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‘I owe my children’s education success to fish’

By Hezron Ochiel | May 7th 2014 | 3 min read
By Hezron Ochiel | May 7th 2014

By Hezron Ochiel

Kisumu is synonymous with fish and everybody who travels to the city, is expected to have a bite, thanks to Lake Victoria.

The growing demand for fish has subsequently seen many business people venture into fish trade to reap from the huge number of customers making their way to the Lakeside.

But with dwindling Lake Victoria’s fish stocks in recent years due to over fishing, the business is no longer as lucrative as it used to be, hence many traders have opted out of the business while leaving a few to try their luck.

But Mary Onyango, 48, a resident of Kisumu, is not going anywhere; she has been in this business for 20 years now and says she is here to stay.

‘‘I started my business with my savings of Sh1,000 that I had painstakingly grown. I bought some fish and sold to my customers within the estate,’’ she says.

Her first day was unsteady as she was not sure of what to expect. But slowly her confidence grew and so did her business.  A year after the start-up, she moved to Kisumu fish market and she has not looked back since.

The business has enabled her educate her nine children, including two adopted ones.

‘‘It gives me happiness when I see my children graduating from colleges. My first child holds a Diploma in Journalism while two others are set to graduate with undergraduate degrees from Great Lakes University of Kisumu. I am one happy woman,’’ she says.


On a daily basis, Onyango buys Sh10,000 worth of fish which she sells at a profit. Her loyal customer base keeps her afloat.

‘‘I never went to school, but I have learnt a lot in my many years in this business. I have learnt how to handle my customers and on top of that, I now know bookkeeping. The techniques keep me at par with my competitors,’’ says Onyango.

With these new skills learnt, Onyango is optimistic she will one day be an exporter of the commodity to foreign markets using her own vehicles.

‘‘I look forward to that day when I will employ people to help me do the business. I am already working towards it and every day I have to save some little money to realise my dream,’’ she says.

She says she has seen many people come and go but that has not discouraged her. Her dream to be an employer one day gives her courage to fight on in the midst of storms.

‘‘It has not been smooth in this business. We don’t have proper storage facilities. Sometimes you will wake up and find your leftover stocks rotting, causing you heavy losses. It is not easy.’’

Compounded with new traffic rules barring Public Service Vehicles from using roof top carriers to transport additional goods, she says her business is going through tough times.

This is her advice to women who are idle at home.

It is imperative that women work hard to support their families. Even if your husband is doing some little business or working, women need to support them.

‘‘With a little business, at the end of the day, the family will have sufficient food while saving the rest for fees and investment purposes,’’ says Onyango.


In recent years, the region has witnessed high fish prices, far beyond reach for ordinary persons.

Experts blame the dwindling decline on overfishing and poor fishing methods that have choked fish from formerly fertile breeding grounds thus reducing daily catch.

As cold-blooded animals, fish are highly dependent on environmental conditions, especially temperature but recent increase in temperatures as a result of global warming threatens their survival.

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