Analysing the corruption of Kenyas ruling institution

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Kenya is 128 out of 169 in the Human Development Index, but is a country that is rich in natural resources (UN, 2010). The potential in Kenya is and was always endless. However, there are many institutional issues and a sordid past that squelch the positive opportunities and sustainable growth and development. From colonialism, to post-colonialism, to neo-colonialism, Kenya is left with floundering hope of change as its natural resources are being stripped to dangerously low levels. It is difficult to see the optimism of Kenya's future when corruption has been the ruling institution for decades. With the centralization of power sucking the resources out of the country, Kenya has relied upon the third sector to alleviate its problems. However, even the third sector is not immune to government control, mismanaged priorities, and corruption. As NGOs are also symbolic of democracy, striving to change policy, governments find that as a threat to their power. Thus continues the cycle of bureaucracy, manipulation, and unproductiveness. "In the NGO world, it is not at all ironical that a non-governmental body is assigned by the government to do a governmental job and is funded by a donor agency, which in turn is an outfit of a foreign government." (Silences of NGO discourse, 32)

Many NGOs have turned to community-based development to alleviate poverty at the grass-roots level, hoping for success in spite of systemic institutional issues in Kenya. Community-based development is a form of development that takes place at the community level with maximum participation from its members. The community voices their needs, designs and implements solutions, and continues the work to sustain the solution and ultimately becomes self-reliant. ( There are other key terms that spin off of community-based development, like "asset-based community development" (ABCD), "community-based sustainable development" (CBSD), and "community-based natural resources management" (CBNRM). When the community is empowered, equipped, and enabled, they will achieve sustainable results of poverty alleviation.


The community-based method is where NGOs, development banks, and international aid organizations have been planted in the recent years in the evolution of global south development and aid. Community-based sustainable development has achieved successful results all over the developing world, with the emphasis on social enterprise to achieve sustainability environmentally, socially, culturally, and financially. Kenya is no exception. Honey Care Africa is a social enterprise in Nairobi that has helped over 9,000 community members, over 40% of whom are women, earn auxiliary income of $200-$250 annually via beekeeping and organic honey products (WRI 57-58). Bees contribute a great service to the environment through pollination, community members have crossed over the poverty line, and the business practices and promotes gender equality. Farmer Field School (FFS) Networks has helped sweet potato farmers in Kenya scale-up their businesses and earn higher market prices for their produce (WRI,104). The Shompole Community Trust is another successful community-based social enterprise for the Maasai community. The community owns and manages 10,000 ha of conservation area and an eco-lodge. Environmental sustainability is achieved through conservation methods that decreases poaching, restore wetlands, and reforest the land. As a result, wildlife numbers have increased three-fold in a 3-year period. Economic sustainability is realized via profits of $2,000-$5,000 per month to the Maasai community that pay for water, health care, and teacher salaries, in addition to the individual employment that the operation sustains. Small enterprises have also branched from this venture, employing more people in an environmentally and financially sustainable way.

Kisumu, Kenya, a riparian community of Lake Victoria, is a case where community-based sustainable development has not worked. Poverty continues to plague the region as population increases and puts more strain on the environment. The population increase has contributed to the deforestation and vegetation clearance of the Lake Victoria's shores and wetlands that has caused erosion, siltation, and habitat destruction. Lake Victoria is severely over-fished and continues to be depopulated of its species as people become desperate. In addition to population pressure, Lake Victoria is polluted by industrial effluent and agricultural waste, causing eutrophication that deoxygenates the water, increases algal blooms, kills fish and exacerbates the hyacinth infestation. The hyacinth introduces a whole new system of problems to Lake Victoria. These environmental pressures on the fisheries of Lake Victoria have forced fish prices to skyrocket beyond what local market can afford. What went wrong? Why hasn't the community been able to manage Lake Victoria's fisheries and other lake resources? The Lake Victoria fishing industry in Kenya produces tens of millions of dollars of business, so why has poverty gotten worse in Kisumu (LVFO, 2008)? How have these causes of CBSD prevention effected the community?

