Kenya: ebb of Lake Victoria, floods devastate residents
Samuel Opiyo is perched on a wall at Nyankondo Beach in Migori County, staring at swollen Lake Victoria while considering his next course of action.
He’s a fisherman, and what used to be their beach management office has been swept away by flooding following heavy rains that have ravaged the area for the past two weeks.
“Things have changed so quickly in just a month. Even the landing sites are now blocked off and the huge thickets you see here have blocked the beach, ”he says, pointing to the reeds that have crept into what was once the shore.
Mr. Opiyo is part of the fishing community whose livelihoods have been affected by the prolonged rains and the ebb from Lake Victoria.
“Recently the lake has been a no-go area for most of us due to the blockage on the shores. Those who are bold enough to cross the waters end up with very little catch. The fish population has also declined,” Mr. Opiyo says nation.africa.
The situation is similar on the other beaches of Lake Victoria as far as Homa Bay, Kisumu and Siaya.
Fishing activities on the beaches along the lake were interrupted following the rising waters of the lake.
The ebb of rising waters in the lake eroded the landing sites and destroyed the fishing bandas.
The roads are impassable and crossing them to the beach is a tricky business as flooding has blocked several villages adjacent to the lake.
More often than not, fishermen are forced to sell their catch at low prices to locals to avoid further losses.
In Kisumu, the landing sites at Kano, Nyakach and Seme in Kisumu County were affected by the rising waters.
Likewise, fishermen were relocated and structures submerged in water west of Rachuonyo Nord, Suba Nord, Remba in Homa Bay County.
According to Tom Guda, BMU Kenya Network national chairman, the waters have moved nearly 100m in the fishing bandas.
Most of the roads leading to the fishing landing site have been made impassable due to persistent rains.
As a result, traders find it difficult to access fish landing sites.
Bad road networks
“A lot of fish is going to be wasted due to the poor quality of the road networks. Few of the traders who can access the fish bandas have to bear additional costs,” Guda said.
The rainy season is not favorable to fishermen involved in the capture of omen species.
He says the lake is very shallow and there has been a lot of siltation recently, hence the ebb.
According to Mr. Guda, the omena (silver cyprinid) worth millions of shillings is going to be wasted due to the lack of proper drying facilities.
“Due to bad weather, most fishermen have been reluctant to engage in fishing expeditions. It is very risky for fishermen, especially those who catch omens to go fishing,” he says.
Mr Guda is concerned that families living on the beaches are also at high risk of being displaced if the trend continues in Lake Victoria.
He calls on the national government to install barriers along the shores of the lake to stop erosion of the shoreline.
“This is a massive project that fishermen cannot achieve on their own. The national government must build dikes in the water to resist the force of the waves and prevent them from reaching the shore,” Guda said.
The worst uplift in the lake was in 1964 when water levels rose more than 2.5 meters between January 1960 and June 1964, reaching a maximum level of 1134.27 meters above mean sea level. .
In Migori, the chairman of the Kibro Beach Management Unit, Mr. Joel Maulid, said hundreds of fishermen avoided the lake after their fishing gear and boats were destroyed.
Keep going up
“We fear the worst if the waters continue to rise; this is a rare phenomenon that we have not witnessed in the past. All the landing beaches have been submerged, causing damage to the boats by rocks”, did he declare.
According to Maulid, the lake is usually only full from August to October.
“The floods shocked us. The water broke its limits and spread over 100 meters inland, causing a lot of destruction and displacement. Our BMU has 600 members who depend entirely on the lake but their nets were destroyed, ”he said.
“The Kuja and Migori rivers are already inundated, making the roads impassable. Here on the beach there are large reeds which were carried by the waves which destroyed our nets. The reeds and rocks washed away in the lake are huge, ”he said.
On Friday, the beaches of Muhuru, Mugabo, Senye, Kao, Kibro and Lwanda Konyango were still blocked, with beach management officials saying most of their fishing gear, shops and fish cooling factories had been destroyed.
Other flood-engulfed landing beaches include Nam Rongo, Sori and Ongoro Matoso, all located in Nyatike sub-county.
Mr. Maulid estimated the loss at around 6 million shillings of nets and they had not yet repaired the stranded boats.
“Cumulatively, we are counting losses amounting to millions. All cooling facilities and fishing gear have been destroyed. The stores we used to store our catch are also filled with water,” Mr. Maulid said. .
The BMU chairman said fish prices also fell because there were no storage facilities.
In Homa Bay, fishing activities on at least 16 beaches have been suspended due to flooding which makes it unsafe to use wooden boats in the lake.
Most of the fishermen in the West Karachuonyo neighborhood, in the northern Rachuonyo sub-county, where the effects of the floods are strongly felt, have temporarily ventured into other income-generating activities on the mainland to reduce the risk of damage. in water.
West Karachuonyo District Beach Management Unit (BMU) president Samuel Osendo said several fishing boats and nets were submerged in the water.
Some of the beaches where fishing activities have been suspended include Ongoro Beach, Nyapuodi, Kodero, Bala Rawi, and Alum, among others.
In some areas, fishing boats moored on the beach and fishing nets were washed into the lake by flash floods.
The increased water flow in the lake has also caused a lot of turbulence, which makes the use of water boats dangerous as they can easily be knocked over by waves.
Mr Osendo said several fish bandas have been stuck in the water and fishermen can no longer use them to weigh and store fish.
“Rising water levels in the lake have interfered with most commercial activity in the lake. The fishermen have left for safety but are suffering,” he said.
The Covid-19 epidemic has also driven most traders away from beaches following the Ministry of Health directive banning social gatherings.
“We are stranded by the small catch for weeks, fishmongers also resisted after the government banned large gatherings. Transport costs have also skyrocketed forcing most traders to stay away,” he said. Mr Maulid said.
According to Maulid, Nile perch prices have halved, retailing at 150 shillings from 300 shillings per piece, while omens are now selling for 120 shillings per kilo to 250 shillings.
Mr. Jerim Onyango, a fisherman from Muhuru Bay noted that most fishermen could not use their fishing nets because most of the beaches were flooded.
He further noted that although neighboring towns are experiencing a shortage of fish, most of the fishermen were stranded with their catch as there were no vehicles to transport the goods to urban centers.
“Despite the shortage of fish in the cities, the situation here is lacking. The vehicles that transported our stock no longer work, leaving the fishermen stranded with their stock. We have seen a sharp drop in prices and most fishermen cannot consume all of their catch, ”said Onyango.
Fear of being attacked by hippos and crocodiles caused by the flooding also complicates the already dire situation, with residents forced to seek refuge in schools and churches.
Ms Gaudencia Achieng, a resident of Lwanda village, said crocodiles and hippos were also walking around, risking people’s lives more.
“Most people have moved to safer places, but their homes have now become habitats for wild animals that roam freely in the evening. The few who remain also do not have access to clean water because our boreholes were also submerged, ”said Ms. Dit Achieng.
Nyatike MP Tom Odege and Muhuru MCA called on the government to tackle the plight of the fishing community whose only source of income is in the lake.
“We call on the government to alleviate the problem of flooding which has ravaged the fishing community. They have lost property and they can hardly function,” Odege said.
“In the absence of landing beaches and fishing nets, it is difficult for fishermen to lead fishing expeditions. This will affect the economy as our people depend entirely on fishing for a living,” noted M . Maira.