Nairobi, July 14 (IPS) – It has been exactly two years since George Omuodo’s brutal confrontation with fishermen from Uganda, which left him in hospital with a broken arm and bruised ribs. After listening to his ordeal, one wonders where he gets the courage to go back to the lake every day.
“I have to feed my family,” Omuodo told IPS.
Omuodo is a 28-year-old fisherman from Homabay Province, a place known for its fishing activities with its large harbor and series of fishing boats along the shores of Lake Victoria.
Omuodo and most of his friends depend on fishing as a source of food and income for their families. The only problem with this humble lifestyle is that it suddenly became risky.
Border disputes have long been a perennial problem for local authorities on Lake Victoria, with some fishermen having lost their lives participating in their trade. The infamous Migingo Island is an example of a border conflict in which many Kenyan fishermen have suffered at the hands of Ugandan authorities. The fishermen complained that they were being harassed by border patrols, some of whom forced them to give up their equipment, catch and even freedom over violating rules.
“The area around Migingo is good for fishing and is what drives us there. However, the Ugandan government believes that the island of Migingo is their territory and that all the fish in the area belong to them. Their border patrol and fishermen are harassing us,” Omuodo complained.
“Since this is our only source of livelihood, we have no choice but to constantly risk our lives to make a living,” he said.
Omuodo and his friends may finally have someone to watch over them while they go about their business.
Thanks to the Technical University of Kenya (TUK), fishermen on Lake Victoria will soon have a drone to keep an eye on them and make sure they don’t fall victim to border conflicts.
In 2018, TUK embarked on a project developing their nanosatellite called “TUKSat-1”, which was aimed at monitoring security on Lake Victoria, including assisting local authorities in rescue operations.
According to TUK, the satellite works by providing coordinates, including images, to relevant personnel, helping to track watercraft and people missing on the lake.
TUKSat-1 tries to mitigate this problem by sounding the alarm when a Kenyan ship drifts too close to a Kenya-Tanzania or Kenya-Uganda border.
Professor Paul Baki, the lead researcher on the project, told IPS that the nanosatellite program was a collaborative effort involving disciplines from different schools, such as mechanical and process engineering, surveying and geospatial technologies, aerospace engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, and physics. and earth sciences.
“The TUKSat-1 program started at the university in 2018 and involved collaborations between TUK and other institutions abroad,” Baki told IPS. “We were able to get funding from the Kenya Space Agency in 2020 and built the 1U nanosatellite (10 cm3 in volume) between October 2020 and October 2021,” he added.
Baki said the parts used to build the satellite were purchased locally and all the work was done in TUK’s physics lab.
Space exploration is no stranger to Kenya, as NASA launched a satellite sometime in 1970 from the San Marco launch site, Malindi. Despite the fact that the satellite (named Small Astronomical Satellite 1, SAS-1) was not Kenyan-owned, it carried Kenyan slogan “UHURU”, and its launch marked a historic moment for a country that had just gained its independence. The satellite was also the first of its kind dedicated to X-ray astronomy.
Fast forward five decades later, where the University of Nairobi was able to build the first Kenyan satellite (1st Kenyan University Nanosatellite-Precursor Flight) 1KUNS – PF, which was launched from the International Space Station in the United States.
Compiled by engineering students from the University of Nairobi (UON) in collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the CubeSat launched into the International Space Station on May 11, 2018. The aim was to conduct technological tests and at the same time provide details about the Earth.
The UON received its funding, worth Ksh.120 million (about US$1 million), from the joint space program between JAXA and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) in 2016.
However, unlike the 1KUNS-PF, which is currently orphaned in space, the TUKSat-1 was launched on a drone and aims to demonstrate the technology in preparation for more technical launches.
“Space technology and exploration will soon impact our economy and livelihoods,” said Seth Odhiambo Nyawacha, a Geomatics Application Expert at Locate IT Limited. It’s time for Africa to produce the spirit necessary for technological advancement.
Nyawacha explained that Africa quickly became a consumer of space-based technology and products, requiring investment from stakeholders, especially in education and training about space technology and its exploration.
“With the development of the African Space Agency, soon to be housed in Egypt, the continent will require work-from-home technicians and engineers to propel our satellites to space, ranging from communications satellites, weather forecasting satellites in the wake of climate change, and other satellite types. Nyawacha told IPS. He praised the efforts of JAXA and UNOOSA to help fund and train engineers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
A 2021 Kenyan Spaceport report said Kenya’s position on the equator made it a suitable center for rocket launches, and Marsabit was chosen as the site for setting up a spaceport.
The Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Moi University are other Kenyan institutions interested in space exploration.
“Kenya has shown great potential in space technology and we should use this opportunity to establish a small scale domestic space industry. As a country, we need to tap into the bright minds of our universities and help them push Kenya to the frontiers of space technology,” Baki added.
Omuodo doesn’t understand much about satellites, but welcomes any measure that would help them conduct their trade in peace.
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