By Lorraine Anyango and Lavender Akinyi.
Drunk fish float on water surfaces and makes it easy for one to pick and have a meal.
As absurd as it sounds, this was one of the ancient fishing methods practiced by the luo community residing along Dunga beach on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kisumu.
The local’s sprinkled malt, traditionally known as ‘thowe’ used to brew traditional beer onto the water surface.
The sprinkled malt is digested by fish effectively making them drunk, causing them to pass out on the surface of the water.
Papyrus woven traps of all shapes and sizes were also used for trapping and catching fish,the most common trap was (ounga) which was an elongated papyrus basket in the shape of of fisherman’s hat,the trap would be partially immersed in shallow water to allow fish to swim in the trunk.
A method known as ‘Keke’ was also used. This involved placing huge tree logs across water points that showed signs of water movement, while providing spaces like modern fishing nets.
The traps would be placed after opening the space .The logs distributed water flow and fish were caught from gushing water through the spaces. The fishermen would just pick the trapped fish from the spaces.
There was also the ‘soyo’ method of harvesting fish , a spear- like stick is pushed into the fish holding it till its removed out of water .Soyo was often practiced whenever fish got stuck in water pools formed after flood levels from rainfall reduced or after high tides and lake water current that carried fish.
Use of strong smelling bathing soap while going for fishing was considered a taboo because it was believed that fish could detect scent and escape being caught by otete or any type of fishing net.
In the recent past Fish trade at Dunga has been a reliable food source that is economically sustainable due to organized fishing on Lake Victoria.
However fishing largely depends on the invention of efficient methods of fishing and development of the outrigger canoe for travel and fishing.
Given the close proximity to the lake shore and scarcity of rainfall in the region around L .Victoria, communities around depended on fishing.
The Luo elders developed and enforced special precautions to compensate for any dependence on fishing that could lead to over fishing. Only a certain group of people could do fishing, the activity was not open to all.
In effort to preserve fish population on Lake Victoria and rivers in luo land, the luo elders enforced what was known as closed season, the season was described as a period where resolved that there will be no fishing on L .Victoria.
The precautions revolved around seasons for fishing and the methods employed, this two regulated and control the population of fish.
The customary requirement also played a role in fishing regulations as only men were allowed to sail long distances into the lake to fish. Men did the fishing while women did the selling and preparing dried fish for shipment to other communities
The community elders knew that fish preservation was important for the overall survival of people hence they ensured a concept of fish preservation was carried out.
Despite of developing some of the best fishing equipment methods and technique. The fishing community still has challenges.
They have to cope with accidents involving snake bites which were common, sometimes other reptiles would be caught inside the otete.
There are other challenges affecting fishing at L .Victoria like the stinking stenches chasing away customers from the lakeside fish selling hotels.
The rotting hyacinth is adversely affecting the raw water entry point at dunga beach, communities neighboring dunga have lived with the bad smell and brownish commodity caused by the rot of the hyacinth which can cause water borne diseases.
Despite the challenges and problems the dunga people are resilient they are productive and enterprising.
Dunga’s environment attracts nature creation in a unique and peaceful way, for sports lovers there is introduction of ‘Kaya king’ an activity adding a catchy ingredient to the entertainment sector.
Some of the fish species one will get at Dunga includes Tilapia known to the local as Ngege, Nile perch (Mbuta), cat fish, kembong (Kamongo) dagaa (Omena) among others.
During colonial period the colonialist poked fun at how a large lake such as Victoria harbored nothing but small fish such as tilapia that is why they introduced Nile perch in the lake
Another attraction that comes along enjoying fresh fish at Dunga is watching the sunset .One catches a unique glimpse watching the sun at the interior far end of the lake casting its soft golden rays over the lake waters.
Dunga beach also serves as a perfect destination to watch the birds life and marine life around the the beaches of Lake Victoria it covers a vast acreage.
Kisumu’s government is focused on the conservation of this ecosystem such that one can view birds such as Sitatungas birds, pythons and in the evening hippos while enjoying the great sun downer in the evening at Dunga.
The boardwalk stands on top of the wetlands swamps that is made up of largely papyrus reeds built by team volunteers .There is also a small a museum at dunga that displays the waves and crafts made by different women groups around dunga village, many of the traditional luo artefacts including musical instruments, ornaments, costumes and many more you can also find eco magazines and old newspapers which gives a good view in traditional artifacts.
The venue can also be hired out for events and conferences. One of the latest visitor was Lupita Nyongo and the acclaimed British architect David Adjaye who designed the African American history Museum and plans to design a new art Centre in Kisumu.
Dunga beach reflects something ancient. The historic importance of Lake Victoria as a central feature in the lives of luo people living around L. Victoria it has three elements fishing, Agriculture and livestock
Dunga economy has continued to grow immensely with sunset hotel opened and joints such as hippo point and Impala sanctuary have drawn tourist eager to visit the sites.
There have been efforts by government of Kisumu to ensure Dunga is a tourist destination as well as reclaim the former Dunga wetlands and initiate some cool eco-tourism that gives value for their money
There are lots of new hotels and resort coming up in Dunga and the area is priving quite popular with Kisumu hip Urban youth and even foreign tourist , the missing link is good roads the County of Kisumu has put effort to combat the population in the area.
Cultural tuorism has played different roles in our country which are poverty alleviation, creating jobs for unskilled or semi skill workers in hotels.
There is still an urgent need to upgrade cultural tourism in Kenya and harness the huge potential this area holds to grow the economy build roads, railway networks and airport.
Cultural tourism practiced alongside dunga beach has helped change the lives of many communities around it and enabled them to overcome some of the challenges they have been facing .Creating self- employment with incoming developing activities has also been enhanced.
Adoption of bio gas at Dunga beach is expected to open up more opportunities for income generation large, biogas plant will create several activities ranging from technical management of biodigester to collecting organic wastes, fertilizers sale, cooking and electric charging services
Cooking on wood burning stove at dunga has led to daytime smoke reduction, under the project of dunga with AstaZeanea large community digesters. This will power kitchens and fish driers electric light for local fish processors, fishermen and market stalls avoiding collection of firewood will see a reduction in the cuts and bruses, accidents and assault which women experience on long treks away from the village and limit respiratory diseases
Kisumu County has potential of growth as a cultural destination from which the local people can start enterprises since it’s surrounded by vast lake resources such as beach tourism examples being Dunga and Lwangni beach.
Nothing is as sweet as the taste of fresh fish, right from the lake to the frying pan.
This unique experience is what welcomes you to Dunga beach, a long time fishing village on the eastern shore of Winam on Lake Victoria just south of Kisumu city.
“I can’t believe I have already consumed 15 pieces of ‘Fulu’ (tilapia fish that is yet to mature) ….. I just can’t get enough of this…mm it’s yummy.” Mary Wairimu says as she visited Dunga beach for the first time.
She is just one among the many local and international tourist that confirm that though dunga beach may not be a popular site yet, however those vast with it know it as one of those place where one can choose freshly caught fish and in few minutes time enjoy fish meal by the water.