The government should uphold economic justice to facilitate women investment in the highly competitive cage fishing in Lake Victoria.
This will address persistent complaints against Chinese investors and other multi-nationals said to have literally taken over all existing spaces, effectively kicking out local investors whose cages have allegedly been destroyed or detained.
Kenya Female Advisory Organization (KEFEADO) Executive Director & Programs Coordinator, Easter Oketch on Tuesday sent a passionate appeal to the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives and other relevant bodies to move swiftly and ensure women get adequate support to do so.
Oketch said Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori and Siaya women took the bold step to establish net fish cages (HDV) which are very expensive only to have them systematically destroyed and removed thus paving the way for the multi-national companies and Chinese investors.
“Since our women are willing to invest in the high potential economic venture, and so the Ministry of Agriculture should enable them access over Sh15 billion in form of grants and loans to transform their status while conserving the environment,” she explained.
The Executive Director while addressing a two-day media sensitization forum at Migosi in Kisumu County disclosed that the Open Society Program in collaboration with KEFEADO and other partners like ENA (NGO) have supported more than 30 groups to install fish cages.
However, she added, since 2020 there was urgent need for the government (national & county) to clear existing bottlenecks that block womenfolk from doing business in the Lake but paved the way for Chinese and multinational companies.
Oketch blamed bureaucracy and a requirement that anyone planning to have a fish cage in Lake Victoria should conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which required between Sh500, 000 to Kshs.800, 000 which was way beyond the women’s financial muscle.
She added that key among the challenges include; sexual violence against women in the spaces, thus leading to other myths and reality stories such as ‘sex for fish’, (jaboya) who determined those to get fish as soon as their canoes or boats landed in the respective beaches.
Also apportioned blame are the respective officials of the Beach Management Units (BMUs) alleged to have played a leading role in allowing foreign multinational companies to kick out local fisher folk since they allegedly get heavy bribes to turn the other way to feign ignorance.
Oketch singled out for praise, the Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO) for having invested Sh700 million in a single project alone that has gone a long way in supporting the womenfolk to establish fish cages arguing that the ripple effect of such a project will be felt far and wide.
“This is why we call upon the department of Agriculture which has different grants and other sources of diverse projects which if prudently managed should be able to spur the anticipated economic growth”, she explained.
Although Lake Victoria is said to be currently closed for cage fishing, the reality on the ground is that the Chinese have more than 300 fish cages, “a matter that added fuel to the stalemate that threaten to explode into a full-fledged confrontation,” warned Oketch.
Kenya has an annual deficit of more than 500, 000 tons of fish against the demand of 700, 000 tons. This required that fish farming including cage fishing and fish in Lake Victoria and outside in ponds was the sure way to bridge the ever increasing demand.
This is according to James Njiru who is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Kenya Marine & Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) who disclosed that the country produces 120, 000 tons of fish against a demand of 700, 000 tons and so the only way to bridge the gap is fish farming.
By Joseph Ouma