Background and History

Lake Victoria is the world's largest tropical lake and second largest fresh water lake and is roughly the size of Ireland (Chege, 1995). The lake has a sordid history of destruction and exploitation of what was once pristine waters flourishing with biodiversity and nourishing its surrounding communities. Lake Victoria was once only exploited by local small scale fisherman with the control of wholesaling belonging to them and the communities. The local population predominantly obtained their animal protein from the lake. The government and outside investors rarely interfered or had a major role with the fisheries. The local government rarely enforced regulations that promoted sustainable fishing, but with primitive fishing technology and boats, it wasn't too much of a problem. The communities owned and operated all equipment and managed process and trade. The fisheries decisions were made by the communities and they were the ones consuming the fish. There was limited interference due to lack of interest by outside investors and the government. Harvesting, processing, distribution, and trading (locally) were all done by the community members. The communities had complete control of management and ownership of the lake's fisheries.

Then, in the 1950's and early 1960's, the Nile perch and Nile tilapia (Lake Victoria had two native tilapia species, in which one became extinct due to the introduction of the Nile tilapia.) were introduced to Lake Victoria by British colonials to boost the lake's economic productivity, despite opposition by the East African Fisheries Research Organization (Pringle, 2005). In the mid-70s, the Nile perch boom started and the Lake Victoria fisheries entered the global economy. This came with an exorbitant price to the Kisumu community.



As Kenya has entered the global economy and promoted trade liberalization, the country has not improved much economically. This has affected the fish trade in Kisumu immensely, taking away revenues from the community. Kenya joined the World Trade Organization in 1995 (, 2010), which required the country to liberalize trade. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank have also required Kenya to liberalize trade even more in the late 1990s as a condition of financial assistance (Traidcraft, 2005).

As a result of open economy, the capitalization and commercialization of Nile perch and Nile tilapia to the global market and other areas beyond the riparian communities belonged to rich outside investors and Kenyan elites. The fish factories were owned mainly by Europeans, Israelis, and Asians (constraints and opportunits for community participation in the mgt of lv fisheries, 1999). The ones that are still standing after the Nile perch boom pay a premium for fish that keeps the local market from being able to afford them for their own communities. The Kisumu fisherman could not compete with the outside investors who brought in expensive equipment to harvest more fish. These industries fish the lake unsustainably, using trawlers and other large boats with motors that harvest fish in large quantities. The sophisticated technologies and larger boats required less labor, which also depleted jobs from communities. To add insult to injury, the motorized boats also damage the equipment of local fisherman, which are usually not replaced because of the cost, so the victim would lose his livelihood. Industries of Nile perch had refrigeration that the local community lacked. Middlemen took advantage of local fish traders and short-changed them when dictating prices, knowing they were desperate to unload their decomposing cargo and leaves them with less money. Factories did not produce the number of jobs it took away from the local communities.

Women were the most affected by trade liberalization during the Nile perch boom, as every single niche they previously filled were now supplanted by the big industries. While they were never allowed to fish due to cultural mores, they owned boats and hired men to fish for them. With the inception of industries, they went out of business. Pre-perch market, women also acted as fish mongers, taking fish to the local markets to sell. Now the factories have middle men that buy fish from fisherman directly and take them to the factories. Due to the complete intrusion and take-over by industry, women now fight for the skeleton scraps that factories would otherwise throw away. To make matters worse, they eventually had to start competing with fishmeal and animal feed factories for fish skeleton scraps. Any whole fish that women do deal with, as sparse as that market is for them, are the rejected, smallest, and least valuable of them. This is why I believe the sex for fish industry, known as jaboya, took off, spreading HIV/AIDS, leading to further problems of poverty.

