Powering Up the Ghost Town of Rusinga by Anthony Ochieng Onyango

Growing up on Rusinga Island, Kenya, my family and I enjoyed the majestic views of the enormous lake. When the sun sets, the lake comes to life in a whole new form, with small yellow lights appearing all over the water’s surface like a town that disappears with the new day. This is why we call it the ‘Ghost Town’. This sea of lights is actually a trap, deployed by fishermen to attract and catch the delicious silverfish locally known as ‘Omena’. The lights used to be yellow, but now the old kerosene lanterns are replaced by solar-powered LED lights. The solar lamps started to be introduced on the island about six years ago, and today almost all of the fishermen use them. Clearly, my community was mitigating climate change in their own way.

The communities living in Rusinga Island on the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria have always depended on fishing and will continue to depend on it into the future. But impacts of climate change, such as increased water levels of the lake, increases in temperature and changes in rainfall patterns - combined with overfishing and ongoing pollution of the lake - significantly affect the fish species. Most of the freshwater fish species native to the Lake Victoria basin are endangered, critically endangered, or extinct, according to the IUCN.

Fishing livelihoods are also under threat because of unsustainable fishing practices such as overfishing, destructive fishing methods, pollution from fish farms and use of non-renewable energy in the industry. Climate-smart practices can help reverse this. One of the objectives of climate-smart fisheries and aquaculture in the FAO Climate Smart Agriculture sourcebook is to enable the sector, where possible, to contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions during the harvest and production stages and throughout the entire value chain.

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