by Robert Manyara
LODWAR (Xinhua) -- James Okoth has in
the last four decades earned a living from fishing in the
northern Kenyan county of Marsabit where he considers his second
Despite the poor returns from the venture, Okoth
like other fishermen have struggled to make ends meet.
The father of six has to be contended with the high cost of
fuel, maintenance of fishing net and his employees.
"The cost of running a boat and maintaining fishing nets and
pay workers consume huge amount of profit from the catch," said
He left his ancestral village in western Kenyan county of
Siaya to set up fishing business at Loiyangalani beach in
Marsabit County, hoping to change the fortunes of his family.
The fishermen are earning pittance due to poor handling and
lack of storage facilities with majority still relying on
salting, smoking and sun drying to preserve the catch.
Lake Turkana is the largest lake in Kenya, but due to its
remoteness, the water body that straddles across Marsabit and
Turkana counties remains largely underexploited.
The dwindling fish stocks in Lakes Victoria and Naivasha
coupled with an increasing appetite for fish among Kenyans is
driving up demand for the commodity.
Despite the demand, numerous factors have conspired to make
fishing on Lake Turkana a loss-making venture.
There was no storage facility in Loiyangalani for raw fish
until recently when Marsabit County set up a cold storage room.
Okoth said that dried fish fetches very little in the market
with a small fish going for 40 Kenyan shillings (0.4 dollars),
while a big one could fetch 0.7 dollars.
He said that majority of fishermen in the region are small
scale and ply their trade with handmade nets on rafts made from
palm trees with discarded plastic bottles used as floats.
"Lack of fishing gears and storage facilities has been our
major obstacle to our business.
"We hardly take home good money," said Okoth.
Fish warehouses in Loiyangalani have stacks of sun-dried fish
packed for transportation to Kisumu, Bumala and Busia—towns that
are on the shores of Lake Victoria.
Peter Ouma, a fish trader for the last three years, said that
three lorries full of fish leave the town each week heading to
Ouma said he left his home in Busia County to live in
Loiyangalani so he could trade in fish.
"The dwindling fish in Lake Victoria forced me to come here
and set up a fish business," said Ouma.
The launch of construction of a fishing factory by Marsabit
County Governor Mohamud Ali has brought hope to hundreds of
fishermen in the larger northern Kenyan region.
Ali said the project, which is expected to be operational in
the next one year, will cost his administration 2 million
The plant would enable farmers to process their fish into
fillet that will be packaged and shipped to markets in the
"The fishermen here does a lot of fishing but lack of storage
facilities or a factory to process the situation has denied the
community better returns," said Ali.
He said that his administration will lobby for the upgrade of
the Loiyangalani airstrip and completion of the road linking the
town to the Isiolo-Marsabit Highway in a bid to open up the fish