A senior State official has blamed leaders in Nyanza for the failure of Kisumu Port to contribute suitably to the region’s economy.
Speaking during the Lake Region Blue Economy Conference in Kisumu, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said operations at the port have stagnated because local leaders only wait for the National Government to put up infrastructure at the port.
Mr Kiunjuri emphasised that it is time the leaders chipped in to help restore the port’s former glory.
“When did the rain start beating us? Why are we gathered here today to discuss a port that the colonial government was able to build from scratch in the 1950s? We should be ashamed of ourselves. The port was operational at one time. What happened?” asked Kiunjuri.
“I was discussing the issue of reviving aquaculture with Anyang’ Nyong’o and he told me we need Sh14 billion to revive that sub-sector. I asked him a simple question: In 2011, we were producing 65,000 tonnes of fish, but now that has declined to 12,000 tonnes. The port is in a bad state. Some countries have built a port like this one which can last for over 100 years. We need to put our house in order.”
He revealed that following the inclusion of Blue Economy as the eighth economic pillar in the Vision 2030, the Government has now identified Kisumu port as a key development priority.
In a scenario that raised eyebrow’s, Prof Nyong’o, who hosted the two day event, was the only governor out of 14 others in the region to attend the forum.
Vihiga Deputy Governor Patrick Saisi represented his boss. Seme MP James Nyikal was the only legislator in the event that was packaged as an avenue for turning round the region’s economy.
The event was part of preparations for the opening of Kisumu Port. The port has been under renovation for the last ten years.
It was expected to bring together professionals, experts, the academia and the regional leadership to discuss a way of harnessing the economic potential of Lake Victoria.
By the time Kiunjuri was giving his keynote address, the conference hall was almost empty. The only notable participants were students from nearby universities, a few representatives from the national government and the Kisumu County Government.
“When I came into the hall, I was worried since it was almost empty. This is sad because we need such discussions,” noted Kiunjuri.
Nyong’o apologised for the absence of the Lake Region Economic Block Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya. He said most leaders received a short notice for the event and that is why they could not attend.
“The event came at a time when many governors are held up in other engagements. Some are out of the country,” said Nyong’o.
Dr Nyikal who is the chairman of the Nyanza MPs Caucus also explained that a majority of the MPs could not show up because of the short notice.
“The notice was very short. I know local MPs appreciate this conference. It is even supported by President Uhuru Kenyatta who last year vouched for development projects in this region,” said Nyikal. Blue economy involves the sustainable use of water bodies for economic benefits. The ongoing conference was targeting Lake Victoria.
The lake has been facing numerous challenges which include pollution, dwindling fish stocks and destruction of its ecosystem, a situation which has seen its economic potential drop.
Kiunjuri called on governors in the region to take advantage of the goodwill fostered by the ‘handshake’ to stir dialogue with the national government that will lead to development.
“You have an international airport, a big lake, and agricultural potential in terms of sugar, cotton and fish. Its high time you discuss how to move forward,” he said.
Nyong’o said with the extension of the Standard Gauge Railway to Kisumu, the rehabilitation of the port and the development of a good road infrastructure, the region was poised for an economic revamp.
“In Kisumu we have already developed a lakefront strategy aimed at utilising the lake resources to boost leisure tourism and other economic activities,” Ny’ongo said.
“We have witnessed a number of investors express interest to be part of our economic growth. We are going to achieve more by harnessing the potential of the blue economy.”
Kenya’s portion of Lake Victoria covers an area of 4,128 km2. Commercial fishing is enabled by the presence of three species: the predatory Nile Perch, Nile Tilapia and Dagaa. According to the Catch Assessment Survey Report (2014), at least 47,470 fishermen make a living from Lake Victoria.
There are 342 landing sites along the lake out of which the Government is rehabilitating 6 namely, Ogal in Kisumu, Mulukoba in Busia, Lwanda Kotieno and Wichlum in Siaya, Nyandhiwa in Homa Bay and Sori in Migori.
According to the same survey, 90,000 metric tonnes of fish are derived annually from Lake Victoria. There are plans to increase this number to 200,000 metric tonnes.
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