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Fishermen oppose efforts to privatize Lake Victoria beaches
Monday, July 14, 2003

The Nation (Nairobi, Kenya) John Oywa

Fishermen in Nyanza have opposed attempts to privatize fish landing beaches on Lake Victoria. They said privatization would kill fishing cooperative societies and leave many residents jobless. Speaking in Sindo and Mbita in Suba District, beach leaders claimed middlemen working for fish processing and export companies had fenced off some of the beaches. The construction of private fish weighing and collection units in selected beaches could worsen poverty in the lake region, they claimed.

Dr Richard Abila, an economist with the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, said wealthy agents, from North Eastern Province, had taken over the fishing industry. He said at Sindo beach that it was wrong for the processing and export firms to send their agents to fish in the lake instead of buying the commodity from local fishermen.

"How will a poor fisherman earn a living when the rich have flooded the lake with fishing vessels and are building private handling facilities?" he asked. He added: "The agents have brought in their own boats and locals are incurring huge losses."

The beach has been fenced off by agents and consequently, the Sindo Fish Cooperative Society is faced with imminent collapse. Dr Abila said the privatization began at Uhanya beach in Bondo, spreading to Mbita and Sindo.

A researcher with a local NGO - Osiena, Friends of Lake Victoria - Mr Peter Mireri, said sidelining local fishing communities could jeopardise conservation efforts. "The privatisation must be stopped because it will interfere with the work of beach management committees," he said.

Meanwhile, Roads, Public Works and Housing minister Raila Odinga has assured the fishermen of Government protection. He said: "The traders always knew that fish, being a highly perishable commodity, would be sold at throwaway prices because the fishermen have nowhere to sell their catch."

The Government would put up coolers on the beaches so fishermen could fetch better prices, he said in Kisumu, during the burial of Mrs Dorothy Randiak, a sister to murdered former Foreign Affairs minister Robert Ouko.


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