They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
Residents of Mwariki Estate, located on the edges of Lake Nakuru whose water levels have been rising steadily, are doing just that.
Tired of pleading for the government’s intervention after the rising waters took over their farms and homesteads, the residents have slowly morphed into fishermen and fishmongers; their farms into open fishing areas.
Michael Gachie, who lost his two acres to the surging lake, has been inducted into fishing by an experienced fisherman he contracted from Lake Naivasha.
“I don’t have my own boat. I have engaged the services of a fisherman from Naivasha to help me in the fishing. From the catch overnight I get a few fish for free. He sells the rest to pay himself. It is a win-win situation,” says Gachie.
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His wife Lucy Muthoni, who never traded in fish before has now perfected the skill of fish-mongering, preparing them for sale and cooking at her makeshift structure.
The couple, among 10 families currently hosted at St Luke Catholic Church Barut after they were displaced from their farm by Lake Nakuru’s flooding, is now a leading supplier of fish in the area.
The flooded farm no longer produces any crops. It is now producing fish.
“Sometimes I would wake up and go to my submerged home and leave in tears. Today I go there with a smile, knowing that I will have something on my table by the end of the day,” says Muthoni.
James Mwangi may not be a fisherman, but everyday he wakes up early to go to an open area at Barut Trading Centre to meet fishermen who spent the night fishing in waters that have submerged the place he called home for 20 years.
Mwangi keeps a keen eye on the fishermen’s catch. One of them counts some money and hands it over.
Mwangi’s homestead has since become a fishing yard. For fishing in ‘his waters’, the fishermen have to pay.
“It is just something small. They were fishing on my farm, which is at one of the deepest end,” he says with a satisfied smile.
Though he is cautious to disclose how much the fishermen pay him, The Standard established that the fee is at least Sh500 per fisherman, and varies upwards depending on the catch for the day.
“It will be unfair to allow people to fish on private land as the owners suffer. Depending on the agreement fishermen pay at least Sh500 to the owner. A medium sized fish is sold at Sh150 and fishermen make up to Sh2,000 profit on a good night,” says Patrick Mungai, a resident.
Esther Wambui, another victim of Lake Nakuru’s rising waters, has since demolished her home. She will not allow fishing activities in her flooded farm because she is not sure this is legal.
Last weekend, government authorities confiscated boats and fishing nets from some fishermen, accusing them of illegal fishing.
But Wambui has since established some symbiotic relationship with the rapidly growing fishing community.
With the high population in the area, roadside eateries popularly known as ‘vibandas’ have mushroomed at a trading centre that before had only three shops.
Women, young and old, are now making a kill from selling fresh fish to residents and visitors.
Wambui has not been left behind.
“I do not allow fishing on my farm because I don’t want trouble with authorities, but I cook for the fishermen,” she says.
In a day she makes between Sh200 and Sh300. It might not be enough, but it is better than nothing.