Fish farming on course to meet stimulus project targets
KAKAMEGA Monday, 7th November 2011
By Chris Mahandara.
The fish farming project aimed at improving nutrition and creating over 120,000 employment and income generating opportunities has been one of the most successful components of the economic stimulus programme launched by the finance ministry in 2009.
Over 40, 000 fish ponds have been constructed in140 constituencies at an estimated cost of Kshs.1.12 billion (Kshs.8 million per constituency).
The youth within the benefiting constituencies provided the labour. Stocking the ponds with appropriate fingerlings was determined by the various eco-climatic zones and the needs of the beneficiaries.
The developed fish ponds and aquaculture has greatly boosted fish production for subsistence consumption and commerce in the country.
Additionally, it has improved environmental conservation and eased pressure on traditional fish sources: rivers, lakes and the ocean.
Fisheries secretary Prof. Charles Ngugi says the production of on farm fish shot from 1, 000 metric tonnes in 2009 to 9,000 metric tonnes in 2010.
This year, he adds the ministry of fisheries development projects a production of 15, 000 metric tonnes.
Kenya, he says has a potential of producing over 20, 000 metric tonnes of fish from fish ponds if aquaculture is fully embraced.
The current production, he says is still very low because the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recommends capita consumption of fish per person at 8.5 kgs.
“We are still miles away because on average every Kenyan consumes 4kgs of fish annually,” says the fisheries secretary.
The ministry, he disclosed has launched an eat fish campaign to popularize fish as a delicacy across the country and ensure a ready market for farmers who have embraced fish farming as a business.
Highly nutritious feeds, he says are a necessity for success in aquaculture in Kenya. A proper feeding regime ensures that fish are ready for sale in good time.
However the high cost of feeds has pushed many farmers away dealing a major blow to the expansion of aquaculture in the country.
As a result, the government has procured fish feed pelleting machines for fish farmers across the country to reduce the cost of feeds and promote aquaculture.
The fisheries Secretary says the machines which are being given to the farmers in clusters would enable them to use available materials to produce feeds for their fish.
The move, he says is aimed at reducing the cost of feeds to bring more farmers on board.
He attributes the high prices to lack of enough feed manufacturers in the country adding that the government has encouraged the millers to produce more feeds for supply to farmers.
Speaking during a tour of fish ponds sponsored by ESP in Kakamega County, Prof. Ngugi said there was ready market for fish in the country urging farmers to produce more for local consumption and the export.
He said fish farming was quickly gaining popularity even in the most unlikely places. Kakamega County for example which is known for its production of indigenous chicken, a delicacy among the Luhya community has now embraced fish farming.
At least one in every ten homesteads has a fish pond for production of table fish and for sale.
Kakamega County Deputy Fisheries Officer Mr. Jonathan Masaba says through the Economic Stimulus Project, 2, 700 ponds have been constructed in the county’s nine constituencies.
Mr. Masaba adds that the government engaged and paid youth to do the ponds at the same time supplied fingerlings and feeds to farmers to start the project.
So far all the farmers who benefited from the project have harvested fish weighing 200g-700g and earned money which they have ploughed back into the project.
Apart from creating employment for the youth, most farmers in the area have now seen the benefit of rearing fish since it takes only 6-8 months to harvest and has a ready market.
But this was not easy, according to the fisheries officer. Introducing fish in poultry dominated land was not without challenges.
“We took time to sensitize farmers on the economical and health benefits of fish before they embraced aquaculture,” he says.
Through eat fish campaigns, farmers in the area have been taught on how to cook and serve fish which is a rich source of proteins.
Mrs. Joyce Makaka, an authenticated fingerlings producer in Lurambi constituency says the project has been very profitable.
Makaka, who got into fish farming by chance, has never looked back. From very humble beginnings with a pond sponsored by the ESP programme she has since diversified into fingerlings production.
She is one of the 10 authenticated fingerlings producers. Recently Makaka won a Sh. 1.5 million tender to supply fingerlings to the government for distribution to farmers.
“Fish farming is a lucrative business. You cannot compare it to maize or sugarcane farming given the small pieces of land in this area,” she says.
She abandoned maize farming two years ago to fully concentrate on fish farming a move she says has started bearing fruit.
“I would spend a lot of money on maize but the yields could hardly sustain my family,” she observes.
Makaka has since employed 15 youths who work on her fish farm. The youth group known as Mabua has been trained on fish husbandry.
It now constructs fish ponds and assists farmers harvest fish in Lurambi constituency and its environs.
They in turn use the proceeds to fund their development projects among them building their own houses and venturing into income generating activities.
“Our goal is to ensure that each member has an iron sheet roofed house first before we venture into other activities,” says Chrispinus Litiona the group chairman.
Fisheries secretary Prof. Charles Ngugi says apart from empowering farmers economically, the ESP programme has created employment for similar groups across western province.
“This means a reduction in crime and drug abuse because our youth are now engaged and making money at the same time,” he said.
Even though fish farming in Kakamega, Vihiga, Busia and Bungoma has been a success, the government is determined to scale up the programme to bring more farmers on board.
The ministry has come up with a cost sharing programme with farmers to lower the cost of fish production in Western Province.
Under the programme, the government shall stock 300 fingerlings per fish pond in the area at the same time provide 40% of feeds per farmer.
The farmers would in turn be expected to meet the 60% cost of feeds and stock 700 fingerlings per pond.
Western Provincial Fisheries Officer Mr. Aggrey Busiega said the move is expected to woo more farmers into fish farming to promote development of aquaculture in the area.
Mr. Busiega added that the government has also purchased fish feeds pelletizing machines which have been given to farmers in four clusters.
The machines, he said are expected to lower the cost of feeds from Sh.65 per kilogram to less than Sh. 40 at the same time ensure that feeds are readily available for the farmers.
Speaking today at Munyaza Fish Farm in Kakamega central district, Mr. Busiega added that the government has constructed 24 reservoirs in the province which will also be stocked with fish alongside other water bodies in the area.
The reservoirs constructed under the Economic Stimulus programme would be managed by the communities.
The government said has embarked on fingerlings production, feed production adding that this financial year a fish processing plant would be established in the area.
Reverend Charles Moreka proprietor of Munyanza Fish farm urged farmers to venture into fish farming since it was more profitable.
Rev. Moreka who is also the secretary general of the Aquaculture Association of Kenya made Sh. 500, 000 out of today’s harvest.
Lower Western Regional Commissioner Mr. Patrick Okwanyo urged farmers in the area to fully embrace fish farming since it was key in alleviating poverty.
“We have small pieces of land which can hardly produce enough food for our families but through fish farming we can bridge food shortage in the province,” he said.