Capitalization of Lake Victoria depleted fish stock, causing the need for rules to help fish stock recover. Although this hurt industry, this hurt the local communities more. Factories were taking both perch and tilapia out of the lake for the global economy, leaving nothing for the local communities, and now the communities were imposed fishing rules at the hand of the irresponsibility of industry. With all of these chips stacked against them, the local competition was squeezed out with a flick of the wrist, and put their food security and livelihoods at risk. Trade liberalization and industrialization opened the door to foreign exploitation and has robbed Kisumu of its most valuable resource by taking over the fisheries of Lake Victoria, and leaving the poor poorer. The $44 million dollars in revenue that the Lake Victoria fishing industry generated in the Kisumu region has been siphoned away from the communities and went into the pockets of foreign entrepreneurs. Imagine the possibilities and good that would've done for Kisumu if they were able to keep that revenue or even have any portion of it.


The state and local governments of Kenya both have their hand in mismanagement and corruption that has affected the Kisumu region. Both are guilty of not enforcing rules, regulations, and laws surrounding the fisheries and management of Lake Victoria. There are good policies on paper, like minimum size of catch, use of legal equipment for sustainable fishing, and regulations regarding chemical use and disposal. However, bribery, corruption, lack of knowledge, and lack of enforcement have mitigated any value of these regulations. Municipalities lack adequate treatment of pollution and can't keep up with the population increase. Beach Management Units, a top-down approach where the government gives legal empowerment to trained community to enforce policies on the fishing beaches, were riddled with bribery practices by both community members and government officials (BMU 2005). There has been very little enforcement on limited the number of fisherman, number of catch, controlling fishing techniques, controlling illegal fishing technology, maintaining environmental and water quality, and controlling times and seasons for fishing.

The Kenyan state government has had many effects on extending the poverty in Kisumu. Looking at the institution by itself, power in the Kenyan government is highly centralized, with a president in power who doesn't want to lose it and will thwart all those who threaten it, including NGOs and their democratic symbolism for policy reform. Their power puts more money in their pockets. Nepotism and tribal opposition are big players in the effects of power and monetary dispersion. President Mwai Kibaki is Kikuyu and the people of Kisumu are Luo, the opposition tribe. Tribal nepotism is strong in Kenya, so it seems unlikely that Kibaki would put the needs of the Kisumu communities high on his priority list. Especially, also, after the election of 2007 which reinforced the tribal hostility after Kibaki was accused of using fraudulent practices to win the presidency over Raila Odinga, a Luo, in which a surge of violence broke out across the country leaving devastating effects for many. The government hasn't paid much attention to Kisumu or Lake Victoria as a result, until the Nile perch boom happened and the government started to get involved for purposes of economic gain.

Corruption and bribery have bad consequences of Kenya as a whole, in addition to damaging its communities. The state government is not transparent and infested with bad governance. $1 billion is lost every year from bribery and make up about 2 out of 3 government transactions (, 2010). The international community also feels that the Kenyan government isn't doing enough to curb corruption and bribery (UNHCR, 2010). This promotes greed and prevents money from being put toward sustainable development and poverty alleviation. Obviously, the government isn't going to show an interest in the people of Kisumu, but it will show an interest of its natural resources and exploit them for their benefit at the cost of Kisumu's well-being.

The local government of Kisumu also has a hand in perpetuating poverty in Kisumu. The elite hold the government positions in the local community. With corruption and bad governance being an institution, I assume that like the state government, the local government also operates under a system of elitism, greed, self-indulgent power, nepotism, and corruption. It is a fact that the local government doesn't do much to enforce to laws of sustainable fishing, pollution, and protecting the environment (Odada, 2004). Kenya has a strong identification with hierarchy and status, hence the large gap between the affluent and the poor. I imagine that the government officials in the local communities have no real incentive to take on monster changes with inadequate funds, and use the funds they do have for their advantage.

The unrestricted access of Lake Victoria puts money into the government's hand. The government charges fees for fishing boats, landing sites, and trucks involved in taking from the lake. The more harvesting activity there is the more money that goes into the government's pocket.


