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Fish farming, diet introduced to primary schools in Nyeri

A new trend is about to take root in primary schools across Nyeri County, following the introduction of a campaign that will see young learners embrace aquaculture.

The campaign dubbed Eat More Fish, which is jointly funded by the County Department of Agriculture, the Aquaculture Business Development Programme (ABDP), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), is also aimed at introducing fish as part of the learner’s diet through the school feeding programme.

A plate of fish served with ugali and kale, that was prepared at the Gitunduti Primary and Junior Secondary school in Nyeri during the launch of Eat More Fish campaign for schools. The campaign is aimed at encouraging primary school learners to embrace aquaculture and also introduce fish as part of the learners’ diet. Photo by Wangari Mwangi

According to ABDP programme Co-ordinator, Maureen Gathigia, the projects started mid-last year, when four primary schools in the County, were identified and subsequently supplied with fish pond liners, fingerlings, fish feed, and aquaculture support to start-off the project.

Besides Nyeri, ABDP had also started similar projects in 56 other primary schools in the Mount Kenya Region, where the schools are expected to engage the learners in the fish-rearing process, until they are ready for harvesting.

Additionally, they are now advocating for the learners to consume the fish raised and harvested in their schools.

“The importance of introducing fish farming in schools is that, once you instill these skills and knowledge in a child, they are more likely to practice fish farming as a commercial venture or as an alternative source of livelihood.

We are also advocating for the fish to be consumed in school, which is one way of inculcating a fish-eating culture, so that these children diversify their diet by getting the nutrients found in fish,” she said.

The County Coordinator was speaking at Gitunduti Primary and Junior Secondary School in Mathira, where seven grade-seven learners, harvested their first school of 300, Tilapia, after rearing the fish for 10 months.

The catch, most of which weighed between 250-300 grammes, was then prepared by the school’s cooks with the help of the fisheries officers before it was served as lunch for the eager learners.

According to the Sub-county fisheries officer, Lazarus Mutiso, the Eat More Fish campaign, will go a long way in overwriting the labels associated with fish for the region that has for a long time steered clear of fish because it is not one of their traditional staple foods. Mutiso said it will also provide a solution for the marketing challenge by ensuring that most of the fish raised and harvested in Nyeri is consumed within the county.

“Besides inculcating the importance of eating fish for young children by incorporating fish into their school feeding programme, we also want to propose that the schools sell the surplus harvest to the neighbouring community. This way, we will have more people eating fish, and the money raised can be used to support the fish farming project,” said Mutiso.

Gitunduti Primary and Junior Secondary School in Mathira, team-up with County fisheries officers, to harvest Tilapia fish from the school’s fish pond. A total of 300 fish were harvested by the learners. Photo by Wangari Mwangi

Additionally, to ensure a constant supply of fish, Mutiso said that they are in the process of supporting the four schools to set up multiple fish ponds.

The School’s Headmaster, James Mbatia, lauded the initiative. He said the campaign will be instrumental in implementing the Competence-Based Curriculum, by imparting some of the key competencies advocated for by the new curriculum.

Mbatia also noted that the project will help mold the next crop of fish-farming ambassadors.

“This fish farming project has been instrumental in skills and knowledge building of the learners who have been involved in the project since it was launched in May 2023.

The project has not only changed the perception about fish farming and the benefits of eating fish among our learners but it has also inspired them to share this information with their parents back at home.

We are hoping that through this project, we will produce the fish champions, who will take-up fish farming after leaving school,” said Mbatia.

By Wangari Mwangi

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