Empowering People and Nature – Lake Victoria (EPN) has the goal of “the security of livelihood of fishing communities in Homa Bay, Busia, Siaya and Kisumu Counties is improved through sustainable utilization of the fisheries resource”. ELCI is in partnership with Act! under the Changieni Rasili Mali (CRM) facility funded by the governments of Sweden (SIDA) and Britain (DFID).
Victoria is Africa’s largest fresh water body shared by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Approximately one-third of the combined population derives their livelihood from the lake through subsistence fishing and agriculture. The three countries collectively report annual fish catch of over 800,000 tonnes, worth over US$ 590 million supporting almost 2 million people. The fishery is however under threat of collapse and livelihoods of the communities that depend on it are at risk and costing opportunities in national revenue. Poverty remains high at 57% among the L.Victoria riparian fishing communities aggravated by the dwindling fish stocks. Water quality is greatly degenerated compromising the ecosystem integrity and biodiversity as well as the lives of water users. Research shows eutrophication is a key driver of the negative trends, alongside poor fishing methods which cause over-exploitation.
Surveys show large amounts of pollutants in agrochemical runoffs from upstream farms finding their way into Lake Victoria. There are also untreated industrial and municipal wastes from major lakeshore towns and cities like Homabay, Kisumu, Mwanza, Kampala and Entebbe, deposited directly into the lake and catchment rivers. Additionally, there is direct defecation and urination by fishermen while fishing. Among the trends blamed on pollution of the lake are the algal bloom and proliferation of hyacinth. Adaptive traits( enlarged gills) have been observed in the gills of fish, explained by fisheries scientists as adaptation to the changing quality of water – the fish habitat, and there is general low maturity size. Occasional fish deaths have been reported, and some species, for example haplochromines cannot be traced indicating a risk to biodiversity of the lake.
Overexploitation mainly arises when fishers are in large numbers and/or use wrong fishing gears, wrong fishing methods and fish in areas that should be protected because they are known to be fish breeding grounds.
As a result of the above, there is a reduction in total fish biomass and shifting in distribution and composition of plankton, macrophytes and fish species, blamed mainly on eutrophication. Some fish species, including some haplochromines have completely disappeared from the lake, indicating continued threats to species and unabated loss of biodiversity. Fish landings have drastically reduced resulting in high incidences of poverty in the region.
Project Objective 1: To increase participation of fishing communities around L Victoria in the governance and management of the fishing sector.
Project Objective 2: To enhance the capacity of L Victoria fishing communities to engage in sustainable fish-based enterprises.
Project Objective 3: To enhance coordination among key stakeholders in the fisheries sector at county, national and regional levels to influence sector policies.
The project is designed to contribute to the sustainability of the fisheries and to enhance the security of the fishing communities by strengthening the capacities of Non-State Actors involved in the fisheries sector to respond too related issues and challenged such namely:
At a higher level outcome, the project seeks to have harmonised policies within the East African States on L. Victoria. The project however has more national level actions and is covering 4 counties in the Western region of Kenya namely:
Kisumu County: Kenya’s 3rd city with a population of close to 1 million people. Fishing from L.Victoria brings the most income to this county. Improved infrastructure presents a great potential for the county to tap better into the fishing sector. It is also home for many factories that discharge effluents into the lake.
Homa bay County: With the longest shore line of the lake, the county hosts unique natural features such as Winam gulf, Rusinga and Mfangano Islands. A growing fish trade and processing business exists here.
Siaya County: Yala wetland found in this county, is the largest fresh water wetland in Kenya covering the north shore of Lake Victoria. The wetland has great potential in natural resources and biodiversity which contributes significantly to the fishing community in Lake Victoria. It serves as a filter for rivers Nzoia and Yala before they enter the lake.
Busia County: The county hosts a unique L.Victoria view point forming a tourist attraction. Its location at the border of Kenya and Uganda places it at as strategic location for booming export trade.a