Food Security: Kisumu’s Magnam Environmental Network improving members’ livelihoods

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Michael Otieno Nyaguti. Founder and member of Magnam Environmental Network in Kisumu County is crushing sugarcane to produce Sugarcane juice at his Otonglo business premises. PHOTO/ Gilbert Ochieng.
Michael Otieno Nyaguti. Founder and member of Magnam Environmental Network in Kisumu County is crushing sugarcane to produce Sugarcane juice at his Otonglo business premises. PHOTO/ Gilbert Ochieng.

As Kenyans continue experiencing more economic hardships, the saying “Survival of the fittest” has become a reality.

The soaring prices of essential commodities have seen the majority of poor Kenyans being unable to afford three meals a day.

The situation

According to the 2019 Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Kisumu County’s poverty indicators establish that out of the county’s 1.2m population, 0.5m people, translating to 42 percent are poor and have been classified under absolute poverty.

This indicates that the majority of them can only afford a meal a day.

However, the good news is that the members of Magnam Environmental Network in Kisumu West Sub County have been able to put poverty behind their backs, thanks to Michael Otieno Nyaguti, the brain behind the formation of the vibrant network.

Magnam’s input

To empower its members economically to be able to wade through the harsh economic storm with ease, the network is actively engaging in diverse income-generating interventions that have helped improve the livelihood of the network’s members.

The activities being undertaken comprise fish farming, horticulture, avocado growing, pawpaw, lemon, sugarcane farming, and value addition, among others.

The fishing community, which constitutes a bigger percentage of the network membership, has an upper hand considering that they are the greatest benefactors in the network.

The gains the fishing communities have achieved since the inception of the network include the training of the Beach Management Unit [BMU] members by the network on the needs and benefits of behavioral change as they go about their day-to-day activities in and around Lake Victoria.

“Apart from participating in fisheries co-management institutions at all levels and disseminating information on co-management and modern fishing technologies, the network also sources and provides credit facilities to the fishing community to empower them to acquire appropriate fishing gear.

They are trained to use recommended fishing methods to avoid violating maritime fishing laws and also on boat designs, propulsion and processing technologies,” says Nyaguti.

He adds that the network also assists the fishing communities in developing their saving capacities and alternative income-generating activities such as fish farming and horticulture, among others.

The network, which has been in existence for the past thirteen years, has been advocating for fisheries stakeholders’ rights and positively influencing national policies and laws.

Sex for fish

In almost all key beaches along Lake Victoria, there has been the issue of “sex for fish”, a move that has, apart from putting the fishing community at risk of acquiring HIV and Aids, led to family breakups.

To curb the possible spread of the pandemic, Magnam Environmental Network is actively participating in a marathon sensitization of the entire local community aimed at discouraging them from engaging in the vice.

“The network has had a key role in advocating for control of HIV and Aids at our beaches, taking

into account the fact that the practice has been rampant on some beaches along the shores of Lake Victoria,” he says.

Nyaguti says that the network is also engaging the community on the adverse effects of drugs and substance abuse.

Child labor

The network is also concerned about the shockingly high rate of child labor particularly in the fishing industry.

Numerous school-age children have been flocking to the beaches in search of employment at the expense of education.

“Scores of underage children have been flocking to the beaches in search of employment, but as a network, we have been utilizing every opportunity within our means to advocate against child labor,” explains Nyaguti.

The network is also advocating against pollution from industrial and municipal effluents that have reached an alarming level.

When The Scholar Media visited his home recently for a spot check on the income-generating activities the thirty-membership, community-based non-governmental organization is undertaking for a livelihood, it was impressive, encouraging, and worth emulating.

Nyaguti was initially growing pawpaw and avocado on a large scale, but he later on decided to settle for large-scale sugarcane farming.

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He uses the same as a raw material for the production of diverse juices such as sugarcane juice, beetroot juice, carrot juice, lemon and mint juice, ginger, and cinnamon juice, from the long list.

The sugarcane juice he produces is a mixture of beetroot, carrot, lemon and mint, ginger, and cinnamon.

Challenges

Nyaguti says the major challenge the network is facing is a lack of adequate resources, which has hampered them from realizing their goal.

“Lack of funds has hampered us from realizing our dream, but we have been pulling our resources together and this has enabled us to move a step forward,” says Nyaguti.

Why you need sugarcane juice

Drinking sugarcane juice daily has several health benefits.

Considering that it is a naturally low-cholesterol, low-sodium food with no saturated fats, sugarcane juice improves the normal functioning of the kidney and also helps in losing weight.

The high concentration of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and manganese makes sugarcane juice alkaline in nature.

Sugarcane juice is as well rich in antioxidants so it helps fight infections and boost immunity.

It helps prevent cancer if consumed regularly.

It prevents aging, bad breath as well as tooth decay.

Sugarcane juice is the best source of reducing all skin issues.

It is high in acids like glycolic and alpha-hydroxyl which increase the production of cells. They also help in exfoliating skin and removing the chances of causing acne.

Both mint and lemon juices cure digestion problems and are also excellent skin cleansers.

Lemon and mint contain and relax the body.

Mint leaves [Mentha] are mouth fresher and protect the body from seasonal allergies.

The strong aroma in the mint helps to cure common colds.

Who should not drink sugarcane juice?

The policosanol that is present in the sugarcane juice makes one’s blood thin.

So, sugarcane prevents the blood from causing clots, preventing excessive bleeding from the body.

Therefore, do not consume sugarcane juice if you take any medicine that makes your blood thin.

These benefits from the assorted brand of juices being produced by Nyaguti have seen him keep a data bank of clients yearning for his products daily.

This has kept him on his toes, causing him to be as busy as a bee to ensure he has a steady supply of his diverse brands of juice to satisfy and match the demand.

“I normally wake up at six in the morning to ferry my products for sale at Ngege beach, where I have a lot of clients majority of whom are the fishermen landing ashore after a nightlong fishing expedition in Lake Victoria,” explains Nyaguti.

Worth it?

“My juice production business has sustained me and my family a great deal.

Medium-sized plastic glass is going for Ksh50 and the juice container has a capacity of 30 such glasses, implying that I am earning a total of Ksh1, 500 daily.

Michael Otieno Nyaguti is filtering sugarcane juice into a container in readiness for sale the following day. PHOTO/Gilbert Ochieng.

This translates into Sh45, 000 monthly.

“I am therefore calling upon unemployed youths from Kisumu West Sub County to form and register groups that would enable them to get access to grants and engage in viable income-generating activities.

They would improve their livelihoods, considering that white-collar jobs are scarce,” says Nyaguti.

Nyaguti opines that there is no need to rush to the cities and major towns in Kenya in search of white-collar jobs.

“Therefore I urge you to form or join groups that would at the end of the day catapult and make you self-sufficient through the provision of development loans,” concludes Nyaguti as a parting shot.

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Mr. Ochieng is a journalist based in Busia. He has 20 years of experience writing for diverse newspapers countrywide. He focuses on Agriculture, Health, Development and other Human Interest Stories.

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