Like any other business hub, Usenge Beach had all the hallmarks of a busy fish landing site – endless human traffic, frenzied shouting from traders, buyers and loaders.
On a normal day, fishing, transport and cargo boats would dock, bringing businessmen and food items.
Traders from Gem, Ugenya and Alego and even Uganda and Tanzania had established shops in the area.
The area is now a pale shadow of its former self. The sinking jetty, fish banda and marooned boda boda shed are signs of a collapsing economy.
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Until April when the beach was submerged by increasing water levels in Lake Victoria, coupled with Covid-19 pandemic, Ugandans were bringing charcoal, maize and dry cassava, and buying petrol among other commodities.
The beach has changed in the last four months, as the water from the lake continues to wreak havoc on the fishing communities in Siaya, Migori, Kisumu and Homa Bay counties. The beach, a kilometre from Usenge town, has a fish auction centre that was built by the by national government through the Economic Stimulus Package at a cost of Sh10 million.
For Mary Akinyi, a food vendor at the beach, her business has not picked up months after the beach was submerged.
“Most of my customers are fishermen. With the dwindling earnings, I have to give them items on credit,” she said.
Steve Uyoga, an off-loader at the beach, blames the fall of fortune on lack of preparedness by the government.
“The jetty was poorly done and the road leading to beach is also not good,” Uyoga said.
Before the floods and Covid-19, traders along the beach suffered huge losses after their structures were demolished so that the area could be beach could be renovated.
According John Ochieng, the vice chair of the Beach Management Unit, most traders left the area last year.
“We were told to give space for works on a mini port to begin but that is yet to happen,” Ochieng said.
The BMU official says that before the disaster, the traders sold at least 300 kilogrammes of Nile Perch per day.