• Pate island, kilometres away from Lamu's mainland, mostly relies on solar energy
• With no electricity, fishers have to sell their catch at throwaway prices since they do not have cold storage facilities
Kenya’s fishing industry has had it rough the past few years. It has been battered by climate change, fish importation, fishers' exploitation and low prices despite high demand.
The quantity of fish is also reducing due to the destruction of marine environment and bad fishing habits. Not only are fishers failing to meet the demand, they are also falling below quality standards, such as weight.
The story is the same for fishers in Lamu county, which is one of the highest producers of fish. In Pate Island, most residents are fishers.
Once they fish, their products have to be sold immediately or they risk going bad and having to be disposed of.
This has left them at the mercy of brokers, who buy the product at throwaway prices.
This has caused immense losses to the fishers, who end up not benefiting from their resources, thus subjecting them to poverty.
The Northern Rangelands Trust assistant director Yusuf Hassan said the main challenge is the unavailability of cold storage rooms due to lack of electricity at the island.
Pate is not connected to electricity and only depends on solar panel systems, which also depend on the sun.
“We donated solar freezers but they are not sustainable. Fishers need electric freezers as a long-term solution,” Hassan said.
The NRT official said electricity would give fishers an opportunity to negotiate on prices.
He said most buyers are brokers, who buy fish and later resell them at higher prices.
Hassan also called for a good market for the fish to maximise profits for the residents.
Lamu Deputy Governor Abdulhakim Aboud said once the electricity issue is sorted, the market for the fishers will significantly rise.
Aboud said plans are in the final stage to have every house installed with electricity.
“But in the meantime, as a county, we will be donating freezers that use solar energy,” he said.
Aboud said the county will be partnering with conservancy organisations, such as NRT and The Nature Conservancy, to find an appropriate market for fish coming from Lamu.
Currently, most of the fish is taken to Mombasa before it is transported to the Middle East and Asian countries.
The fish goes through the hands of several brokers, denying fishers revenue.
For example, a kilo of octopus at Pate Island ranges between Sh100 and Sh170, but the same kilo sells for between Sh1,000 to Sh1,500 in Mombasa.
With the right policies, the fishers are set to benefit more from their natural resources.
Also, the Kenyan fish is expected to be on high demand due to the current market demands.
The guidelines require exported fish to be tracked to where it came from, whether it was fished by the right people and whether the fishers were not subjected to modern slavery and were working under good conditions.
The county is also set to tap into the NRT’s telecommunication system to help in tracing of fishers who get lost in the ocean.
“We have lost people in the ocean while travelling or fishing. We are going to talk with NRT so that we can rely on their communication system, which is more advanced, when in such situation,” Aboud said.