• There is need for fishermen to be empowered to have the right tools for their trade.
• While there might be efforts by the county, there are still gaps that need to be fixed.
Last weekend, I took a short break from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi and travelled to Kilifi.
Seemingly less vibrant than Mombasa, Diani, Lamu and Malindi, Kilifi is known for ocean beaches such as Bofa Beach, dotted with a good number of resorts. There is the popular Watamu and archaeological remains of centuries old Swahili settlements. It also hosts the Mijikenda.
As a typical Nairobi girl, a coastal trip, regardless of the purpose of the visit has a checklist. First, take photos, and lots of them, of everything and anything; second go to the beach, any beach, the nearest to your hotel or apartment; third, enjoy the luxurious restaurants and hotels, including the nightlife and fourth and most important, enjoy the food and drinks of the coastal people.
One of the major foods that I enjoyed was prawns, locally known as ‘Kamba’. I love them and I was lucky that on the day I landed, my host and I got it in abundance. I was surprised the consignment was in a simple dated bucket with a few ice cubes, almost looking like its being hawked.
My mind then flew back to those in our seafood restaurants and high-end supermarkets in Nairobi, well packaged, fancily displayed and sold at an arm and a leg, sometimes having been frozen for a very long time rendering them tasteless. Yet here we are getting the fresh sweeter version of the fisherman’s catch of the day.
I was so impressed on the ease of purchase and the affordability that I made an order directly to the middleman to get 4kgs of prawn to take home.
Unfortunately, the following day, he called saying the fishermen were not lucky enough. You see, the weather, the timing and the temperature of water determines whether you will get fish in the sea or not.
I then enquired whether he could get another fisherman but he cited not having airtime and a good network of fishermen to ask. He also mentioned that some fishermen never have mobile phones thus reaching them would be a challenge.
Where am I getting with this?
There is need for fishermen to be empowered to have the right tools for their trade. While there might be efforts by the county, there are still gaps that need to be fixed.
The demand of fresh prawns and other seafood is high, even within Kilifi. One middleman said many fishermen have to either sell their catch at a throw away price to the local butcheries, if they do not get immediate customers, given they highly perishable and they do not have refrigerators to store the fish.
Well marketed, and the fishermen and local middlemen well facilitated, Kilifi can also make a good destination for local tourists and even those from the neighbouring major towns to buy and enjoy fish, as in the case of Tsukiji fish market in Japan. Besides the core business, it has ended up being a tourist attraction for domestic and overseas visitors.
Empowering these fishermen and local middlemen also goes a long way in empowering the community and a good impact on the blue economy.
The interventions can be discussed with the fishermen, the academia as well as borrowing the best practices from other countries.
Being a lover of fish, and the benefits that come with the excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and trace elements, I never miss out on the opportunity to have sea food at the coast. Fish is also a good dietary source of Vitamin D, and other hidden benefits, only the naughty ‘Coasterians’ would explain.
You will be spoilt of choice and you can spend anything from simple to extravagant on this precious food, and you can enjoy them baked, grilled or fried, or even in soup.
Saltwater seafood comes in all sorts of species: the most common in the Coast of Kenya and also widely enjoyed, being prawns, squid, octopus, oyster, crab, mussels, sailfish, barracuda, jackfish (kole kole), rabbit fish (tafi), red snapper and lobster, among others.
Should I retire and decide to settle in Kilifi, hopefully Bofa area, I will definitely consider going into seafood business, hoping by then, the leadership will have put into place a good communication network between the fishermen and the huge potential market.
Vera is a part time lecturer and a communications researcher [email protected]m