The ousting of community-participation from their own management of Lake Victoria by capitalism has caused a chain reaction of more problems at the community level. First, trade liberalization has robbed the community of their natural resources in which they depended on for their economic livelihoods and food security. There is not enough capacity to recover the lost livelihoods, and not enough fish to sustain Kisumu's protein requirements. Then, people are left in sheer desperation that will do anything to survive, if it means prostituting oneself, cheating, stealing, bribing, or using any other means corruption. Another problem is that there is very little knowledge and training within the community of environmental sustainability, human rights, management, entitlements, laws, and HIV/AIDS (Odada, 2004). This community-level issue does perpetuate some of the issues the communities are experiencing, but does ignorance matter when you're hungry and looking for today's survival? This lack of empowerment has waned participation from community members of claiming their rights to the natural resources of Lake Victoria and have dug them into a pit of poverty beyond reparation of their economic sustainability and environmental sustainability of Lake Victoria.

The Nyanza province has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in Kenya, and the riparian communities show the highest areas of HIV/AIDS within Nyanza. There are so many superstitions and outrageous ideas about the spread and cure of the disease. There is lack of knowledge and cultural faux pas about contraception. In women's desperation of obtaining fish and the cultural acceptability of sleeping with multiple women, HIV/AIDS has spread among women, fishermen, and matatu drivers (women needed them to quickly take their perishable fish to market to sell) in the sex for fish industry. It is a deadly chain reaction in which these women, fisherman, and matatu drivers will go and infect their own families and children. This is probably why Kisumu has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Industrialization eliminated community involvement in fisheries, took all the fish, and left women to resort to sex in desperation for income and food. HIV/AIDS eventually renders men too weak to fish, or at least fish in deeper waters and forces them to deplete smaller fish stocks, contributing to the grim outlook for population recovery. Women are left too weak to care for children or have anyone purchase goods from them because of their health status. Furthermore, infected people now need extra income for medication. With increase in population and the low capital needed for fish trading, more and more women are turning to the very little fish left for their livelihoods (Craig 12). As the availability continually decreases, there is more pressure and frequency for sexual relations from fisherman who have wives at home. Furthermore, the jaboya system has also given rise to other transactional sex arrangements that intensifies the spread of HIV/AIDS.


The Lake Victoria fisheries history for the town of Kisumu has caused concern for the people of Kisumu and the ecological health of Lake Victoria. NGOs have risen to alleviate the problems that capitalism, free market, and corrupt government have caused.

There seems to be a lack of knowledge in ecological management and the effects of unsustainable fishing practice (Odada 2004).



A lot of these go hand in hand


During the fishing boom, gender and family structures have changed for the worse. Some fisherman would be gone months at a time to fish for perch, but neglected to remit money or food to their families. They would also take new wives near the landings the used unbeknownst to their existing wives. While breaking their families back home, they were also spreading HIV. (Pringle, 523)

Traditionally, men did the fishing and women were in charge of processing and trading. With the perch boom, the commercial sector stripped the women of these sources of income. With the sophisticated equipment of the elites and commercial sector, the men with primitive equipment had to look for other livelihoods and became poorer as there weren't even jobs available for the educated.

As the population increased and fish abundance decreased, poverty has also remained prevalent. Women and fisherman resort to the jaboya system. Women, formerly fishmongers or not, come to the beaches to develop relationships with fishermen to have sex in exchange for the scarce fish. This has contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, women fishmongers who have just acquired their fish for sex will have sex for matatu drivers to transport their fish to market before it goes bad, which further spreads HIV/AIDS. The Nyanza province has the highest HIV positive population in Kenya at 14%, and the beach communities have the highest prevalence in Nyanza. (Bushdrums, 2006).

Biodiversity does have its values in Kenyan culture, despite the desperation to survive. There is an air of loss of "heritage" when future generations will never know of species that once thrived in the past generations. The existence of species was a part of the ecological life around the communities that will experience them no more (Pringle 531).


There are many contributing factors that have decimated the biodiversity and health of Lake Victoria. The introduction of three non-native species (Nile perch, Nile tilapia, water hyacinth), industrial and agricultural pollution, unsustainable fishing practices and overfishing, environmental degradation from development, increased population, and eutrophication have all contributed to Lake Victoria's unethical condition. The Nile perch and tilapia have voraciously consumed many native fish species to an inevitable demise. The water hyacinth prevents

Deforestation due to demand for firewood for fish-smoking because perch would rot if not smoked or refrigerated within hours of death (Pringle, 523).

