• The East African Legislative Assembly has now directed the executive director of the Lake Victoria Basin Commission to engage the Kenyan government and report back on the issue.
  • The weed harvester was procured under a loan from the International Development Association, and has not been used since its acquisition three years ago.
  • As a result of Kenya’s inaction, the water hyacinth continues to affect the aquatic life and the environment of the lake and the East Africa Community is now at a risk of losing funding from development partners like the World Bank.

Kenya has some explaining to do and the East African Legislative Assembly is growing impatient and needs answers soon.

EALA has now directed the executive director of the Lake Victoria Basin Commission, Dr Ally Said Matano, to promptly engage the Kenyan government over the Sh81 million ($810,000) water hyacinth harvester lying idle at the Homa Bay Pier in the west of the country, and report back on the issue.

With a surface area of 26,600 square miles (68,800 square kilometers), Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake and shared between three East African countries namely; Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

East African Legislative Assembly. (eala)
East African Legislative Assembly. (eala)

However, as a result of Kenya’s dragging its feet in addressing the rapidly expanding weed, the lake which also doubles as the world's largest tropical lake and the world's second largest freshwater lake, is slowly but surely dying and risks jeopardising lives of millions of people who depend on the lake.

According to the 2018 economic survey report, Kenya’s fisheries sub sector has declined over the last three years from Sh25.5bn earned in 2014 to Sh22.9bn earned last year due to the encroachment of the weed.

The survey reveals that Lake Victoria’s fish annual output dropped from 98.7 thousand tonnes in 2016 to 92.7 thousand tonnes in 2017.

Fishermen on Lake Victoria
Fishermen on Lake Victoria

According to EALA’s Committee on Accounts report, which the House adapted recently in Arusha, the weed harvester which can harvest up to 10 acres of the weed a day remains idle to date.

“The EAC Audit Commission observed that the machine was non-functional when the team visited the Homa Bay Pier on November 12, 2018, bringing the years of redundancy to three.” the report says, the The East African reported.

According to EALA this then implies that the second phase of the Lake Victoria Environment Management Project did not achieve value for money, as the machine has not served the purpose.

The $810,000 water hyacinth harvester lying idle at the Homa Bay Pier. (thecitizenvoice.blogspot.)
The $810,000 water hyacinth harvester lying idle at the Homa Bay Pier. (thecitizenvoice.blogspot.)

The harvester was acquired by the national government in collaboration with other partners in the Lake Victoria Environmental Management Programme (LVEMP). The weed harvester was procured under a loan from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s lending wing.

As a result of Kenya’s inaction, the water hyacinth continues to affect the aquatic life and the environment of the lake and the East Africa Community is now at a risk of losing funding from development partners like the World Bank since some of its resources are not being utilised effectively.

“The weed has interrupted the transportation and local subsistence fishing, blocking access to the beaches,” the report reads, adding, there has been a general rise in diseases, as the weed creates conducive breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other insects, leading to an increased incidence of skin rash, cough, malaria, encephalitis, gastrointestinal disorders and bilharzia.

Kisumu Port
Kisumu Port

Last year, the Senate Public Accounts and Investment Committee announced it would begin probing why the harvester has not been used since its acquisition three years ago with reports indicating the machine, which was acquired from Italy, is faulty.

We shall go to Parliament and revisit the issue. We will want to find out why what taxpayers paid for has not delivered the results that were expected,” said Moses Kajwang, the committee chairman.

Technicians cite missing components and mechanical problems for its state of affairs and some Sh2.3 million is needed to buy missing hooks.

Fishermen struggle to wade through the hyacinth filled Lake Victoria. (Standard)
Fishermen struggle to wade through the hyacinth filled Lake Victoria. (Standard)

The equipment has been idle for three years at the Kisumu inland port as the invasive weed it was meant to harvest continues to choke the largest freshwater lake in Africa.

So bad is the situation that a fisherman in Homa Bay was stuck in Lake Victoria’s water hyacinth for three days in October last year.

Some fishermen have since abandoned fishing all together as a result of the invasive weeds and moved to find alternative sources of income.