Launch of a Boat Making Hub, a First in Turkana County

Published June 9, 2016 by Dorothy Mwangi


Paul Eregae aged 32 years and Andrew Nawato, 33years, REGAL-IR vocational Boat makers trainees enjoy a ride on the very first fiber boat they manufacture and later sold to a local fisherman. 

'Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.'

And that is just what 33 year old Andrew Nawato and his colleagues (7 men and 2 women), the pioneer class of fiber glass boat makers in Kalokol Ward, Turkana County discovered.

A boat revolution has been going on in the waters of Lake Turkana in the recent months.  It is bound to change the lives of many people and it sure represents a triumph in technology.

Fishermen in this area have for a long time depended on dangerous traditional rafts or wooden dinghies to navigate the salty waters of Lake Turkana. The all-fiberglass construction eliminates issues associated with traditional wood core or aluminum core models, which eventually rot from exposure to the elements.

The group came together in October 2015 with the support of the USAID funded Resilience and Economic Growth in the arid lands project (REGAL-IR), for vocational training on fiber glass boat making. 

“Dinghy fishermen are really excited about this initiative because they can now purchase good quality fiber boats manufactured locally, and this will drastically cut down costs,” says 32 year old Paul Ekiru, one of the trainees, who, like most of his generation of fishermen, was a dinghy fisherman himself. 

But now, this pioneer class of boat makers in Kalokol Ward is moving in to fill the gap, recording big business, and smiling all the way to the bank.

The group sold their first boat in January 2016 for Kes. 365,000 (USD 3,650), making a profit of Kes. 90,000 (USD 900).  They wasted no time in constructing a second boat, which they sold and made whopping profit of Kes. 110,000 (USD 1100). 

Paul Eregae aged 32 years says he appreciates the training he received.  "The safety of people using boats depends on how well the vessel is constructed. If the fittings are weak or there are leakages, it puts lives at risk," he says.  The fiber boats are preferred because they do not rust and they move faster on the water.

Paul says the main challenge at first was to find a buyer for the locally manufactured boats. The fishermen were skeptical of purchasing locally produced boats.  However, once the 32 feet long motor operated Cesse canoe was certified by the Ministry of Fisheries, the local community is now confident, and the demand for the boats is high as they can access deeper water for big fish.  

“The county government would be interested to include a curriculum on fiber-glass boat construction at Lodwar Youth Polytechnic.  We want to cooperate with REGAL-IR on this for the benefit of our youth." said Ms. Purity Were, County Pastoral Economy and Fisheries Officer.

The group has big dreams and is looking forward.  They are already constructing a third boat, aptly trying to meet the high demand. Over 200,000 pastoralists directly depend on the lake.  Located on the western shores of Lake Turkana, 58 km from Lodwar, this vibrant fishing village is the easiest point from which to explore the Lake.