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NGO  out to empower  women in Homa Bay

A  Non Governmental Organisation known as Echo network  Africa has come out to engage women in Homa Bay County  in a  programme of aquaculture through cage fishing.

The  programme targets to empower women and youth in the county to be financially independent by managing cage fishing in  Lake Victoria.

The project is expected to be undertaken in Mfangano and Rusinga islands both in Suba North sub counties.

The  organisation’s  Chief Executive Officer Dr. Jennifer Riaria said the project will be done within a period of 18 months in  the two selected areas before it is rolled out to other parts of the county.

“For now we are engaging different government agencies and other partners in identifying the gaps that are there

in fishing business. We want to find ways of incorporating women in fishing activities to empower them. The programme will  start as soon as the research on Lake Environment is over,” she said.

Homa  Bay County  is  one of the first areas identified in Kenya where the cage fishing activity will be carried out by the  organisation.

The  Lake has other cages fishing farms which are owned by private companies.

Dr. Riaria said her organisation intends to enable women in the county to own fish cages of their own.

Among the activities Echo Africa Network will do is to link women and financial institutions for monetary gain.

The  officer  said  this  on Thursday during a the project inception meeting held in Homa Bay Town, where she added  that  her  organisation will enable women get loans from Saccos and Banks.

“Women have been known to be the supportive structure of families. We want to empower our women by adding their financial  strength through aquaculture. This would be possible if they are supported with funds,” she said.

The  women  will also be linked to the market after they harvest their fish.

In  addition, the fish farmers will get extension services to enable them adapt to emerging agricultural activities,
including pest and disease trends.

The  CEO said the project will help in the reduction of spread of HIV and Aids in Homa Bay County.

At  the same time, Riaria expressed concern over numerous cases of infection of the HIV virus especially along Lake  Victoria Beaches.

This  has been contributed by sexual engagement of fisherman and local women selling fish for material gain, commonly  known  as  sex for fish.

Women  have been reported to be offering sex to fishermen in exchange for fish supply.

Ms. Riaria  said  women along the Lake  Victoria will be able to depend on their own for business.

During  the  meeting, several government  agencies raised concern over various environmental impacts that would be  promoted  by increased number of cage fishing activities in Lake Victoria.

The  Homa Bay County National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) Director, John Maniafu expressed concern over lake pollution contributed by fish feeds and materials used in making cages.

Maniafu  argued that some fish feeds are not certified by the government.

“There  has  been  concerns  that  some fish  farmers  make their  own fish feeds locally and feeding them to fish in the  lake. This  is  against the law because some feed many harm other water animals living around cages,” he said.

His  sentiments  were echoed by County Heath Executive Committee Member, Prof. Richard  Muga and his environment counterpart, Dickson Nyawinda  who  said uncertified fish feed may be dangerous to human life.

The executives said digestion of fish that consumes feeds whose sources are unknown may cause bodily harm.

“Waste management should also be good and done in the right way. Those engaged in the programme must make sure that they  do not interfere with other activities in the lake,” Prof. Muga said.

Meanwhile, National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF) in the area showed commitment of supporting the programme  by empowering women through various means to enable them, earn a decent livelihood.

The  County  NGAAF Chairperson, Caroline  Owidhi  said the government had been able to build a cold storage facility at  Homa  Bay town fish market to enable women keep fish for long.

“Fish is perishable. As a way of improving its shelf life, NGAAF constructed a cold storage facility at Homa Bay Town fish  market. We plan to construct others in other towns with fishing activities,” she said.

Officials  from the Kenya Marine Research Institute (KEMFRI), a government body that studies fish life, said they will
conduct  surveys on the lake to establish disease outbreaks on fish for the success of the programme.

Fishermen from Homa Bay expressed concern over numerous conflicts between cage fishing farms and fishermen.

The  County Beach Management Units Networks Chairperson Edward Orem said fishermen have had conflict with local companies  rearing fish in the lake.

“There are boundaries that fishermen should be at, when approaching fish farms. Absence of marks on the lake makes  this  difficult therefore making it difficult and thus promoting conflict. Fishermen have also decried declining fish  stalks  from such farms,” Oremo said.

He  asked the government to provide security to fish cages to minimize theft and conflict.

Echo Network Africa said it will consider all the concerns before implementing the project.

By  Anne Onyango/Davis Langat

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