HYACINTH in Kisumu Kenya
By Dickens Wasonga.
Hyacinth, the dreaded water weed continues to chock Lake Victoria’s Winam gulf, throwing hundreds of local fishermen into joblessness and blocking several shipping companies from either docking in the area or leaving with goods destined to the neighboring east African states.
The delays occasioned by the blockade of the nuisance weed before goods can be moved to either Tanzania or Uganda which mainly depends on the route to ship its cargo has now led to huge losses as transporters remain stranded for several months at the Kisumu pier.
Currently the weed has literally covered most parts of the lake especially the fishing and breeding grounds of Winam gulf and major landing beaches such as Homa-Bay, Kendu-Bay amongst others.
In the affected areas, the weed has literally turned the water surface into what resembles several hectares of a farm land.
Even the motor sports and boat rides which thrived in the area some years back giving a lifeline to several youths from Kisumu and its environs has not been spared either.
Marine experts say that growth of the weed and its further spread has been fueled by the continued but uncontrolled depositing of industrial waste in to the lake by numerous factories that pollute Lake Victoria with glee.
The name Lolwe, as the lake is known here by the locals was once billed as the second largest fresh water lake in the world, but given the human activities up-stream, this too may soon change.
The unabated destruction taking place upstream especially in areas such as the Mau has not only led to the receding water levels in the lake but has also led to the dwindling of the fish stock thus further threatening many livelihoods.
It is now an open secret that Lake Victoria is no longer the fresh water lake it used to be and something must be done urgently by the relevant authorities to save this resource which supports an estimated 30 million people living within the east African region either directly or indirectly.
Local authorities along the shores of the lake have also been accused of contributing immensely into the lakesâ€™ pollution.
Majority of the civic bodies still lack the desired solid waste disposal mechanism and are known to deposit raw waste into the lake. Strangely, the same lake also serves as a source of water for the local water companies.
Score of them also directly benefit from the lake because they collect a lot of money in revenue from fish cess.
The most ironical thing however, is the fact that Kisumu where several fishermen can no longer go fishing to earn a living due to the choking weed is the headquarters of the Lake Victoria Basin Commission .
LVBC was formed to amongst other things, to protect further destruction of the environment along the lake and ensure its sustainable use within the east African region.
Since its inception, the commission is known to have organized and funded several high level talks targeting to discuss sustainable use of the lake as a common resource by the EAC member states.
But many residents of Kisumu and those who use the Kenyan side of the lake are now casting aspersions as to whether these high-class hotel workshops and seminars which ends up gobbling huge allocations of the commission are indeed bearing meaningful results.
One of the key projects which were hugely funded as a brain child of the LVBC was Lake Victoria Environment Management Project dubbed -LVEMP 1 which was funded by World Bank and other donors.
Each of the initial three EAC states implemented the project in their respective countries but the Kenyan one had issues.
LVEMP was prepared during the 1994-97 period, and implemented as one of three interlinked fully blended projects financed by credits , International Development Association (IDA)) and a grant , Global Environment Facility from March 1997 to December 2005.
The three projects together sought to address the issues of the lake in a regionally integrated way.
They were thus conceived as contributions to a regional program (based on the August 5, 1994 Tripartite Agreement) implemented as three national projects in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda, with common objectives and initially identical components.
Given the regional nature of the program and interlinks age of the three projects, the LVEMP Implementation Completion Reports for Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya were to be considered individually and in conjunction with each other, in order to understand both the national particularities in performance and the overall outcomes of the investment.
The project assessed by the ICR was the first phase of a long-term program.
The three nations recognized the importance of the Lake Victoria ecosystem as a vast shared resource with great potential for economic growth, but one that was under immense environmental stress.
Economically it is very important; the fisheries sector is a significant driver of growth, and water supply, biodiversity, transport, and hydro-energy from the lake underpin vital economic activities.
Conversely, the lake, if allowed to degrade, will impose substantial economic and environmental liabilities on the countries, communities, and people of the watershed.
Enhanced environmental management of Lake Victoria was and still is a key element of a sound program of growth, poverty reduction, and proper management of risks.
Experts say Lake Victoria is large and in general shallow. The lake depends chiefly on rainfall for its inflow, and its extensive watershed covers some of the poorest parts in three riparian nations.
When the projects were prepared, the threats to the lake’s ecosystem were understood primarily to be diminishing biodiversity, over-fishing, infestation of aquatic weeds (especially water hyacinth), pollution, variation in level, and eutrophication.
The trans boundary nature and rich biodiversity of the lake were recognized, but detailed scientific and socioeconomic knowledge about the resource was insufficient to support proper management.
For example, the inventory of flora and fauna was incomplete and not current. The level of catch consistent with maintenance of the stock of Nile Perch was not known.
Infestation of water hyacinth was visible, but the response of the species to various measures of control was unknown. The detailed status of quality of the water was not known; nor were major sources of pollution.
Finally, the level of the lake has been observed to vary over time as recorded in historic statistics, but detailed knowledge of the underlying hydrology was not sufficient.
Moreover, national and regional institutions and capacity relevant for management of Lake Victoria were weak at the outset of the project, and presented challenges during implementation.
The project was designed in a participatory manner with broadly ranging consultation of stakeholders at the local, national, and regional levels.
Formulation of the project required multiple negotiations and compromise; between scientists and public servants, between advocates of environmental conservation and those of managed growth, between national politicians with short time horizons and development partners seeking a longer term perspective, and between and among national neighbors with a recent history of tension.
