OUT OF BUSINESS

Lamu fishermen plead for state loans to survive virus

The 7pm-5am curfew has made it impossible for them to go fishing at night.

In Summary
  • The situation has seen them lose most of their local and international fish markets, leaving them with nothing to survive on.

  • For decades, fishermen in Lamu have sold their catch directly to Chinese dealers in Mombasa who sell to exporters.

Lamu fishermen are appealing for loans from the national government to enable them survive coronavirus.

 

The pandemic has seen them lose most of their local and international fish markets, leaving them with nothing to survive on.

For decades, fishermen in Lamu have sold their catch directly to Chinese dealers in Mombasa who sell to Chinese exporters.

Lamu Fishermen and Dealers Association chairperson Abubakar Twalib said since coronavirus hit China, all their known dealers had stopped buying. They could no longer export fish to China due to regulations imposed to contain the spread of the virus.

The most affected are lobster fishermen who now have to contend with selling their catch locally at throwaway prices.

Before the virus, business was good and the fishermen would sell a kilo of lobster for more than Sh3,500 but the situation has seen them sell to local dealers for as low as Sh500.

Of the over 6,000 fishermen in the Lamu archipelago, at least 1,000 are lobster harvesters.

The major fishing hubs in Lamu are Kiunga, Ishakani, Kizingitini, Faza, Pate, Ndau, Mkokoni, Kiwayu and Lamu Island.

 

Speaking in Lamu town on Thursday, the fishermen said the curfew was especially a huge hindrance to their trade as most of their fishing activities are normally done at night.

Renowned Lamu fisherman Bob Ali said some of the Covid-19 precautions had heavily weighed down on the fishing industry, especially the curfew.

They are now appealing to the government to give them loans to enable them take care of their families as they await better days after coronavirus.

The fishermen complained that all efforts had been focused on fighting coronavirus while they were forgotten.

“The curfew has dealt us a bad blow and we are not doing anything right now because even if we wanted to, there is no market except locally, which is frustrating. The government needs to remember us and help us. Let them give us loans which we will repay later so we can survive,” Ali said.

They also want the government to consider exempting them from the curfew to conduct their trade at night.

Another renowned Lamu fisherman Hassan Mzee called on the county government to intervene and allocate them some emergency funds from the Sh157 million that was recently set aside for coronavirus.

“They approved a supplementary budget of Sh157 million to fight this disease. Now that it’s still not here, they can give us part of the money so we can take care of our families and needs instead of keeping it somewhere and hoping for the worst. We are in need now,” Mzee said.

Edited by Henry Makori