Who owns our natural resources? Why people are so poor and desperate in rich Lake Victoria Basin
Lake Victoria (Nyanza as called by local people) is second biggest Lake in world and father to Egyptian riches, 40 years ago it had over 320 old fish species; now it possesses only eight species1 Itís basin is potentially riches region in East Africa and occupied by so poor people, itís environment in such deep criss1 Why?
The Lakeís resource wealth is further increased by fact that its soils are among most fertile in East Africa. The varied and rich cultures of its peoples, its breath taking scenery and abundant wildlife and thorough vastness of Lake make it potentially a prime tourism destination.
Factor in regionís capacity for agricultural variety output, industry, hydro- electricity, gold and other mineral deposit in such places as Tarime, Serengeti, Musoma, Geita and Kahama in Tanzania, and Macalder in Kenya. And again, you are looking at richest region in East Africa. Yet, The people of this great Lake; Luo, sukuma, Haya, Baganda etc. are among poorest in world. Official statistics put poverty level at an average of 49% of East African population. Malnutrition is wider spread, high child mortality, protein deficiency in this protein rich Zone. Add to this, economy, social and environmental cost of deadly HIV/AIDS, whose incidence in Lake world and a stern picture begins to look very sad.
There are many activities taking place daily in and around lake: agriculture, Fishing, Irrigation, Mining etc. But all in vain! The people remain poor amid all riches; they are yet to enjoy fruits of being granted with this golden prize. Most are blaming their governments for not implementing effective strategies towards basin development.
Waste in Lake Victoria basin is a two-way highway. *Flowing down into Lake is waste and high population generated upstream and taken through by twenty big feeder rivers (10 in Kenya, 6 in Tanzania and 4 in Uganda). All these and other smaller ones drain their contents into Lake, taking with them same severe disease. Untreated sewage from municipalities, rural towns and village, toxic effluent from industries and sediments (which is carried in huge tonnage daily)
All East African countries are major contributor to lake pollution but are doing least about it. Because of lack of sewer, treatment works; largely unregulated agro industries dump untreated effluent into rivers or direct into Lake. Pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers find their way into Lake without forgetting entire weight of villageís waste, which also rolls down into rivers ending their journey into our precious Lake. And to crown it all, water from lakes is used directly for-domestic consumption.
The fish species have disappeared due to quality of water in Lake and around shoreline, where most of Fish would breed in littoral zone. The water hyacinth, which was first noticed in late 1980ís, has also been a big threat. And other reason is introduction of Nile Perch (the vocacious carnivore).
*Leaving basin, flows regions wealth; for all of itís problems, however, lake basin also contains immerse natural wealth. It sustains largest fresh water fisheries in world. Itís waters are rich fishing grounds, so rich in fact that agents of various foreign owned fish processing companies riding daily in fleets with truckloads of lakes wealth. Landing points are always overcrowded with incoming trucks, leaving contented. On each departure, their trucks are taken with lakes harvest, belching smokes and fumes of dead fish. Of huge tonnage from points around, local residents are left with dried skeletons of processed fish for their meals; eating fish by lake is luxury! There is a lot of money going out leaving fishermen poor; they sell their catch at throwaway prices because they cannot store it. (Their prices go as down as USD 0.25 per Kg which fetches USD 6 in Nairobi/Mwanza markets after being processed into fillet and at least fetches twice on international markets).
The regions challenges are enormous; waste and poverty make awful bed fellows and have spawned and evil child; debilitating culture of dependency. Such altitudes indicate extent to which many feel that they have lost out a stake in managing their own resource. Poor Lake Victoriaí you are no longer PEAR OF AFRICA.