Environment and Natural Resource Governance – Focus on Homa Bay
Homa Bay County lies between latitudes 00 15 South and 0052 South, and between longitudes 340 East and 350 East. The County covers an estimated area of 4,267.1 km2 constituting 2,696 km2 of land area and the largest freshwater lake in Africa of surface area 1,227 Km2. The County is located in South Western Kenya along Lake Victoria where it boarders Kisumu and Siaya counties to the North, Kisii and Nyamira counties to the East, Migori County to the South and the Republic of Uganda to the West.
The county is dissected by a number of rivers namely Awach Kibuon, Awach Tende, Maugo, Kuja, Rangwe and Riana rivers, most of which originates from Kisii and Nyamira counties. There are also several seasonal rivers and streams which originate from highlands within the county. The county has 16 islands, some with unique fauna and flora and an impressive array of physiographic features with great aesthetic value as well as breath-taking scenery and forested landscape particularly those around the islands and the coast of Lake Victoria and a peninsula like Sikri of Mbita sub-county.
Administrative Sub division
The county has eight constituencies/sub counties namely : Homa Bay Town, Kabondo Kasipul, Kasipul, Karachuonyo, Ndhiwa, Rangwe Mbita and Suba. Karachuonyo and Homa Bay have 59 sub locations, Ndiwa 49 sub locations, Kabondo Kasipul 35 sub locations among others. There are a total of 297 sub locations in Homa Bay County, 116 locations and 24 divisions and 40 wards covers a total area of 3182.3. Ndhiwa clearly covers the largest area of 711.4 Km2 .
County’s population- age structure is youthful with 43.5 percent comprising of the population below age 15 in 2009. The proportion of the population in the working ages (15-64) was 53 percent in 2009 and the proportion of population above age 64 was 3.2 percent.
The fisher folk in the County are organized into Beach Management Units (BMUs) and the County has a total of 133 Beach Management Units (BMUs) which are distributed in 141 fish landing sites where active fishing activities are undertaken.
According to the HomaBay County CIDP 2018-2022, the proposed blue economy projects include: Development of access roads to landing ports, beaches and tourism sites; Improvement of ports and fish landing beaches; Construction of modern and rehabilitation of cold storage facilities, and ice plants; Construction of modern fish processing plants; Construction of modern ship and boat yards; Linking rail line to lake ports; Improvement of water and waste water systems; Mapping (navigational routes, ports and jetties ); Establishment of public and private water transport; Development of recreational facilities along the beaches; Modernize and maintain existing tourism sites; Allocation of land for development of tourism facilities; Marketing and promotion of tourism attraction sites within the lake Victoria region; Mapping, demarcation and protection (breeding sites, cage farming areas, recreational sites); Restocking of fish; Capacity building for BMUs on cage farming, boat construction and other emerging issues; Development of aquaculture park facilities; Development of fish feeds ; Establishment of surveillance units (patrol boats, rescue equipment, communication equipment etc) ; Harmonization of county fisheries laws and regulations; Establishment of inter county cross border coordination offices among others.
Contributions to Environmental Degradation
Lake Victoria Basin continues to face major ecological challenges that have caused considerable hardship for the population depending on it for their livelihoods and have also reduced the biodiversity of the lake’s flora and fauna. The following are the major contributions to environmental degradation:
- Deforestation coupled with bad agricultural practices has persistently exacerbated the problem of land degradation in the basin and sedimentation in the lake. As a result, land degradation in prime agricultural areas within the catchments has been attributed to food productivity losses.
- Majority of the basin is experiencing high soil erosion. Major erosion hotspots in Homa Bay County are found to be Kendu Bay and the south-western parts of Homa Bay including areas around Nyandiwa and Sindo.
- The loss of vegetation has been mainly accredited to human activities such as bush clearing for farming and settlement activities, firewood and charcoal production.
- Alternative cause of environmental degradation has been poor disposal of solid waste materials such as plastics, nylon papers, packaging tins, food remains and fecal matter. These have collaborated to increase prevalence of water borne diseases, disease vectors such as mosquitoes, and clogging of natural water ways and drainage facilities.
- Lake Victoria being the main source of water in the county has suffered severe pollution as a result of environmental degradation, flash floods and domestic uses which have led to huge deposits of pollutants in the Lake.
- Environmental degradation has resulted to major threats such as loss of productivity of land leading to poor crop yields and food insecurity, emergence of diseases such as cholera outbreaks, and flooding.
- It has also steered to increased indisposition as of pollution of both air and water bases.
- The prevalence of poverty has increased with the loss of biological stability and threats from floods, drought and pollution.
- Climate change and change in rainfall patterns continue to pose risks and aggravate environmental challenges facing humans. It increases the frequency and intensity of natural events like droughts, wildfires, heat waves and rainstorms in Homa Bay. This could disrupt food production and cause famines.
- Biodiversity loss due to species extinction. Intensive agriculture, unsustainable fishing, wildlife poaching, habitat degradation and destruction, acid rain, and climate change continue to threaten thousands of species.
- Equally, air, water, and land pollution have been identified as prominent risks and this has been an unwelcome by product of industrial development and poor management of waste.
- Water scarcity is one of the major environmental threats. In Homa Bay, the shortage is largely the result of prolonged drought and rising temperatures combined with increasing populations.
- Lake Victoria is polluted and many rivers are drying up and this impacts not just people but also vegetation and wildlife.
- Clearing of forests often leads to loss of biomass and plant species, and habitats of animals. Deforestation is a driver of climate change as trees that normally absorb carbon dioxide are no longer there. Wherever trees are harvested even food production is impacted due to drought and erosion that is directly linked to the loss of forests.
Soil degradation is also considered an environmental threat in Homa Bay. It results due to soil erosion, soil compaction and application of agricultural chemicals. Erosion of soil happens due to wind or water, when the protective cover of forests and other vegetation is removed, and the top soil is lost. Soil compaction occurs due to over-grazing and destruction of the soil structure due to heavy tillage that is a characteristic part of industrial agriculture. When soil degradation happens, soil loses its fertility and porosity.