When Lake Nakuru burst its banks in March 2021, the distraught residents of Mwariki, Barut constituency had to move to safer grounds. Over 200 families were displaced, and their farming land was rendered useless.

Today, things are different as the residents turn to fish in the expanded lake to eke out their living.

“When the floods came, we had to look for alternative places to live. Some of us had to demolish our houses and close down our businesses. It was a hard time for us,” says Freshia Muthoni, a resident at Mwariki who was displaced from her home by the floods.

Freshia says now fishing has thrown them a new economic lifeline since most farmers whose land was submerged by the floods have invested in boats and fishing nets.

The fishermen go fishing in the wee hours of the morning to secure their catch. Fishing in Mwariki has since become a booming business despite the government’s efforts to curb any fishing activities in Lake Nakuru. Scientists are blaming the flooding, which has expanded the lake to people’s homes and farmlands to climate change. Years of environmental degradation, pollution, and deforestation are affecting the biodiversity of Lake Nakuru.

However, the residents see the flooding as a blessing in disguise. Florence Waruguru, another resident of Mwariki, says that fishing in Lake Nakuru has been a relief to those who lost their land to floods.

“Our land is submerged underwater. We can no longer grow anything on it. Fortunately, the water came with plenty of fish, which we now sell to meet our needs. The fish helps us to feed and even educate our children,” she says.

However, fishing in Lake Nakuru has not been without its challenges. The residents complain of the policemen’s harassment as they confiscate their nets and fish.

“We do not understand why they take away our fish and nets. Some of them demand bribes and when we cannot pay them, they take away our fish. For us, we plan to continue fishing until the government relocates us to other places,” says Freshia.

Early this year, the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (Kmfri) banned fishing in the lake, citing that the fish in Lake Nakuru is contaminated with toxic components.

According to the Kmfri report, the fish in Lake Nakuru can cause adverse effects on humans if consumed over a long period. This is because of the sewage and runoff water from the county drains into the lake.

The fishers, however, will hear none of this, saying that they have consumed Lake Nakuru’s fish for a long time without any harm. Some fishmongers at the lakeside have come from different counties to earn a living in the now extended lake.

Even as the fishing continues, there is doubt on its impact on the exotic species of fish in Lake Nakuru.

Kemunto Ogutu
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