A water Bus docks in the middle of water Hyacinth in Kisumu County on November 15, 2018 [Photo by Peres Wenje]
The KNDF National Chairperson Rev. Joe Asila says that Kisumu County economy would be under threat as invasive weed spreads in Lake Victoria rendering hundreds out of work.
Lwang’ni Beach on the shores of Kisumu used to welcome hundreds of visitors and residents who flocked the beach to buy fresh fish.
Today the story is different following the re-emergence of water hyacinth in the lake. Hundreds of fishermen have been forced to move to other areas, a development that is likely to hurt the country’s economy.
The weed has also covered the entire Winam gulf, which also serves as fish breeding area.
Alfred Ajul, Kisumu County Agriculture and Fisheries Officer informs that of the 34 fish landing sites, Kichinjio beach in Kisumu Central sub-county is the most hit.
Kennedy Ochieng, 57, a boat owner said his eight employees are reluctant to venture into the lake for fear of being trapped by the weed. He says the plant has become a perfect hibernation place for mosquitoes, snakes, hippos and crocodiles.
A team led by the Kenya National Discourse Forum (KNDF) National Chairperson toured the beach and found the few remaining fishermen harvesting sand for sale.
One of the fishermen at the beach Mr Raymond Omondi said although the county has banned the activity, the fishermen must look for alternative source of income.
“We sell the sand for Kshs 3,500 per seven tones of lorry but we have to play hide-and-seek with government agencies enforcing the ban,” said Collins Oluoch, a fisherman.
The ripple effects of the weed are being felt far and wide. Omondi said most businessmen on the shores of the lake have closed shop for lack of customers.
Jackline Anditi, a hotel owner at Lwang’ni beach, says she is worried about the spread of the weed because it will drive them out of the business.’ She said she plans to reduce the number of staff because clients have reduced.
There appears to be no immediate solution to the menace that has bedeviled the region for close to 20 years.
Mitigation measures rolled out so far include mechanical, biological and manual removal of the weed which is not very effective several agencies are still grappling to find a lasting solution to the problem.
Kisumu County Environment Executive, Solomon Orimba said the county did not set aside any funds to deal with the menace in this year’s budget but called for a collaborative approach.
He said the county incurs huge costs in treating the lake water. Lake Victoria Basin Commissions Executive Secretary Ally Matano said the problem will only be addressed if pollution and human activity are controlled. He said more efforts should be channeled to saving the Mau ecosystem.