New technology for sustainable fish production
Kenya is ranked the fourth major producer of aquaculture in Africa.
However, fresh water aquaculture including breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants and animals in all types of water environments has in the recent past registered depressed performance despite its potential capacity of 11 million tons per year.
The reduction of total fresh water output dropping by 19.8 percent from 18.7 tons in the year 2015 to 14.9 tons in 2016 has been attributed to many factors including wrong farming methods, dwindling and pollution of fresh water resources through human activity.
It is for this reason that farmers of aquaculture in Nyanza and Western regions, have been urged to consult with professionals on specifically fish farming which is picking in the region to ensure sustainable ventures.
Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) experts based at Kegati Aquaculture Research Centre in Kisii County have urged individuals and institutions of learning that engage in the farming to go the technology way in a bid to counter the myriad of challenges facing the
Speaking at the facility in the outskirts of Kisii town on Wednesday, an Assistant Director in Fresh water Aquaculture and Center Director, Kegati station, Dr. Paul Orina said innovative technology was the only way of ensuring effective production as rivers dwindle and lakes become polluted by humans.
He underscored the need for learning institutions to train aquaculture engineering so that farmers could move from the traditional reliance on rivers and lakes to other potential ways of producing the critical volumes of fish required to fill the growing gap in the national supply as wild fish catches continue to decline.
According to Orina, utilization of smaller portions of land, including backyards in urban centers, use of timber and available local materials could make fish farming easier and more cost effective.
The Director noted the need for farmers to involve experts from the initial stages of site selection because land size, temperatures and soil types, hence requiring different kinds of ponds.
He cited various kinds of ponds widely used in Kenya and which have proven reliable, including earthen and linier, which are mostly reliable in sandy soils to reduce water seepage, tanks, and cages which utilize small pace, recirculation systems and integrated systems.
Noting that earthen ponds were the most popular, the specialist said common pond size is 300 meters squared with depth varying from 45cm to 110 cm in order to maximize light penetration for natural food production.
Orina urged those investing in the farming to seek training in developing business plans to ensure viable ventures and to avoid abandoning their businesses along the way.
He urged the farmers to collect the correct seed from the centre where Nile Tilapia (oreochromis niloticus), African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) and Goldfish (carassius auratus), which were available at reasonable cost of Sh.5 per fingerling of Tilapia, while feeds cost Sh.80-120kg for growers and starter feeds respectively.
He cautioned farmers to beware of unscrupulous businessmen who give wrong advice and fake seeds leading to massive losses.
The KMFRI Deputy Director and Head of Aquaculture, Dr. Jonathan Munguti said the organization was carrying out more research to find the best solution for fingerlings and cost effective feeds made from locally available ingredients.
Dr. Munguti said feeds were the most costly component of fish production taking 50per cent of the total cost and advised those doing commercial production to deal with commercial feed producers who offer solution in the matter.
He advised farmers in Gusii region to venture into greenhouse farming to increase temperatures which is very important in crop production.
According to the experts, the estimated production of aquaculture in the region was estimated at 3.18 metric tons, giving direct employment to 500 persons and 5000 in indirect employment.
Evans Okemwa, a farmer who deals in aquaculture in Nyamira County said the venture was viable if one followed the right procedures as given by the research institution.
Okemwa said he started with two ponds in January last year with 1,000 fingerlings and was now doing mass production for local population and outside customers, in seven ponds with a population of 10,000 fish.
He lauded the KMFRI aquaculture experts for continued support with useful information and viable seed which has enabled sustainability of his business.
Okemwa called upon fish farmers to exercise patience and be passionate, adding that it was only a few months after initiating the business before one could ‘smile all the way to the bank’.
Others present during the function were research scientists, Elijah Kembenya and Cecilia Muthoni among others.
By Jane Naitore / Chrisphine Otieno