Since Nile perch is out of the common man's reach, they are competing for the same food that the nile perch eat and Nile perch fisherman who are catching its prey species for bait. As the lake is being depleted of its fish resources, local communities become desperate and use unsustainable measures to catch fish. With the overfishing and lack of expensive equipment, local communities are also catching more immature fish which are reducing fish populations dramatically. What was once a thriving lake of hundreds of species now reduced to 3 main species, Lake Victoria is in danger of being annihilated of its fisheries.

The Nile perch has decreased biodiversity in major ways. First, it preys on the once abundant species of cichlids and also feeds on species that the riparian communities consume.


Many NGOs use social enterprise as a solution to bring people out of economic hardship while not contributing to the destruction of the environment. NGOs are in a situation to alleviate issues that the government has caused for its people. They're basically making due with what they have, rather than changing any policy. Since NGOs are a vehicle of democracy, which is contrary to the way the government is run, policy change is futile. Any positive changes are cosmetic, not sustainable, or don't attack the issue from the core cause.

Despite the fact that the institutions in Kenya are discombobulated and missing priorities, NGOs are able to have some positive impact on civil society. Social enterprise is one way that NGOs are looking to bring people out of poverty. Social enterprise has a positive effect economically, socially, and environmentally, also known as the triple bottom line. Many NGOs in Kenya strive to engage the poor in social enterprise as a goal for sustainable income and contribution to society that is environmentally responsible. The Lake Victoria region is in dire need of sustainable development to save its intensely degraded environment and provide livelihoods for the many that live in poverty with dwindling resources.


The preservation and enhancing of biodiversity lays in the balance of economically sustaining riparian communities and serving many in poverty. How do you conserve species when peoples' livelihoods and nutrition depends on it? And how do you manage that with a corrupt government and greedy investors? The solution must be cross sectoral, using a bottom-up approach. The community must regain control of the natural resources management of Lake Victoria and its fisheries in order to bring people out of poverty and for the environmental health of the lake.

I personally think that the only way to get out of this situation is to let the introduced fish species be overfished and go extinct, so Lake Victoria is back to it's "unmarketable, invaluable' state (according to the Britians who introduced fish species to capitalize on it). This will allow wht once was a biodiversity of 350 species repopulate. Although many of these species were annihilated to extinction, there needs to be a repopulation of the existing species that the local community used for food security and commerce that didn't have a place in the global market.

Nile perch require different equipment as they were much bigger than the tilapia, dagaa, omena, fulu, and other species that fishermen were used to catching. The larger, more profitable perch lurked in deeper waters that required motorized boats and advanced equipment. New equipment is expensive and beyond the financial reach of most local fisherman. These boats also destroy gear of the local fisherman, so they Sick fishermen who are HIV positive are also restricted to shallower waters because they are too weak to venture further.

The Kenyan government has promoted policies of trade liberalization throughout the 1990s, reducing, for instance, the maximum tariff rate from 45 percent in June 1994 to 25 percent in June 1997. While the international financial institutions and Western governments in general tend to support trade liberalization, it may have negative effects for a country like Kenya that depends on agricultural exports in exchange for higher value-added capital imports. If Kenyan manufacturing firms cannot compete with their foreign counterparts, reduction of trade protection measures, such as tariffs, will simply lead to the retardation of the Kenyan industrial sector. The result would be further entrenchment of the agricultural sector in the economy, and thus the prolonging of the unequal trading patterns that sustain the country's severe balance of trade deficit. In such a context, the pro-trade idea that all countries benefit when each focuses on producing and exporting that in which they have a comparative advantage and on importing that in which they do not, seems hardly relevant.

Government departments and agencies, the three states that share Lake Victoria, international development banks, donor organizations, and local, national, and international NGOs are all involved in the management and development of Lake Victoria fisheries. Unfortunately, capitalism has taken away the market from the local people, in which the government has allowed private companies and outside investors take over the fisheries of Lake Victoria. The money went into the hands of the rich and foreign. The one positive, if you can see it this way, of the poor leadership of the government is that it does sustain a lot of NGOs.