Fishermen from Migori County and its surrounding areas are set to benefit from a newly constructed Sh140 million fish processing plant along the shores of Lake Victoria.
The opening of the plant will also relieve the fishermen from the mounting economic pressure elicited by a ban on omena fishing recently imposed by the state to address the shortage of the fish kind in the lake.
The factory brings a new sigh of relief for fishermen as they will not only add value to their catch but also access cold storage facilities for the fish, which is a highly perishable good.
In June 2021, Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Blue Economy PS Dr. Francis Owino when he visited Sori, outlined that the government had set aside funds in the Financial Year (2021-2022) for construction of new Landing sites along the shores of Lake Victoria.
Sori and Nyandiwa beaches in Migori and Homa Bay Counties respectively were identified to get new landing bays while existing fish landing sites at Wichlum and Luanda Kotieno beaches in Siaya County and Ogal landing Site in Kisumu County were to be reconstructed.
“The government had factored in the financial year 2021-2022 funds to reconstruct the sites at higher ground so that fishermen can benefit from the Blue Economy potential at the lake sites,” the PS said, noting the five landing sites had been affected by rising water levels in the Lake.
The Completion of the Sori Beach fish processing plant now puts a clear roadmap on the government intentions of improving the livelihoods of fishermen who have perennially suffered at the hands of middlemen.
Speaking at the launching of the facility last week, Nyatike MP Tom Odege described the factory as one of its kind ever constructed in the region.
“The plant comes at the right time when the economy had nosedived to its lowest ebb and would hence cushion poor fishermen from persistent exploitation by corrupt brokers,” explained the legislator.
Mr. Kevin Odoyo, a fisherman from Sori, said they had been getting peanuts from their catch as middlemen got the most profit. “We will now be able to stock fish for longer and be able to sell in bulk,” Odoyo said.
Apart from protecting fishermen, Odege also notes that the facility will boost the prices of fish in this region adding: “In the past, fishermen used to sell their fish at throwaway prices due to fear that they would go bad. But with the existence of this facility, fishermen will now be able to store and sell their stock at a much better price and get profit,” says Mr. Odege.
The prolonged suffering by fishermen as a result of lack of proper cooling facilities and their inability to control the fish market had made fishermen incur heavy losses due to delay in selling their stock.
Following this effort, Migori fishermen will now have a chance to dictate the prices of their products and maximize profit out of their marine activities, hence revive the dwindling economy of the available beachfronts. “The storage here will allow us to keep our fish for longer period as much as the market is willing. By storing fish here, we will determine the pricing because we can sell at will with nobody dictating prices upon our people,” said Mr. Odege adding: “With this factory in our midst, it would be very possible to export processed fish direct from Sori to far-flung international markets all over the world.
The launched Sori plant has a capacity of processing over 100 tonnes of fish per day and is expected to encourage aquaculture in the area and provide employment to hundreds of people.
Kachieng MCA candidate Steve Ogony affirms that the factory will create more job opportunities for the youth who are the majority and revive the fishing industry in the County, which has been on the verge of collapse. “The opening of this fish processing plant is going to change the lives of our people majorly the youth, as thousands will get both direct and indirect employment opportunities from the facility,” Ogony said during an interview.
Although Sori fish factory is the largest to be built in the Lake Region Counties, it comes second in Migori County after a similar fish processing plant was launched miles away from the lake shores at Opapo in Rongo Sub County early this year. However, the Opapo fish processing factory has a capacity of processing only 25 tonnes of fish daily.
The recent invasion of fish from China sold locally at much lower prices has been partly associated with the many problems dogging the fishery sector at the moment. But hopes are now high that this scenario will be no more especially in fishing sites around Lake Victoria.
Similarly, Mr. Odege is up-beat about a fast growing economy in the region and pleads with the Kenyan government to find an amicable solution to the disputes and frustrations involving Kenyan fishermen with the Uganda and Tanzania authorities.
The fishermen have continuously protested against alleged arbitrary arrests by the authorities of the two East Africa sister States on flimsy accusations of trespassing into foreign waters while on their fishing expeditions.
Migori is the last among the four Counties earmarked to have completed a fish processing plant after Nyeri, Kakamega and Embu Counties, in a programme seeking to boost fish production.
Besides the fish processing plant, the L. Victoria fishing community request that they be provided with fish drying equipment for omena.
By Polycarp Ochieng and George Agimba