Rusinga Island (0°35’0°44′ South; 34°11’34°22′ East) is situated in Mbita District on Lake Victoria in the southern region of Kenya’s Nyanza Province. Rusinga Island is the second largest island in Lake Victoria with an area of 42 square kilometers. According to the 2009 Census, the population of the Island is around 23,000 residents. The island is connected to the mainland, Mbita Township, by a 200 meter long causeway which was constructed in 1982.
Economy & Livelihood
Rusinga Island is, by in large, a fishing community. Offshore fishing is the primary occupation of most men and boys, while the women partake in the onshore business aspect of fishing, such as selling the daily catch in the market. Most households have at least one member involved in fishing-related activities.
In the past half-decade, many families have switched to agriculturally-based forms of income generation for both subsistence and commercial purposes. Due to a recent overfishing, the fishing business is becoming less profitable and less viable as a means of sustaining a family. Thus, many are planting shambas, or farms, and raising a few cows, goats or chickens.
The land is extensively deforested and very rocky. Prolonged dry periods are now increasingly common. Most houses are made from smeared mud or corrugated iron, with either reed or corrugated iron roofs. Lake Victoria is the main source of water for the Islanders. Except for a few businesses, guest houses, and NGO offices, there is no electricity or running water. Generators are occasionally used to pump water, operate posho mills, run cell-phone charging businesses or power speaker systems for events and church services.
The majority of inhabitants on Rusinga Island are Luo and Luo Basuba. The Luo are the second largest of the 43 tribes within Kenya. The mother tongue is Dholuo and most speak English.
Mbita District, one of twenty within Nyanza Province, is one of the poorest regions in Kenya. More than three quarters of the population survives on less than $1 USD/day, the World Bank’s definition of extreme poverty. The under 5 mortality rate (U5MR) and infant mortality rates (IMR) in Nyanza Province are the highest in the country at 206:1000 and 133:1000 respectively. (DHS) Infant and under 5 mortality trends are not promising either, with rates having steadily risen for the past 15 years. (DHS) This can be attributed to rampant disease, malnutrition and orphan-hood due to HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS prevalence in the Luo community is the highest anywhere in Kenya, with with 26 percent of women and 18 percent of men infected. (DHS 2003)