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Fishermen around Lake Victoria lost sh4 billion due to lack of facilities and middlemen
Thursday, November 20, 2003

The Nation (Nairobi, Kenya) by John Oywa

Fishermen living around Lake Victoria lost Sh4 billion last year, because of lack of storage facilities and middlemen.

And industry experts told a three-day workshop in Kisumu yesterday, that the three million fishermen saw little of the six billion shillings the industry made from sales of 200,000 tonnes of fish.

Poor infrastructure and lack of refrigeration facilities had made them vulnerable to middlemen, who buy their fish cheaply and sold it a high profits to processors.

The fishermen would remain victims of a liberalised market, unless the government forced processors to buy the fish directly from the fishermen.

A senior fisheries official, Ms Roselyn Akwach, said more than 60 per cent of the Sh6 billion annual earnings was pocketed by middlemen and agents working for fish processing factories.

"Lake Victoria fishermen and women work very hard, but live in abject poverty. They toil in the waters to produce 92 per cent of the total fish landed [harvested] in the country but earn peanuts in return," said Ms Akwatch.

The workshop was organised by the WIFIP (Women in the Fishing Industry) Trust.

A policy consultant, Mr Charles Oyaya, said fishermen were exploited because they were unable to form strong marketing groups.

Participants criticized the government for neglecting the fisheries industry.

"The fisheries sector has been treated casually. It has been shifted from one ministry to another, unlike other sub sectors like tea, coffee and pyrethrum", said Mr Oyaya. p>But an official from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Mr Gedion Ochanda, said fishermen were also to blame for the poverty afflicting them. He said the situation could be better if the fishermen saved part of their earnings.

"A fishermen earns an average of Sh800 per day. This is higher than what a PI teacher earns, yet the teacher is better off than the fisherman," said Mr Ochanda. "The problem with our fishermen is that they spend all their earnings on leisure."


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