Water Hyacinth Project in Homabay
REPORT ON THE KEY FINDINGS OF THE FEASIBILITY STUDY CARRIED OUT IN HOMA BAY COUNTY
The project was conducted in Homa Bay County. It was all about controlling water hyacinth that has invaded Lake Victoria and other water bodies in the region. The Royal Dutch Government through its affiliate organization, HIVOS has provided funding for a feasibility study to be done on water hyacinth control and how it can be utilized positively to benefit the people of Homa Bay County so as to improve their socioeconomic wellbeing. Water hyacinth appeared at different times in every beach. The earliest appearance was in 1987 at Kobiero beach while the latest occurrence was at Kootieno beach in 2008. In between the years, the hyacinth appeared in other beaches with most occurring in 1996. All the key informants suggested that the hyacinth came from Ugandan part, from river Kagera that drains into Lake Victoria. The most affected area was the Homabay County where it has had a big impact on the livelihoods of the people and is the major contributor of the high poverty levels in the area. Up to date, the residents have not identified on ways to make use or completely do away with this WH menace.
CERDS, Social Needs Network and the County Government of Homa Bay are working together to capacity build the community in the shores of Lake Victoria on sustainable ways of controlling the Water hyacinth weed.
A Feasibility study was carried out in various ways namely,
- Household survey.
- Key informant interviews with the leaders of various Beach Management Units.
- Focused discussions with selected opinion leaders in the community.
- We also used observation and pictorials to further explain the gravity of water hyacinth problem.
The study was conducted,
a. Along the shores of Lake Victoria in Homabay County.
Impact of Water Hyacinth
Water hyacinth is seen as a curse to the communities found along the shores of Lake Victoria. Luckily, there are some benefits that come about with it. Despite the availability of benefits, a weighing scale indicates that its disadvantages outweigh its benefits.
However, some of the benefits derived from the hyacinth include:
- Provides a breeding ground for fish in cases where it lands on the breeding zone. This enhances more fish production in the lake
- The hyacinth is in itself a fish trap therefore makes it easy and faster to trap a lot of fish at once
- There are small fish called “Nyapus” which are found around water hyacinth. Women use small nets to capture these fish and sell them to the fishermen who use them to catch bigger fish like Nile Perch. Thus it’s a source of income to many women along the shores of the lake.
- Some products like table mats and baskets are produced from the water hyacinth and sold locally. This is a source of income.
The negative effects of the water hyacinth are more devastating, affecting all the cycles of life of the communities found along the shores. These negative impacts are economic, social and environmental.
Problems of Water Hyacinth.
Most women spend much money going to get fish very far away due to the water hyacinth blocking the shores where the fishermen bring their boats after fishing.The water hyacinth has also been killing some fish species due to the mud it carries in its roots. Women spend a lot of time away from their children as they go out to fetch clean water for domestic use. Water hyacinth has really affected trade that is, women wait for fish for long hours and sometimes they end up not getting the fish of their choice which has a prime market as most boats with more fish are trapped in the deep waters. There are small fish that hide under the water hyacinth called ‘nyapus’ that women catch and sell to the fishermen who in turn use them as bait to catch the larger fish such as Nile Perch. Prices of fish are high therefore the women have lost their livelihoods as people prefer substitutes of fish. The disappearance of nets into the sea by hyacinth or opportunistic persons is a source of conflict which leaves more women affected and children. Presence of WH on landing sites makes the lake inaccessible and that means no meaningful economic activities can take place on the lake. It barricades the navigation routes which are used by both fishing and passenger boats. Maneuvering through the hyacinth affected areas uses a lot of energy and wastes a lot of time. There is upward increase of illegal fishing activities using fishing nets that have small gauge sizes. These implies that much younger fish are harvested therefore tampering with future prospects for fish reproduction in the lake. In recent years, there has been gradual decrease in fish stocks. They destroy the fishing nets and sometimes carry them away as they drift from one point to another in the lake. These results into massive loss to fishermen whose source of livelihood is entirely depended on.
This has promoted sex for fish activities as most women do not have the money hence end up trading their flesh for fish.Water hyacinth has brought about the increase of disjointed families as some men stay for long trapped in the deep water as they block their passage hence their boats cannot move.It has also brought diseases from mosquitoes like Malaria, Elephantiasis and Bilharzias. The water hyacinth creates good hiding places for snakes, hippopotamus, monitor lizards and crocodiles that mainly attack fishermen and women when they try to remove the water hyacinth weeds. Some insects that hide under the leaves of the water hyacinth have been known to bite women and this is causes them a lot of pain as they make it difficult for them to walk. Women are strained with home chores as they have to travel long distances to fetch water as the nearby waters are polluted by hyacinth. Muddy beaches have denied the communities around the leisure activities at the beaches.
When the water hyacinth is blown very close to the shores by strong winds it clogs the shallow waters hence polluting the water that the community uses for domestic use and irrigating their crops. Loss of biodiversity in the lake due to lack of enough oxygen to sustain certain kind of lake inhabitants and also due to the introduction of exotic species that feed on others e.g. Nile perch. Watering livestock is a big problem. People living the area are affected by mosquito bred diseases e.g. malaria and elephantiasis since they provide conducive breeding sites for mosquitos and other waterborne disease causative agents such as Vibro cholerae that cause cholera, Salmonella typhi that causes typhoid. The livelihoods of most county residents depend on fisheries and rain-fed small-scale farming, practices that are highly vulnerable to environmental degradation and the effects of climate change. Rapid population growth places enormous pressure on the natural and environmental resources such as fisheries, forests, water, and land. Already scarce resources such as fisheries and farmland must be subdivided among more people, resulting in overexploitation. Fish stocks are dwindling due to overfishing and changing water temperatures. Disposal of the removed water hyacinth biomass also poses a challenge. This biomass is often left to rot on the beach producing a pungent smell and the resultant organic nutrients are washed back into the lake further enriching it.