“God gave us a beautiful mass of water named Lake Victoria. But the future of this resource depends on what we do now.” Hon. Daniel Musinga of the Kenyan Court of appeal in Kisumu. Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest freshwater lake and the world’s second to North America’s Caspian. An outstanding socio-economic feature in the three countries shared by it, the lake unites countries Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Lake Victoria has traditional names that vary with regions, it is called ‘Nam Lolwe’ in Kenya, meaning an endless water body. In Uganda, the lake is called ‘Nalubaale’ word for traditional gods while in Tanzania, its known as ‘Nyanza’ meaning lake.These traditional names represent a diverse cultural rich that the lake holds. It also serves a great deal of economic support to the countries and more empowerment to the population living on and near its shores.
Despite offering fish, transport, tourism, industrial raw materials, huge volumes of water among so many other roles – the Lake is suffering a lot of injustice from its own people.
Dave Ojay, a Kenyan native, born in the lake region couldn’t watch the lake being abused and misused to the maximum without doing a thing. He had an idea that would help instigate justice and fair treatment for the lovely water body he grew up adoring. Together with a number of other artists in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, Naam Festival came to surface. The aim of the festival and its activities is to get action towards saving the lake. With its pilot in 2013, the festival has achieved and grown its influence over the time.
Naam festival held a photography exhibition and a multi-sectoral Environmental Forum that brought together Juridical delegates from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya, Hon. Dr. Willy Mutunga graced the festival with Hon. Justice YorokamuBamwine from Uganda’s High Court while Tanzania’s Chief Judge Mohammed Othman was interviewed. H.E Hon. Jack Ranguma, Governor Kisumu County applauded Naam Festival for its aims towards conservation of the Lake.
In his speech at the Exhibition opening, the Governor cites his government’s projects and activities towards the conservation of Lake Victoria and talks about their fight against water hyacinth on the lake.
Naam festival artistically involved three photographers in documenting life and issues around Lake Victoria. The photos gathered constituted a public Exhibition at the Little Art Gallery in Kisumu from 18th March to 30th April 2016. The contributing photographers were;AmungaEchushi from Kenya, Esther Mbabazi (Uganda) and Salome Greggory (Tanzania). The exhibition was complimented as a platform that had great photography that opened people’s eyes to understand what Naam is about.
On the Juridical side of the festival, ‘all goes back to what the law says’ was more of a forum on ‘what the law should enforce…’ The festival engagement of the judiciary in issues of the community that are hurting East Africa as a whole was as described by Hon. Yorokamu Bamwine, a ‘quite unique one as Judges and the Judiciary are rarely involved in such platforms.’ He called it a “Judicial Festival” and a “trend in the right direction”. The Justice also cited the National Environmental Management Authority – NEMA as a fault in areas where it gives people permission for people to construct and build in areas of the lake especially wetlands.
Godfrey Ochieng, a local fisherman believes that to preserve the lake, laws must be followed by everyone thereby a need for public education about conservational issues. When asked about the low fish levels, he blames the too much pollution going on that affects fish breeding. Jane Nundu, a fishmonger from Kisumu says poor waste disposal in the lake affects the quality and size of fish being caught from the lake and in turn affects the business sales as clients don’t buy poor looking fish.
When looking at the disputes over an island Migingo that is being quarreled for between Uganda and Kenya, Kenya’s Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga says, If there’s going to be unity in East African Countries over the lake, all countries need to look at what divides East Africa in general And What our interests are – in order for us to protect them interests.
For economic independence, some women have to trade sex for fish. The fish levels are low and in order for one to get better quality fish at fair prices, women fish mongers exchange sex for a better shot at good sales and that results into the high spread levels of HIV on landing sites and islands on Lake Victoria. Jane Onyango, a gender expert from FIDA cites the need for economic diversification in areas around the lake in order to help the women overcome the practice.
As every challenge presents an opportunity with it, Apollo Omondi realized one. Over the years the lake has been having a problem of water hyacinth, but for an innovator like Apollo, raw materials are everywhere on this lake. He uses the water hyacinth to craft baskets, chairs, office furniture, trays among other beautiful artworks. This has boasted his economic stand in life and at the same time helps eradicate the hyacinth from the lake. Now that hyacinth is being fought, what will be the way forward for Omondi?. Well, innovators create solutions!
Justice for Lake Victoria is an achievable cause, there is a lot everyone can do in their reach to conserve the environment. If nature is at ease, life is okay, but if nature fights back, woes on people.