The objectives and design that emerged from this negotiation enjoyed sufficient consensus to move ahead, but also attracted antipathy of those who did not see their own objectives fully reflected.
During the course of implementation, and even in assessment in the ICR, strongly held and conflicting opinions have been the order of the day.
The ICR team assessed the project not according to what might have been desired by any among the wide range of stakeholders, critics, and advocates, but by what was stated in the project documents and actually accomplished.
The objectives the Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project (LVEMP1) were “to (i) provide the necessary information to improve management of the lake ecosystem, (ii) establish mechanisms of cooperative management by the three countries, ( iii)
identify and demonstrate practical, self-sustaining remedies, while simultaneously (iv)building capacity for ecosystem management.”Co-financing from the GEF helped integrate trans boundary environmental issues into the design and provide emphasis on them. As noted above, the project was fully blended.
The project was the first of its kind in the region, with aims and objectives that reflected the nations’ developmental priorities, regional objectives, and global goals.
Preparatory activities particularly emphasized community participation and gender issues. The objectives as stated above were consistent with the country-based assistance strategy and with the global priorities within the mandate of GEF International Waters Program.
Within the fully blended project, GEF activities were focused on trans boundary aspects such as fisheries ,research, monitoring of water quality, capacity building in the riparian universities, support for policy and coordination, and control of water hyacinth, with some attention to aquaculture and sustainable use of wet lands.
The design reflected realism with regard to the time frame required for sound management of the lake, and was phased.
The design recognized the need for generation of knowledge, creation of new institutions, and strengthening of capacity.
The objectives of the project were sound and the process of preparation appropriate. Primary emphasis was placed on activities related to fisheries, which were allocated 41 percent of the allocation of funds.
The remaining funds were spread over the other activities in the initial design.
Questions have been raised by analysts over the Kenya side of LVEMP 1 with regard to the proper balance of emphasis on the various elements of the agenda, but the lack of information and inherent uncertainties associated with the various risks to the lake made a priori determination of allocations to the various activities difficult.
Given the subsequent increased importance of fishing, growth in the catch, and urgency regarding management of the fishery, one cannot with certainty argue that an alternative allocation of resources among activities would have been superior.
In the joint Staff Appraisal Report dated June 1996, the three LVEMP project had the following components (The overall project cost for all three countries of USD 77.7 million was allocated as indicated):
1) Fisheries Management/ Establishment of the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO) (USD 2.28 million)
2) Fisheries Research, including four sub-components, Fish Biology and Biodiversity Conservation, Aquaculture, socio-economic, Database (USD 13.33 million)
3) Fisheries Extension, Policies and Laws, including micro-projects (USD 14.09 million)
4) Fisheries Levy Trust (USD 2.03 million)
5) Water Hyacinth Control (USD 8.31 million)
6) Water Quality and Ecosystem Management, including one core project, Management of Eutrophication, pilot studies on Sedimentation and Hydraulic Conditions and the construction of a Model of Water Circulation and Quality in the Lake USD 9.6 million.
So if money was released to fund various components of the project , then the biggest question is, what went wrong on the Kenyan side ?
The weed is back with vengeance and water quality is at its worst. Fish stock continues to go down and receding water levels is still a worrying trend.
Another LVEMP has just began. Have we learn t from the past mistakes? What chances does this second phase of the much talked about project have to succeed?
Today the government says it plans to employ over 2,000 youths under the kazi kwa vijana project to participate in manual removal of water hyacinth that have become a menace in Lake Victoria.
Speaking to the press in his office last week , Nyanza Provincial Commissioner Francis Mutie said the government through the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) is set to release about Sh100 million for the project.
The Provincial administrator noted that it was unfortunate that the weed had covered a large area in the lake thus preventing fishermen from their daily fishing expedition.
â€œIt is regrettable that fishing which is the main economic activity in this region has been hampered with due to the spread of the weeds in the lake, he said.
He said the plant has spread in a large area from Kisumu to around Winam gulf thus hindering movement in the lake.
He pointed out that his office will identify a point where the wild plant will be put after it is gotten rid of before it is sold to farmers as organic fertilizer.
Research has actually proved that organic fertilizers can be generated from the plant, we shall therefore ensure that we collect them and sell them to farmers, he said.
The PC also reiterated that work is in the process of spending Sh 14 million released last month for the establishment of car washing sites in Kisumu to help reduce washing of vehicles in the lake.
Last Month, Kisumu District Environmental Officer Solomon Kihiu said the car washing sites to be established are aimed at reducing interference with aquatic life through emission of fuel by vehicles being washed in the lake. He said the plan will involve the establishment of four car washing sites within the town center and one at the city’s Kondele estate.
Yesterday, PC Francis Mutie called on the community around to support the two program mes which he said if implemented will lead to a big harvest of fish from the lake.
â€œWe are aware of drastic reduction of fish in Lake Victoria, we therefore want to implement the two projects (removal of hyacinth and establishment of car washing sites) so that we are able to have more catch, he added.
The PC warned fishermen against use of illegal fishing gear such as mosquito nets that have led to the harvest of under size fish.
He said stern action will be taken against those who use equipment which are not recommended to harvest fish. Everybody knows that illegal fishing is still on in the lake and fish scouts are doing very little to stop the practice. Many now wait to see if the yet to be launched campaign to get the weed out of the lake will succeed .
Below: Youths engage in manual removal of water hyacinth from Lake Victoria.
HYACINTH is a destroyer, Kisumu-Kenya