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Traders on Lake Victoria shores feel pinch of pandemic

By Viola Kosome
Wednesday, August 5th, 2020
Deserted boats at Dunga beach in Kisumu after most of the fishermen were affected by the swelling water of Lake Victoria and the coronavirus pandemic. PD/VIOLA KOSOME
In summary

Business operators at Dunga Beach in Kisumu no longer look forward to going home with bulging wallets.

Life has been difficult for them since their premises were washed away by the lake Victoria waters.

The problem was worsened by the coronavirus pandemic which struck in mid-March, forcing them to close their hotels in line with the containment measures outlined by the Ministry of Health.

Two weeks ago, a visit by two politicians Oscar Sudi and Ndindi Nyoro who are allied to Deputy President William Ruto to sample the famous Tilapia delicacy, the traders were elated.

When People Daily visited the traders at the weekend, many fish traders and boat owners were struggling to pick the pieces, with the number of customers having dwindled since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Nearly half of the eateries remained closed while the few that were open recorded low number of customers.

Traders lamented that business had dipped, adding that the closure of schools has only worsened the situation.

“We are barely surviving. We only receive a handful of visitors every day,” said Maurice Ouko, the vice chairperson of the beach association.

He said it all began with the swelling of Lake Victoria that pushed several traders out of business overnight.

“When we thought we could now pick the pieces after a slight decrease of the water from the lake, Covid-19 hit the country making our customers numbers to go down by about 50 per cent, following the government-imposed restrictions on bars and restaurants, he said.

Ouko said their businesses were hit hard following the cessation of movement in early April which saw Nairobi residents, their main customer base, unable to travel.

“Hoteliers who were making huge profits from people visiting the lakeside city to enjoy the fresh fish from the lake are the worst hit as local tourists are no longer coming because of fear of contracting the disease,”he said.

Out of 33 hotels that were operational, Ouko said only 20 remain open after many hotel owners decided to close shop.

Paul Oballa, a fisherman at the beach said he started fishing in 1990 in Homabay County, but later relocated to Kisumu about a decade ago and has been running a thriving enterprise until early this year.

 Good catch

Oballa who also operates a boat in the lake,  said his profits have dropped drastically, from up to Sh10,000 daily before the pandemic to as little as Sh2,000.

“The swelling of the lake was the beginning of all our troubles.  When there is too much water in the lake, getting good catch is a challenge,”he said.

Francisca Odhiambo, a fishmonger and a mother of five sad she started the business in  2000, but since the outbreak of the pandemic, customers are no longer coming.

In the good old days, Francisca would make as much as Sh30,000 a day due to the large numbers of school children who would pass by for lunch during school visits to the lake. 

Today, she make s about Sh10,000 during weekdays and Sh15,000 on weekends when people turn up in large numbers. 

According to Alloice Ager, the communication director in the Kisumu County government, several measures have been taken to support the traders.

The county government, he said, has put  up a walking board for bird lovers. Dunga beach offers rare bird species, which has attracted many people,” he said.

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