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Lake Victoria’s Fishing Communities Look to the Gulf to Cover Daily Expenses

Lake Victoria is the world’s largest tropical freshwater lake and the largest lake in Africa. It lies in Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya and supports the livelihood of 40 million people in the three East African countries. But dramatic ecosystem changes caused by unsustainable fishing practices – including overfishing and the use of undersized nets that catch fish before they reach maturity – alongside rapid population growth, and pollution by wastewater, agro-pesticides, and fertilisers threaten the future of fishing in Lake Victoria. The majority of women working in Kenya’s fishing industry opt for a job onshore, mainly selling dry and fresh fish and fish-based dishes in local markets. But as middlemen capture market shares and ship fish to be processed in factories outside the Lake Victoria basin, local employment opportunities are diminishing. Predominantly from Asia and East Africa, migrants form the backbone of the Gulf economies, working as cab and delivery drivers, servers, cleaners, doctors, and bankers. Kenyan government estimates put the number of its citizens employed throughout the Gulf region at 100,000, but other sources estimate the figure to be closer to 300,000.