Sat. Nov 27th, 2021

“I’m the big breadwinner for the family, but my income is not enough to survive,” says Mary Anyango, a fishmonger and mother of seven who lives in Dunga, a village on the Kenyan shores of Lake Victoria.

“This is the main reason why my 26-year-old daughter migrated to Saudi Arabia in January 2021. She works as a domestic worker for a Saudi family and earns 28,000 Kenyan shillings ($ 250) a month; about five times what I earn from selling fresh fish at the local market. ”

Lake Victoria is the world’s largest tropical freshwater lake and the largest lake in Africa. It is located in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya and supports the existence of 40 million people in the three East African countries.

But dramatic ecosystem changes caused by unsustainable fishing practices – including overfishing and the use of undersized nets that catch fish before they reach adulthood – along with rapid population growth, and pollution by wastewater, agricultural pesticides and fertilizers threaten the future of fishing in Lake Victoria. .

“There are a lot of issues happening upstream,” said Brian Waswala, a wildlife and landscape ecologist at Kenya’s Maasai Mara University. He told Al Jazeera most of the fresh water that feeds Lake Victoria comes via rivers in farming regions where agro-pesticides and fertilizers are used in large quantities to increase yields of products such as coffee and tea.

Chemicals entering the relatively level more have a negative impact on the ecosystem and fish stocks and make it “less and less viable” to make a living from fishing, Waswala said. Therefore, families with cash restrictions began to allow young women to migrate to the energy-rich Gulf region where they work primarily as domestic workers and earn more money than they would at home.

“The situation has forced our children to migrate,” said Ali Juma, a secretary at the Kenya National Fisherfolk Association (KENAFA) whose two daughters work in Saudi Arabia. Juma worked as a fisherman for about 30 years and said he “expects the worst” if nothing is done to preserve Lake Victoria.

Waswala says a new approach is essential to protect the lake’s environment.

“People upstream ignore or just do not care about the impact of their actions downstream,” he said.

“It is time we look at the environment in a different perspective, because it is the cornerstone of social and economic development.”

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