Fisherfolk in KenyaPastoralism, also known as animal husbandry, serves as a prime economic activity in Kenya, with 90% of the youth workforce involved in this venture. In fact, around 95% of families in rural locations earn their incomes from pastoral labor, which emphasizes the financial importance of this activity. However, a long-standing drought has displaced many pastoralists who rely on migrating with their animals seasonally. With the inability to migrate to new lands, coupled with the death of 439,400 livestock, Kenyan pastoralists have suffered from rising rates of food insecurity and lowered incomes. 

In particular, Kenya’s Lake Turkana, which boasts a lively pastoralist population, now faces the threat of food insecurity more than ever, with 60% of the area’s people going without the standard three meals a day. Since the government only devotes 6% of its budget to health care, those experiencing food insecurity may not receive the proper aid and nourishment they need, leading to rising rates of sickness, especially for those in extreme poverty. 

Recently, pastoralists have turned to commercial fishing — an entirely new line of work for them — to receive an income. As Lake Turkana pastoralists have embraced the fisherfolk lifestyle, however, they have struggled to securely adjust to this new venture. Keep IT Cool, a business based in Nairobi, entered this dire situation as a helpful hand, supplying tools, technology and financial advice to provide a solution for fisherfolk in Kenya. 

Keep IT Cool’s Objective

This new business started its journey in 2019 and has received an award from the Good Food Innovation Fund, which celebrates efforts to revolutionize the food supply chain. With time, Keep IT Cool received a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation as well as Intellecorp. 

The grants ultimately funded Keep IT Cool’s ventures on Lake Victoria and in Nairobi, where the team prioritized the expansion of the fish market. With a focus on this lucrative market, the business then moved its efforts to Kenya’s Lake Turkana, where food insecurity continues to grow at a high rate. 

When the team arrived on Lake Turkana, they sought to revolutionize the ways in which the new fisherfolk in Kenya approach commercial fishing. Despite the arid climate, Lake Turkana is home to 52 species of fish, thus providing pastoralists with opportunities to begin this new business venture. Keep IT Cool’s efforts in directing the new fisherfolk’s attention toward the fish market served as a useful and transformative step that aided the financial growth of the region. 

Keep IT Cool’s Work on Lake Turkana 

To begin this new process, Keep IT Cool provided a technologically driven way to export the fish from Lake Turkana. Prior to Keep IT Cool’s involvement, the fisherfolk on Lake Turkana, lacking the technological tools to help simplify the production and transportation process, witnessed spoilage quite frequently. Additionally, the markets in Nairobi offered prices that did not support the lifestyle needs of the fisherfolk in Kenya lifestyles. 

Keep IT Cool transformed this unfortunate scene. By providing the fisherfolk on Lake Turkana with higher offers than the general asking price, Keep IT Cool helped stabilize their incomes. With the ability to earn more money, fisherfolk can provide a steady source of food for their families, therefore limiting the extent of food insecurity in Lake Turkana. 

Reliable Service 

As Keep IT Cool revolutionized the fisherfolk’s wages, they also innovated the production and transportation of fish from Lake Turkana to external markets. The company provided truck drivers with coolers, an essential tool for keeping the fish fresh during the 425-mile ride from Lake Turkana to Nairobi. 

Keep IT Cool further aids the fisherfolk during the intermediate step between transportation and delivery to consumers. The members of the factory team help prepare the fish for consumption seamlessly. Keep IT Cool’s drivers are in use once again for the delivery process, and as a further source of protection, the company provides local vendors with the ability to rent coolers to maintain the freshness of the fish. 

Keep IT Cool ensures reliable service for fisherfolk in Kenya while also focusing on green alternatives. The organization has effectively limited waste with its cooled trucks, clean production process and supply of fresh fish. As a further incentive, Keep IT Cool uses solar-powered coolers as well as hybrid trucks for delivery. 

Growth and Future Expansions 

With great emphasis on the Lake Turkana region, Keep IT Cool has ensured the stabilization of pay and the delivery of fresh fish — with new technological tools to aid the process. As a further commitment to aiding the region and limiting food insecurity, Keep IT Cool created an ice manufacturing plant on Lake Turkana, an essential addition for the fisherfolk who need ice for transport and for additional endeavors, including selling beverages to earn extra money. 

The development of a factory on Lake Turkana is especially useful, as this will save drivers the trip to the processing factories in Nairobi and also increase the amount of fish that can be transported for delivery. 

Looking Ahead 

Keep IT Cool’s investment in the Lake Turkana region has single-handedly expanded the commercial fishing market and provided fisherfolk in Kenya with a new, exciting and stable career path. As commercial fishing continues to serve as the main source of income for the fisherfolk, the growing rates of food insecurity will continue to decline, bringing families together for three meals a day. 

– Maddy Grieco
Photo: Unsplash