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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 February 2007, 14:23 GMT
Kenyan village battered by rising tides
By Odhiambo Joseph
BBC News, Malindi

Catches are getting smaller, say fishermen
As environment ministers meet in Nairobi to ponder the effects of climate change, a small Kenyan fishing village is already counting its losses.

The coastal village of Ngomeni, some 160km north of the port city of Mombasa, is battling with the effects of rising sea levels.

Several houses have been destroyed by strong ocean currents and it is common for people to spend sleepless nights, trying to salvage their household items or save their lives.

Many people here are living in abject poverty as fishing, their key source of livelihood, has also been seriously affected by environmental and other changes, which they can hardly explain.

Nyabwana Omar, has seen life move from bad to worse. She is now unable to feed her three children properly or provide adequate shelter for them.

"The sea has on several occasions destroyed our house, this is the third one we have built in two years," says Ms Omar.

"We are just lucky to be alive because each time the currents strike at night when we are asleep."

Wall of rubbish

Hoping to control the strength of the ocean currents, villagers in Ngomeni are employing means that can be just as harmful to the environment.

We are better off taking medicine than losing our houses to the sea
Fisherman Shee Ahmed

Shee Ahmed, a fisherman and village elder in Ngomeni is spearheading this exercise of using walls of rubbish as a buttress against the rising sea water. This is the option they have to save their homes, he says.

"It's true that this garbage is a source of diseases. In fact, it attracts mosquitoes and many times people have suffered from dysentery," says Mr Ahmed.

"But diseases can be treated, therefore we are better off taking medicine than losing our houses to the sea."

Fishermen struggle to catch enough fish to sell, and cannot afford to construct new houses or purchase land on higher grounds to avoid this misery.


This is an argument that Athman Seif, the director of the Malindi Marine Association, supports.

Little support is being offered to coastal communities

He says many fish species have disappeared and even available stocks are dwindling.

"We have seen great changes at sea and it's not easy to meet our targets," he says

"We used to catch barracuda and tuna fish in large numbers between November and February but in the past three years the catch is nothing to write home about," he added.

He blames this on climatic changes which he says is noticeable to veteran fishermen at Ngomeni and other places across the East African coast.

Unlike in the past, wind patterns have become increasingly unpredictable, abruptly forcing fishermen to abandon trips, said Mr Seif - who represents more than 300 fishermen in Malindi.

"At the moment, the villagers say they have had no assistance from the government," he says.

"Their only hope is that the changing behaviour of the Indian Ocean will come to an end by divine intervention and until then they will have to cope by any means necessary."

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