46 year old Gabriel Edome, a Turkana pastoralist has boasted of a large herd of goats, camels and donkeys making him one of the richest men in his village and with an enviable reputation of comfortably fending for his family.
But as fate would have it, tragedy struck last year when the Horn of Africa Drought hit the region and wiped out most of his livestock. The few that were left succumbed to sickness leaving his family, poor and miserable.
Turkana County in Northern Rift Kenya has been plagued by persistent spells of drought. The area is predominantly inhabited by pastoralists, who have traditionally derived their livelihood from keeping livestock especially cattle.
As is the case in this region, which receives partial rainfall, if any, they seasonally lose their livestock to diseases and/or drought for lack of pasture and water. Most of them live a nomadic life, always moving from one place to another depending on the availability of pasture and water for their animals.
With no source of livelihood, and nowhere else to turn to, Edome tried his hand at fish trading but the benefits were not forthcoming as fast as he thought. Together with fellow traders they lacked a market to sell their produce and were on a daily basis engaged in running battles with the infamous local council “askaris” for lack of a permit to conduct their business.
That is however all in the past now. Edome together with his fellow traders are today all smiles as they are direct beneficiaries of a Japan funded project which has seen IOM construct the now popular Lodwar Fish Market which opened its doors in June 2012. Edome is a member of the Natogo Self-Help group, consisting 100 fish traders, who sell their produce and assist in managing the Lodwar Fish Market.
Every day, they get fresh fish supply from Lake Turkana about 55km from Lodwar town. They are able to preserve the fish in cold rooms made available inside the market. In 2010, IOM provided the fishermen in Lake Turkana with fishing gears such as fishing nets and boats.
Today, Edome’s social status has been restored. From the profits, he’s now able to pay school fees for his children, buy food and medicine for his family. He also makes weekly contributions to a local Savings Society which enables him to secure soft loans to increase his trading capacity. The Fish market is slowly transforming Lodwar and economically empowering Natogo Self-help Group.