Israelis, Germans and Kenyans have teamed up to increase the tilapia (St. Peter’s fish) population and improve wastewater treatment in Lake Victoria.Last week, high-level representatives from the three parties signed a trilateral agreement in Kenya for a project that has been in the works for roughly a year, to upgrade commercial fishery and wastewater purification systems in Africa’s largest lake, officials from the Foreign Ministry told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.The Post initially learned about the project in November, when members from all sides of the team made a preliminary visit to the region to begin strategizing solutions for the various goals of the program.“Lake Victoria has regional influence – it’s very important water-wise,” Ilan Fluss, director of policy planning and external relations at MASHAV, the Foreign Ministry’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, said then. “Lake Victoria is a small lake that is three times the size of the State of Israel.”Present at last week’s ceremony from the Israeli side were Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon; Ambassador Avi Granot, head of the Foreign Ministry’s African Department; and Ambassador Daniel Carmon, head of MASHAV. German Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Dirk Niebel was accompanied by a delegation of 50 people, including four parliamentarians, Carmon told the Post on Wednesday.Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga presided over the ceremony, and was joined by four members of his cabinet.The signing event was held at the team’s brand-new excellence center for research and development, on the grounds of at the Ramogi Institute of Advanced Technology in the lakeside town of Kisumu in western Kenya.Before the signing, professional work had already begun to increase the commercial strength of tilapia in fish ponds around the lake. In the lake itself, tilapia have been facing fierce competition of a predator of theirs, Nile perch. Two or three projects relating to the fish growth have already begun, and Israeli experts on fisheries have been to the region to help instruct the trainers of the local men and women who work at the lake’s fisheries, according to Carmon.He emphasized that the Kenyans were not simply receiving help, but were active partners in the endeavors.“The Kenyans, who are also participating, they are not only recipients – it’s a trilateral cooperation,” Carmon said.Infrastructure for raising tilapia in the ponds around the lake already does exists, but agriculturalists get much higher yields of fish get in Israel, he explained.“We are trying to somehow better the yields of fish in a way so that first of all, the fisherman will get a better income,” Carmon said.This way, the team can help “industrialize the region so Kenya as a country can have a better tilapia export industry with the technology Israel has,” he said. “Israel has a lot to offer with its experience.”Carmon also explained that Lake Victoria is suffering from “uncontrolled growth of vegetation that is harming the livelihood of the fish,” causing “an ecological imbalance that has to be corrected.” The hope is that the team will be able to indirectly improve this, he said.If successful, the team may carry out similar projects in Uganda and Tanzania, both of which also rely on the lake, and representatives have already started talks with Ugandans about the idea.Wastewater treatment this will be the focus of the second stage of the project, after the fish growth stage is further along, according to Carmon.“The issue is to better the water quality both around the lake and in the development city of Kisumu,” he said, noting that MASHAV is doing quite a bit of other development work in Kisumu, unrelated to the trilateral project.Carmon said MASHAV, as a government institution, had a power that NGOs did not have in participating in such an intergovernmental project.“We are part of something called the government of Israel,” he said. “We come and speak with our friends for the sake of their well-being and their citizens, but it’s also part of a strategic branch that the government of Israel has – which is called MASHAV.”Not only does the work help improve Israel’s image in Africa, it also strengthens the bond between Israel and Germany – a very important relationship in Carmon’s eyes.“To have Israel and Germany coming together, hand in hand, helping out a third country – a developing country – on an issue they need [help with], sends a very strong message,” he said.