When Professor Stephen Agong’ floated the idea of putting fish cages in Lake Victoria, many residents thought he was out of his mind.
Those initial attempts to sell the idea to Miyandhe community, which is dependent on fishing, did not yield results.
The fishermen even refused to go to the lake and see for themselves what was being talked about.
But more than five years later, it turns out that what the Miyandhe people thought was fantasy is a reality that will change their lives.
With the commissioning of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology Blue Economy Research Hub by President William Ruto, there is hope in the air.
The multi-million shilling hub sits on 37 acres in Bondo sub-County’s Central Sakwa ward.
It has a swimming pool, three accommodation blocks, an administration unit and a laboratory.
The hub, in Siaya County, aims to deliver practical solutions to challenges local communities face and help enhance the competitiveness of the Kenyan economy.
While launching the hub, President William Ruto said that scientific research and innovation are central to empowering the youth through access to both skills and opportunities.
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According to Professor Agong’, this was a well-thought-out project because of the strategic nature of the fisheries industry.
“Blue economy has its components in fisheries, tourism, marine transport, aquaculture as well as offshore renewable energy,” he said.
“The new hub will therefore enhance the growth and development of these components for purposes of boosting food security and creating job opportunities for residents.”
The Vice-Chancellor said that the facility will go a long way in addressing the problems such as the unavailability of quality and affordable feeds which affect fish farmers.
“The biggest challenge for the fish farmers is the availability of feeds for fingerlings. Through research, we will come up with alternative feeds that will be safe and easily available,” he added.
Water quality still poses a threat to the fish and the farmers and the VC agreed that more research is required to ensure the water is safe.
Prof Agong’ said they need Sh 363 million for clearing pending bills and furnishing the facility. The hub, which is expected to attract both local and international students, will also be used for repopulating the lake.
“We are losing a lot of indigenous fish species due to overfishing. As a research institution, our plan is to repopulate Lake Victoria,” he said, adding that this will spur economic growth in Kenya and beyond.
The local community is upbeat that the project will change their lives.
Mzee Odida Buoga said accessing the area has not been easy due to the poor road network.
“The road from Bondo is dusty and the common means of transport is a motorbike. We hope infrastructure will be improved because of this project,” Buoga said.
Buoga, who said that the expansive area was a grazing field, added that land prices have already shot up, with investors scrambling for parcels on which to build hostels and residential houses.
Jackline Akinyi, 43, says the growth of the area has stagnated due to the poor road network.
She is one of the hundreds of traders who go to Bondo town to shop.