Story from the MyFoodStory website:
Fishing as the source of income for Mr. Argwings Omuga Edit
Mr. Omuga, it is pleasure to meet you. Can you allow me opportunity to know something about fishing at large, as it is your source of income?
I was born many years ago and I was the eldest son in a family of four children. We were all very unfortunate to miss the Whiteman's education. My father was a peasant farmer who could not afford school fees, which was being paid in primary schools as well as high school. As the eldest son and the first child, I had no other ways but was disciplined and followed the instructions of my parents.
Our main work at home was to help them in the farm and sometimes go to the Lake to fish. These daily activities at home did not allow us access to education. Although children of our age were attending schools aided by churches, many parents during this period did not understand why children had to attend school. I therefore accustomed myself with the duties at home. As my two sister Margaret and Rose were growing and could relieve in fetching water, home cleaning, kitchen work, and farm work, my father suggested I become acquainted with how children of my age at fourteen years go fishing and can help the family improve their income.
I developed interest, as boys my age were becoming genius in fishing helping their families. My hope was to become a breadwinner in the family. The first interest I developed was going hooking early in the morning and late evening. The catch was very much impressive and made me eager and eager to do the work, forgetting to get involved in other activities at home and within the community. My father liked the idea and always thought inwardly in himself to make me a canoe, which would allow me go to deep waters inside the lake.
I had developed much interests in fishing and so agreed with my father to improve our income. The nets we used were not taken deep into the Lake, but just cast along the shores. Every morning we went with my father to check on the catch, which was our daily meal. Things changed drastically and our family’s status changed with fish to eat and sell, my father had to do other farming activities than fishing. We became a fishing family. All the daily work was at the lake shore every morning before mother could break to prepare Lunch for the family. The fish had to be sent to the market not every morning but the women took them to dry, smoke and pack them in fish carrying papyrus, which was known as “kanga”. The markets were far, they could take several days before they come back for fish again. This interfered with the daily fish activity.
Standard of living was low and even agriculture was thriving. For the above reasons and many more made most of the fishermen, to duly suspend fishing during the months of April to July, because of transportation and weather conditions. The markets were hard to penetrate. Simply life was very simple, most of the families were never alarmed of the proceedings. Most of the activities were done in small scale but profitable. We could get food, clothing, and other necessities in the family. We lived like this, I became a renowned fisherman with many canoes, and I could hire mens to help with the work. When I married my wife, I had total command in the fishing beach and could manage as the chairperson of all the management activities in the beach. My family also loved the fishing activity and it became the sole bread earner.
I am quite optimistic to have my children to go to school. And now they are cross cutting their education to help my fishing workers with their education knowledge to help improve their skills. The conditions have so far, changed now the fish catch is minimal compared to the time we first ventured into fishing. Many families cannot now look into fishing as their main source of income. Although the market is near and we do not need too much for going to sell the produce, the catch is unpredictable. This is due to too many fishermens, unwanted nets fishermen use, improved skills and over fishing which does not allow the fish to breed. The people do not have fishing breaks, as we used to do in April to July, we did not realize why but the older men knew reasons to leave the fish to breed. The demand for fish is high and vehicles come to the shore to get the catch.
Another reason is that many fishermens don't wait to fish, at night alone, the activity is done through all night and during the day. The water level at the lake is receding much everyday without people understanding the consequences it is causing to the fishes and species. The fish species are receding much like, Okoko, Ningu, Suma, Seu, Fuani, rawa, soga,(in Luo) and even tilapia. We only have two major species remaining small fish (Omena) and the Nile perch (Mbuta) which was introduced into the lake by the British early sixties. With time there is going to be no fish for the inhabitants, as we believe.
The community leaders can start encouraging the fishermen and entire community to start Fish ponds which they can control and preserve the fish species. The endangered specie remaining is Tilapia. Fish ponds can be used to help the understand the importance of fishing and preserving species.
Fish Catch over Rainy season. Edit
Wonderful memories are making me afraid, and become stiff worried. Lamented Mr. Elijah Odhiambo Onyango.
Things have drastically changed and there is a lot to be said about food, fish problems and even the incoming food insecurity. As an old man born 46 years ago here in Rusinga, I dare say life is good. I have not been a committed fisherman, but love most of fishing activities, which has been the backbone for our staple food for a long time. Fish has been our food since we were children. We used to eat fish almost everyday and every meal.
The parents or old people could enjoy telling you to eat Ugali made from corn flour, baked and cooked. Many children loved this kind of meal and getting fish to cook was as easy as going to the toilets. After school, we could go fishing, helping older people to cast nets near the shore and get something to eat. Many children were also not lured with money which is the current situation. We only thought of taking fish home not to sell, but for food. The parents were full of praises to the young who could afford to bring fish home. We enjoyed handling fresh fish and this became the hobby for many of us.
As we grew up in between, we realized catching fish during the rainy season was simple and we didn't need nets to do this. During the rainy season, although we did not realize most of fish comes to shore for breeding. On walking the grass, which is submerged, in water-flooded areas, we could spot fish relaxing and playing in clean water. Our mission was to organize bands for night catch using basins and other rope twisted materials to catch fish. Usually after two hours or so, we could assemble the catch to leave the small ones to go into the water. This sampling was done at night and no harm was done to fish. The older generations were clever because they always saved the small fish for future catch, unlike now where fishermen use small holed nets for catching fish. The small holed nets has made the government to barn most of the nets.
The government cannot succeed if the people themselves are not willing to honor and respect the law of preserving fish. We have to be careful with nature, which gives us our livelihood. Compare the present state of the depletion of the lake and see how people use all sorts of behaviors to destroy fish and even destroy breeding sites. This contributes to hundred of reasons, why, nowadays you cannot get enough fish to eat. The fish catch is going minimal and soon we will miss our staple food, which we were brought up.
The pricing of fish is expensive and getting fish to buy is a problem. You can have money but will buy no fish, for the last three days, I have been walking the beaches but no fish to buy. Compare this time; March or April, the long rains starting and the fish catch is horrible. The one good times we caught fish using basins and troughs are long gone because we don't conserve the lake. This is why I am stiff worried and could not think of a bright future. The government officials managing the lake are also corrupt and are bribed to leave people use unwanted nets.
Long before, the old men knew the lake was exceptional on the set of rains, rest, because this was going to fishing was an omen, while agricultural activities were going on at the same time. They really understood the technology of fish coming a shore to breed but the learned generation now are ruthless with more diverse means, making it impossible for fish to get time to breed. These are the reasons for my worries. In fact, if the government can leave the bureaucratic means of central governance and let the people and local governments to take care of their own lake there could be some responsibility to manage the resources or leave the people to manage cooperate fishponds to conserve fish species and use the adults only for market and food.
Told By Elijah Odhiambo Onyango in vernacular and written: By Samwel Kongere Mbita team;
Editor: Samwel Kongere
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