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September 24, 2018

Why hunger for resource is a threat to environment conservation

A woman harvests sand in one of the homesteads in Kobala village, Karachuonyo, Homa Bay county. /HABIL ONYANGO
A woman harvests sand in one of the homesteads in Kobala village, Karachuonyo, Homa Bay county. /HABIL ONYANGO

Homa Bay's need for infrastructure, such as roads and buildings, has increased demand for natural resources, including sand.

Due to the high dependency on fishing, illiteracy, poverty and lack of enough formal jobs along the Lake Victoria region, sand harvesting has become an alternative source of livelihood to many youths and women in Homa Bay.

 Rapid growth of urban areas like Oyugis, Homa Bay Town and Kisii town has increased demand for sand, which has led to massive destruction of the lake's riparian areas, rivers and farms.

Several complaints and concerns have been raised in regards to the sand harvesting and the environmental and social effects it has to the local community.

Many residents of both genders depend on it for their livelihood, harvest sand on farms such as in Kobuya and Kobala in Rachuonyo North subcounty.

But farm sand harvesting is very destructive to the land compared to harvesting on riparian areas, Environment director John Maniafu said.

He said a number of houses, especially in Karachuonyo constituency, are built deep down the soil where sand has been dug, which makes the livelihood hazardous.

“Our people are staring at dangers, especially in the regions where housed are built in deep holes caused by excess sand harvesting, especially along the beaches in Homa Bay,” he said.

The director said this has also hurt power supply in some regions. Electric poles have been left hanging, forcing Kenya power to cut supply since it poses risks to residents.

He says along the lake shore, riparian areas, especially beaches such as Nyakwara, Sindo, Gingo, Kakione and Kaswanga, are equally at risk if not well managed.

Maniafu said the sand harvesting areas have free access, and the roads leading to the sites are not in good condition and traverse other lands. "This is a recipe for social conflict due to trespass on private property,” he said.

The director said sand harvesters are not in organised groups, or the groups formed have collapsed, hindering quick and easy engagement with them.

“This is contrary to the National Sand Harvesting Guidelines, which prescribe a management structure through the Sand Harvesting Committee at subcounty level,” he said.

Read: Village where sand harvesters don’t let the dead rest in peace

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