dwindling catches

Kenya: Jaboya culture creeps back among fishing communities in Homa Bay

By Kang-Chun Cheng

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Posted on March 11, 2022 18:02

Ladies on Nduru Beach along the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria. (photo: Kang-Chun Cheng)
Ladies on Nduru Beach along the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria. (photo: Kang-Chun Cheng)

Residents in lake regions are considered some of Kenya’s most marginalised communities, commonly lacking access to basic services such as sanitation, healthcare, proper education, and clean water – a far cry from the cosmopolitan cities. Nduru is only 16 kilometres from Kisumu, yet driving on the unpaved road takes more than an hour, and that’s if the road isn’t washed out. In this photoessay, we meet the women and men of a fishing community and why jaboya culture is returning.

By mid-morning, the crowd had already gathered. Those waiting for the overnight fishing boats to dock are mostly women, who come outfitted with knives and buckets. A few men also mill around the shore.

Along the banks of Lake Victoria, fishing runs deep as a cultural livelihood within these lacustrine communities, many of which are Luo.

The energy is buzzing, expectant–rhythms of life here orbit around fish: catching, trading, cleaning, and eating. Even the time spent waiting, as they do now, is an integral part of socialising.

IMG_1472 © Morning on Nduru beach, where ladies and other community members wait for overnight fishing boats to alight. (photo: Kang-Chun Cheng)

‘Would you follow the law if you’re hungry?’

In tandem with fundamental healthcare access issues, the high degree of sexualization endemic to fishing cultures also plays a significant role in HIV and other STI transmission. HIV rates are also amongst some of the country’s most dire, as high as 22-25% by some estimations.

“When you grow up in an environment where

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