IT’S A REV UP FOR FISH FARMERS

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Farm Africa Partners With Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Boost
Aqua Farming in Kenya

By Farm Africa

Kenya’s fish consumption is dependent on wild fisheries and 70 % of this comes from Lake Victoria.  However due to factors such as overfishing, pollution, use of illegal fishing gears, freshwater fisheries production are on a decline. This is despite government efforts to regulate the sector. As the status quo continues, the Kenyan population is on an upward trend creating more demand for freshwater fish, which is increasingly recognized as a source of safe, healthy ‘white’ protein. This has exacerbated the causal factors of fresh water fish decline, creating a demand – supply deficit. To meet this deficit the government started promoting aquaculture. Before 2009, the government’s efforts to promote fish farming were hampered by slow uptake due to factors such as cultural practices and lack of knowledge of aquaculture. The government of Kenya through the Fish Farming and Enterprise Productivity Programme (FFEPP) initiated a fish farming programme popularly dubbed as “Fish Economic Stimulus Programme” from the year 2009. The programme provided fish inputs free of charge (labour for pond construction, fingerlings and feeds), capacity enhancement programmes and extension services to interested farmers. These farmers on their part provided land for the fish ponds. The main species provided for culture during this programme were Nile tilapia and catfish. The result of this was an immediate increase in number of farmers engaged in fish farming.
However, the FFEPP focused more on the production end of the value chain, on assumption that farmed fish would be readily assimilated into existing marketing channels. This was not the case as both traders and consumers remained hesitant to accept farmed fish as an equal product to its wild fish counterpart despite campaigns such as the ‘Eat more fish’. This was one of the factors that led to majority of the farmers not being able to break even and achieve profitability. This situation acted as a disincentive towards fish farming.

Farm Africa and KMAP
Farm Africa is an international Non-Governmental Organisation (INGO) with a track record of implementing successful grassroots development projects and improving relevant policies on agricultural development. It works with smallholder farmers, pastoralists and forest-based communities to develop innovative approaches to make sustainable improvements to their livelihood activities through more effective and productive natural resource management. In addition, Farm Africa supports its beneficiaries in value addition for their products and harvests and links them to markets in order to establish viable income-generating enterprises. Farm Africa recently received funding from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands in Kenya (EKN) to implement the Kenya Market-led Aquaculture Programme (KMAP). KMAP is designed to address three major challenges: feed production, nutrition and agriculture incomes in Kenya. The project’s main hypothesis is that developing the aquaculture value chain will make a significant contribution to rural development and food and nutrition security, while generating incomes and employment opportunities. It does this through the implementation of strategic interventions in the production, marketing and enabling environment for aquaculture. KMAP aims, inter alia, to increase farmed fish production to 4,000 MT per year by working with large and medium fish farmers and input suppliers in Kenya.KMAP supports farmers and traders with technical and business training, link them to markets and input providers to ensure sustainable growth of their business. Input providers such as fingerling producers and feed producers receive technical support and support in marketing. Through networking events on existing agricultural shows the different players in the value chain are linked to each other and potential investors can be attracted with fact based economic models and linking them to expertise. KMAP also promotes the consumption of farmed fish and identify (new) market segments for farmed fish and fish products.KMAP’s objective is to develop a vibrant aquaculture industry that generates sustainable incomes, food and nutrition security, and employment.

Some of the aqua-farmers benefiting from the programme
Farm Africa is helping entrepreneurs in five counties in western Kenya (Kakamega, Kisumu, Vihiga, Busia and Kisii) to set up their own aqua shops, so that they can provide local smallholders with inputs and technical advice on best aquaculture practices.
The project has grown significantly since it was set up in 2011, with 56 shops set up in five years, benefitting over 7,500 farmers and increasing their incomes by 63%. Sales of fish have increased through a partnership with digital platform Esoko, which connects farmers with traders online, and is also used to send technical tips to farmers via text message.

World Fish Centre (WFC) Feed versus Strain experiment begins
In a bid to determine the best optimal production methods in tilapia production, KMAP is collaborating with one of its key implementing partners World Fish Centre (WFC) to set up experiments that will span over a period of six months. The WFC Feed versus Strain trials began on 10th July 2017 atKibos Fish Farm in Kisumu, and Karatina University sites, the former having a warmer climate while the latter a colder one.
There are two locally manufactured feeds and two imported feeds being tested. Fingerlings used in the experiment are a locally developed strain and two imported strains.
A major milestone will be achieved from this experiment when the findings and recommendations are shared with the farmers to show what is possible to produce. The KMAP farmers will also be invited during the trials to see the progress. The same will be published in a scientific journal for general knowledge sharing and adoption by farmers.
The KMAP farmers are being trained on record keeping, proper pond management, water quality among others. KMAP intervenes around Nairobi and Lake Victoria.
Aquaculture has a long history in Kenya, but it is only in 2009 when there was a significant boom in production because of the government funded Economic Stimulus Programme. One of the key inputs for successful aquaculture is the genetics (brood stock) development and affordable feed.

Other initiatives
To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March 2017, Farm Africa, with support from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, staged a discussion event promoting female participation in commercially-oriented, sustainable ventures in the aquaculture value chain. This encouraged many women to see fish farming as not only a source of food, but also a source of revenue.

Conclusion
The impact spurred by these initiatives goes to show the potential lying in the agricultural sector, if only sustainable methods of using resources were applied.

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