The Russian government has given Kenya Sh700 million for use in the fight against water hyacinth in Lake Victoria.
The three-year project dubbed “Sustainable Management and Utilisation of Water Hyacinth in Lake Victoria Basin”, which is set to begin immediately, is a result of a successful negotiation between Nairobi and Moscow.
Yesterday, Russian Ambassador to Kenya Dmitry Maksimychev said the project is aimed at turning the hyacinth menace into an economic opportunity.
Mr Maksimychev said the funding is part of Russia’s contribution to the United Nations.
“This is not a loan, but a voluntary Russian contribution to the Kenyan government through the United Nations, specifically for the implementation of this project,” said Maksimychev, who was accompanied by Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa, Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o and a host of representatives of the UN.
The fight against water hyacinth has gobbled billions of shillings in the past two decades, with the Kenyan government, East African Community and non-State actors jointly working to get rid of the weed from the lake.
The World Bank has been a major financier.
The ongoing rehabilitation of Kisumu Port at a cost of Sh3 billion also targets dredging of the lake and removal of the weed.
Other anti-hyacinth projects include Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project whose first two phases, which begun in 2010, through East Africa’s Lake Victoria Basin Commission, have seen over Sh2 billion spent to protect the lake.
According to the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, on February 11, this year, the weed had covered about 6,142 hectares of the lake. On February 15, the coverage had increased to 7,583 hectares.
Maksimychev yesterday admitted that his government recognises the efforts which have been put in place to rid the lake of the weed, and that Russia seeks to supplement the ongoing efforts.
He said the Kenyan government presented a viable proposal, which convinced Russia into funding the project.
“Ours is an attempt to provide a creative and comprehensive solution to this menace, and I will be proud to have been involved in the solution to the menace,” he said.
Mr Wamalwa hailed Russia’s move as a show of renewed friendship between the two countries, which date back to the post-independent period.
In Kisumu, the now Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital put up in the late 1960s, and which was formerly known as Russia Hospital, is one of the projects funded by the Russian government.
Prof Nyong’o, who was part of the Kenyan delegation which attended the recently concluded Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum, said the project would open up the county’s economy.