market.