It’s early in the morning when Salim Ahmed (name changed), a Nile perch fisherman on Remba Island in Lake Victoria, waits on the beach to flag off his large fleet of over forty fishing boats. The boats hit the choppy morning waves as they set off, one after another for a twelve-hour deep lake fishing escapade, locally known as tembea. Though Salim is considered wealthy by locals, a sad look written all over his face overshadows the big smile expected to grace the it. His worry, which has robbed him of happiness, is the projected losses should he not get enough ice to cool his catch. His supplier has informed him of the impending closure of his ice production business due to the high cost of electricity, coupled with frequent power outages.
A few nautical miles away Danson Okelo, a fisherman of both Nile perch and tilapia who owns a fleet of 25 boats and plies his trade from Ringiti Island, is – like Salim – a worried man. He has grounded half of his fleet due to a lack of enough ice blocks to store his catch before heading to the market. His only source, based in Mbita town on the mainland, cannot cope with demand and is often non-operational due to frequent power outages.
These same issues are experienced by nearly all fisherfolk along Lake Victoria. Those on major fish collection and aggregation beaches, like Mbita town, decry the losses arising from selling fish at throw-away prices due to inadequate cold storage capacity. Similarly grocery wholesalers, who cannot buy and distribute to full capacity, face the same challenges.
Fisher folks using WeTu solar lanterns for fishing in Lake Victoria, Kenya / © Wetu
To address these highlighted challenges, WeTu and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) through the Water and Energy for Food (WE4F) carried out a comprehensive survey to ascertain the extent of the problem. This culminated in the signing of a partnership agreement for innovative cooling solutions, a move which will make many fishermen along Lake Victoria sigh with relief.
WeHub! Viktoria Limited, trading as WeTu, is a social enterprise that works closely with Omena fishermen by leasing lamps for fishing and by providing green mobility bikes, safe and clean drinking water and e-waste management along Lake Victoria’s beaches and the beaches of Siaya County, Homa Bay County and Migori County in Kenya.
The partnership envisions using WeTu’s excess solar energy generated at WeTu Hubs to produce ice, ensuring that operational capacity is maximised by utilizing and integrating the available infrastructure (e.g., e-cargo bikes and e-motorbikes) for transport and additional revenue.
Hailing the project as exciting and timely for the fisherfolk along Lake Victoria, WeTu Director Tilmann Straub said:
“This cooperation seeks to improve cold value chains for fish and horticulture through off-grid solar cooling solutions that can be used for and during transport, storage and processing. We want to increase the income from fish sales and create new income opportunities for value chain actors using solar cooling solutions on and around Lake Victoria.”
As WE4F looks for environmentally-focused partners interested in creating climate-resilient solutions and developing sustainable business ecosystems, WeTu is a perfect match. This new partnership will hopefully open the lake region for more economic opportunities and allow WE4F to scale up businesses that promote the use of clean energy to improve livelihoods.
About the author:
Fredrick Odhiambo, East Africa Regional Innovation Hub, Advisor for Monitoring & Evaluation
Fredrick has more than 8 years of progressive work experience in designing and implementing Monitoring and Evaluation approaches that have facilitated assessments, learning and knowledge management of donor-funded development programs in Agricultural Value Chain; Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene; as well as Health and Peace building programs.