A Community Based Organization in Kisumu is etching out simple techniques to liberate Lake Victoria from the malignant hyacinth weed.
The Sea Weed Aquatic Lake Services (SWALS) have crafted the new technique, Grazer, which is simply a special buoyant net embedded to stout ropes that are pulled by a motorboat, once the net encircles a given dimension of the floating weed.
The SWALS Chairman, Patrick Odhiambo explains that the weed is then dragged ashore from where it is hauled on a truck, before it is deposited at a designated dumpsite that has been assessed and approved by the National Environmental Authority.
Odhiambo disclosed during a demonstration exercise at Nyandiwa beach in Orongo village that the CBO has managed to acquire 9900 meters of the grazer that he claims can clear the entire Winam Gulf of the noxious weed within only three months.
The decorated Ecologist, who in 2016 won an award with the Ecologists without Borders in America roots for the grazer as a more ecosystem friendly approach to addressing the hyacinth menace.
“The Grazer is a product of a team of local experts who have the privilege of foreign exposure backed by a wealth of local ecological historical knowledge in lake clean-up and therefore knows what best situated in our case,” stated Odhiambo
He asserts that the system has been successfully tried in opening up Nairobi dam, Nairobi River and locally at Paga, Lwang’ni and Lwanda Kotieno beaches.
Odhiambo further cautions that the ongoing plan to engage huge vessel to dredge the lake could disrupt the natural aquatic ecosystem and literally lead to death of the lake and therefore should be re-examined
He exudes confidence that with a facilitation of Sh.80 million the Grazer can sweep the Winam Gulf clean of hyacinth and restore its lost glory, but he expressed disappointment that local leaders he had approached so far are yet to respond positively.
The Chairman, who was accompanied by Pheobe Akinyi a member of the ‘Engineers without Borders’ based in Sweden and a native of Nyandiwa stresses that engaging the community in the lake clean up was critical and should not be ignored.
On her part, Akinyi said she was impressed by the activities of the CBO on the beach over the past years but decried the depletion of the lake habitat, especially the Mangroove trees that local have turned to for source of fuel in the wake of disappearing forests.
She noted that the harvested hyacinth can be turned into useful byproducts such as briquettes, biogas fuel, artifacts or even manure for the local communities.
The Ecologist raised the alarm for an urgent intervention by stakeholders to save the local scenic beaches like Nyandiwa from extinction.
Locals led by Secretary to the Beach Management Unit, Clement Barack Aol narrated of socio-economic plunge the village suffered following the hyacinth invasion and the remarkable strides they have seen with the presence of the ecologists.
In January, the government launched a massive cleanup of Lake Victoria that was marked by the docking of gigantic dredging vessel in Kisumu, which was to embark on reviving the choked maritime and fishing activities in the lake.
The unbridled effort by the locals in finding a speedy solution to the devastating weed perhaps is an indicator of the urgency and growing impatience to reclaim their lives from a disaster that has impoverished and brought the fisher folk to their knees.
By Milton Onyango