Fishery is a major economic activity in Busia, thanks to Lake Victoria that supports a huge population of fish including Nile Perch, Tilapia and Omena.
There is also introduction of emerging alternative fish culture techniques, such as aquaculture that include open water Cage culture, Land based ponds/aquaculture parks and backyard ponds and the Recirculatory Aquaculture System to boost the industry.
The County Government of Busia introduced open water fish cage enterprise as one of the flagship projects, which aims at providing alternative livelihood to fishers with the goal of reducing fishing pressure in Lake Victoria waters of Busia.
Under this farming enterprise, Busia County Beach Management Unit (BMU) Network with the support from Busia County Government initiated an educational program dubbed Beach Management Scholarship.
In the year 2020, the program supported 214 pupils transitioning to Form-one. In 2021, a further 240 pupils joining Form-one were supported by the program. This brings the total number of students supported from Budalangi and Funyula sub counties to 454.
Margret Akumu, mother to one of the student beneficiaries said that prior to this initiative she had challenges to raise school fees for her child, since she’s a small trader selling Omena and sometimes the waters are so unpredictable that sometimes she ends up having nothing to sell yet she has many children to take care of.
Akumu noted that this program has saved her a big deal since she can now see her child through secondary school without much worry about the student being sent home for school fees.
Her sentiments were echoed by Chrispinus Amukoye, student at St. Benedicts Budalangi high school, who gave his testimony of how he has posted quality grades in school thanks to the introduction of cage fish harvest at Mulukoba beach in Bunyala Sub County by Governor Sospeter Ojaamong’ adding he has never been sent home for school fees as was the case before.
Over 454 students have been supported from the program to the tune of Sh7, 000. The total disbursed fees totalling to Sh4, 676,000.
The County Government through Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project revived Wakhungu hatchery to produce quality fingerlings in efforts to ensure supply of quality and affordable fish fingerlings to fish farmers.
To this end, the County has fully functioning fish hatcheries in Wakhungu and its satellite nursery in Okerebwa with a production capacity of 1.5million fingerlings annually which are readily available to farmers at a subsidized fee. Their good quality has guaranteed yields to farmers.
Through the directorate of fisheries, established aquaculture production parks were established in the Sub Counties of Butula, Samia and Teso South.
This move aimed at increasing fish production in the County, the idea was to put up aggregation parks in all the sub counties, which in turn act as a mother ship to linking cluster production systems and other aggregation centres for feeds, fingerlings and timely extension services to farmers.
With the creation of this aqua park by the County Government of Busia, fish production is estimated to increase from the current Sh200 million annually to at least Sh1 billion by 2023, leveraging on economies of scale and increase per capita fish consumption in the County.
Fish farming and trade employs over 2,700 youth, men and women have benefited directly from pond construction activities. Each aqua park consists of at least 100 fish ponds of which the beneficiaries are the community.
Fish trade is booming business in Busia County. There are 21 fish markets in the County. Among these is the cross-border fish market situated at the border of Busia town which is a hub of fish trade.
The market handles fish valued at Sh2 billion annually. It receives fish from Lake Turkana, Lake Victoria, Lake Kyoga in Uganda and from fish farms then supplies to urban centres in Kenya, DRC Congo, Uganda, Southern Sudan and Rwanda.
With the aim of improving fish handling and hygiene in the market coupled with increasing customer confidence and thereby boosting fish sales in the County, the County Government of Busia through, the Kenya Devolution Support Program managed to set up a modern regional fish transhipment market.
Modernized fish farming is one of the lucrative ventures that has been embraced by many in Busia County. This follows numerous concerted efforts put in place by the County Government and other stakeholders with an aim of ensuring food security and improved livelihoods of the people.
It is in this spirit that Fredrick Ouma, a fish farming enthusiast from Port Victoria in Bunyala Sub County, Busia County landed himself a scholarship to the African Food Systems Leadership Programme (AFSLP) to better his skills and acquire more knowledge as far as fish farming is concerned.
Fredrick Ouma and his fellow youth Fredrick Mainya are proprietors of Hydro Victoria Fish Hatchery Farm. The farm is an emerging innovative Agribusiness. “It is our professional pursuit and we see it as a good match for our vision to empower a new cadre of leaders to transform food systems across Africa,” Ouma added.
Busia remains the leading county in fish trade, production and export of fish thanks to the business and enabling environment put in place by the county government under the leadership of Ojaamong.
By Absalom Namwalo