Kenya has called upon other East Africa Community States to consider harmonization of the legal frameworks, that would ensure smooth movement of aquaculture products across the borders.
In a speech read on her behalf by Fisheries and Blue Economy Secretary, Lucy Obungu, during the official opening of the second Eastern African Regional Aquaculture Conference and Exhibition, at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, the Principal Secretary (PS), Ministry of Mining, Blue Economy and Maritime Affairs, Betsy Muthoni Njagi, said the engagement of the East African countries should ensure seamless flow of goods and professional services in the region.
PS Muthoni stated that there exists huge potential among the countries to learn from each other on the kind of policies, regulations and related frameworks, that would work best to promote the aquaculture sector.
The PS observed that the importance of fisheries and aquaculture in ensuring consistent supply of animal protein cannot be overemphasized, since fish and other aquatic animal species are healthier sources of animal protein, compared to livestock commonly consumed globally.
She stated that aquaculture plays a key role in poverty eradication, food and nutritional security, employment creation and industrialization in many African countries and is poised to be a big enabler for realization of various United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“Fisheries and aquaculture value chain has been declared the fastest growing food production globally, expanding at an estimated rate of 5.3 percent since the turn of 21st century. The situation is not different in Kenya where the sector provided livelihoods for millions of its citizens who are involved in production, processing, trading input supplies, distribution, bulking, retailing and other auxiliary industries,” said Muthoni.
The PS observed that there is an urgent need to increase aquaculture production to satisfy the demand of the staggering population growth in many African countries urban centers currently standing at 63 percent.
“The increase in demand for food and specifically the demand for fish and fish products is on the rise, even with the dwindling wild stocks and the demand for fish is expected to double by year 2050,” she added.
The Principal Secretary revealed that the Government of Kenya has put in a raft of measures, not only to cushion the sub-sector from emerging challenges like climate change, low investment, low adoption of technology and post-harvest losses due to poor market access, but also to promote the sector to ensure profitability.
“The government has adopted the Fisheries and Management Act, that has unlocked the sector and allowed collaboration between government, nongovernmental organizations and development partners, to easily find a working formula that would harness opportunities to grow the sector, as well as investing in collaborative research, to ensure that the right technology is applied in Aquaculture production,” Muthoni said.
She further revealed that the Government of Kenya has partnered with the World Bank in a five-year project dubbed, ‘Kenya Marine Fisheries Socio-Economic Development Project’, which aims to develop fisheries value chain and fisheries infrastructure development.
Muthoni also disclosed that the government has partnered with International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in order to promote aquaculture commercialization in Kenya, with the objectives of increasing incomes, food security and nutritional status of poor rural households involved in aquaculture, through aquaculture value chain development.
In order to access international markets, the government has developed and is implementing Residue Monitoring Plan for aquaculture, which has made it possible for small and medium scale fish producers, to access both local and the European Union markets.
The three-day conference being attended by representatives from Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Ethiopia and aquaculture famers from Kenya was graced by Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization Director of Aquaculture, Dr. Elysee Nzahobanayo and the President of World Aquaculture Society (African Chapter), Blessing Mapfumo, among other guests
The host Vice Chancellor, Prof. Stephen Gaya Agong, observed the need for adoption of technology in aquaculture production, that would ensure Africa contributes significantly toward global food chain.
Prof Agong said aquaculture remains largely untapped and commended the government for creating a ministry that deals with blue economy issues saying it is a sign of commitment by the government to explore the existing potential in the sector.
He said the sector remains a major contributor to overall food chain in the country, adding that with requisite investment, it could be an alternative to tea and coffee, which are the country’s major export products.
Prof Agong disclosed that aquaculture production in the region has been on the increase, citing that according to Food and Agriculture Organization (2018) Report, the region produced 256 thousand tons from aquaculture valued at 390 million USD, compared to 44 ton in 1998.
He on the other hand urged stakeholder to work hand in hand, to address issues of pollutions in the rivers that feed Lake Victoria, water shed degradations, deforestation, micro plastics and Climate Change that may threaten and hinder the region from achieving its sustainable aquaculture growth.
By Brian Ondeng