To begin with I’m Mike from Rusinga Island where I have been living since my childhood. Here in Rusinga I went to Uya Primary School and joined Tom Mboya high school, which I took one year then went to Mirogi Boys School for form 2 and 3 because of school fee I was advised by my parents who could not continue to pay for the boarding fee. I later joined Kamasengre Mixed Secondary School for form 4. Due to lack of money to continue to my college I had to drop and let my younger brother to continue with his school. My parents who were fishermen could not pay for my college fee and pay for my brother high school fee who got a calling later from Chianda Boys School one of the national schools in Kenya, where he has worked hard. I joined my mum to pay for his school fee and tried to make him have a good environment to make him pass his exam. He has managed to work hard and got a good grade to join university and this is his second year at Maseno University studying computer science.
My parents had been fishermen for long and this is where they have been able to provide our daily bread and needs and I respect them for the hard path which they have been through, and I hope soon they will be able to enjoy our fruits.
From my childhood I have been an artist where I was blessed with different kinds of talents such as Acrobatics, football, dancing, yoga, and many more just to mention a few. When I finished high school, I got myself into fishing for 4 years and by then I was also working on different kinds of talents which I was having. I could play soccer and acrobatics which were not paying so they did not take much of my time. Some years later I joined one of the talents groups called NAFSI Africa Acrobats which is found in Nairobi but it was formed by some of my cousins who started this from Rusinga but later went to Nairobi. I got a privileged to go to Germany for a cultural exchange program. I thought from this my life will change but it was not that easy.
When I came back from Germany this did not went the way I could imagine I decided to come back to Rusinga and start a talent center where I wanted to nurture talents for the youths in Rusinga. I started a talent group called Rusinga Island Acrobats where we train and offer some shows in functions and we get some small pays. We also gain interest to start yoga classes.
Because I was interested on the kids so I found necessary to do this program in school this are some pictures of the training at Humanist school.
During the Covid-19 pandemic period we were lucky when we were joined with a lady who also came to do a volunteer work in Humanist Center from Czech Republic when she saw us doing training, she joined us to do Acroyoga with her. And when she was going back, she was like not wanting to go back but to stay with us that tells she enjoyed the time she was in Rusinga Island.
Fishing in the lake became so hard and I could not go to fish every day, but because of good relation and good name which I was having with the community that is in the year 2020 August I decided to look for something which I could do to support my life and the life of my family. By then I was already married to one wife and two kids, one girl called Reachal and Adrian Mike. With the influence which I was having I said the government cannot give me job because I did not have good qualification but I could create a job for myself.
When I met with Dan, he asked me if I can have interest to work with him on an environmental conservation project here in Rusinga, but because I was like vulnerable to many who did not know what I wanted in life I accepted we started to run a program with him in tree nursery at Kamasengre School. And we installed gabions at Eddy Primary School which was to help in soil erosion, since then I gained a lot of interest in trees and environment. I was not interested on the little money which he was paying me but I said to myself that I may use this platform to change my life. I was to run this for four months so it was up to me to deliver and look for what I want, because of the good remarks he was making on me motivated me to work more and more he later introduced me to Claudia whom they have been working with in the project and so I used this platform to build my own path.
It was then I decided to tell my story to Claudia. By then I was running some small fish farm which was not having structure and value, it was having different definition on the eye to the community members. Some could call it a hole with collected water, some called it pond and so it was not having a name. But because I knew very well what I could achieve with this I did not loose hope to put more effort to change its face. After I finished to dig the ponds, I could influence some youths to join me and we work together in fish farm production but they did not build the interest. From the look my ponds were looking different from other ponds there was not well planned due to lack of funds to facilitate the process and so many could not see the seriousness in what I was doing. I remember nobody could take his time to come and visit me and to share with me but the only thing they could do was to talk negative about what I was implementing. I really found it difficult to grow since this project needed a lot of money to run it.
Some of the pictures of the ponds I started with. It is true from the look to me I could call them ponds but others could use any word to define them. After I had set this, I talked to a friend who could help me to collect the fingerlings from the lake to stock in the ponds which took me one week to fill the ponds and we collected a total of 200 small fish both male and female. It did not take long when my fish started to show up on the water and this motivated me and I got inspired to continue with this good work.
Few months later I could start to notice fingerlings in the ponds and this showed me that some good work is taking place. When I started sharing my story with Claudia, I was sure that my life is going to change and so I had to continue working at the tree nursery. It took me six months to develop my fish farm project idea where I was lucky enough when Claudia came to Kenya and also found time to visit my farm. Where we found time to talk one on one with her, we discussed a lot with her and she accepted to work with me in this journey of creating and running a fish farm with me.
After six months in conversion with Claudia she accepted to help me develop a proposal so that she could help me to look for funds to support my project. I could not believe since I could start to see some success, I can’t forget to say how meeting Claudia has changed my life from bottom to where I have reached and from the bottom of my heart I want to say thank you thank you. I can remember when I could not find money to feed the fish, I could give out my phone to get loan from friends to be able to buy the feeds, sometimes I was losing hope but I said not time will reach for me to say success story.
Truth be told if it could have not been you my dear friend I can call you my mentor, mother I could have not made this big step. Last year I got huge funds through the good work of Claudia/BaRuIs to implement into my fish farm project. I was like is this me or it’s a dream. I got to register my farm under the name DECHWA COMMUNITY PROJECT which means a community granary where they will be coming to buy fish for their consumption. With the great support we have had many reforms and we could own the following:
- water pump
- construction of 4ponds with liners
- we offer training to a group of 5 youths on fish farming
- Feeds for the fish
And many more to come and at the moment the whole community is on a daily basis make visit to the farm and talking good on the investment. I am so much impressed with the hard work I have been doing and hoping that we shall be able to help the community in food security. Fishing in the lake has been a problem to the people of Rusinga but through this we shall help to find a solution as we hope to grow day by day. From what we hard at the start and what we have we have made big step.
I have been so passionate and would like to make a change to the community, where we may project to make our fist harvest and we believe to give the best fish which are healthy and very tasty with high protein value. From the look of things, I’m highly motivated I would wish this support to continue till bring a change to people of Rusinga.
Our Future Plans
With this great partnership we shall be proud to extend our production where we shall long to have the cages in the lake and since we don’t have a factory which makes the fish feeds, we will be very glad to run a fish farming industry where other farms could come and buy the feeds from our farm.
WE shall be happy to change many lives for the people of Rusinga, and so we shall appreciate the continuity of the support so that we can celebrate together at the end. Since feeding takes a lot of money on this field we would to talk more, if possible, on the production of our own fish feeds and also sell to other farms to create more jobs to the community and the volume of farm production. Otherwise we may not have the correct word to use to say thanks to everyone who will find time to read this.
Yours faithfully Mike Okello