National Environmental Management Authority Blog

Sand harvesting nightmare in Homabay

In Kenya, sand harvesting has become a major business with rapid urbanization spurred by the new Constitutional dispensation of County Governments and rapid growth of urban areas in Kenya. The need for infrastructure projects such as roads, rail and ports have increased the need for natural resources including sand.

In Homa Bay, due to the high dependency on fishing especially the ‘capture method’ at Lake Victoria, sand harvesting has become an alternative source of livelihood to many fishermen and youths. Rapid growth of urban areas like Oyugis and Kisii town has increased the demand for sand. These has led to massive destruction of the Lake riparian areas, rivers and farms. Several complaints have been raised through the media both print and digital platforms highlighting the problem. This phenomenon necessitated the Authority to conduct a site verification on 11th and 12th of April 2017.

Environmental Inspectors from NEMA and the Nyakwara Beach Management Unit Officials during the sand harvesting site inspection at Nyakwara Beach [PHOTO: COURTESY]

The site visit team was led by Mr. Zephaniah Ouma, Deputy Director Compliance, Mr. John Maniafu, the CDE Homa Bay County and Mr. Reagan Awino, a Compliance & Enforcement Officer.

The fact-finding mission of the sand harvesting activities in Homa Bay County was triggered by several complaints and concerns raised in regards to the activity and the environmental and social effects it has to the local community. The NEMA team from the head office and the Homa Bay County conducted the two-day visit to ascertain the current situation on the ground and advise the Director General on the best way forward.

During the visit, the team found out that sand harvesting is an activity that supports some livelihood in Homa Bay County and involved both genders. The team also found sand is being harvested on farms in the areas of Kobuya and Kobala,  Rachuonyo North.

Farm sand harvesting is very destructive to the land compared to harvesting on the riparian areas. Along the Lake Shore riparian especially the beaches such as Nyakwara, Sindo, Gingo, Kakione, Kaswanga and many others are equally destructive if not well managed. Moreover, the sand harvesting areas have free access and the roads leading to the sites are not in good conditions and traverses other lands. This is a possible recipe of social conflicts due to trespass on private property. The team also found out that the sand harvesters are not in organised groups or the formed groups have collapsed thus hindering quick and easy engagement with them.

This is contrary to the National Sand Harvesting Guidelines that prescribe a management structure through the Sand Harvesting Committee at Sub County level.      Lastly, during the visit, the team found out that the CDE gave closure orders and improvement orders to some sites which needs to be enforced especially on those sites that are not adhering to the orders issued to them.

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