Aquaculture sector’s development is lagging behind because of lack of skilled human capital that has seen farms underperforming, resulting in losses causing farmers and investors to lose interest in the industry.
Aquaculture is the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, algae, and other organisms in all types of water environments.
According to FoodTechAfrica, a 21-member consortium of companies from The Netherlands and Kenya, human capital hampers the sector from adequately contributing to the economy through creation of jobs and playing its role in meeting Kenya’s food security challenges.
Thankfully, the consortium is opening up The Aquaculture Academy, a first of its kind in Kenya whose goal is to unlock the potential of the aquaculture industry in Kenya.
Fish farmers, investors and stakeholders in the aquaculture industry will now benefit from an international knowledge transfer with a focus on practical skills, innovation, global best practices and localised solutions, following the launch of the Aquaculture Academy.
Julie Muyela, Associate Director Lattice, the company steering the FoodTechAfrica consortium says that the academy will train and build ‘aquapreneurs’ able to run a sustainable and profitable business, inspire others to become fish farmers and spur economic prosperity throughout the sector.
She explained that the fisheries and aquaculture sector contribute about 0.8 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), providing direct employment opportunities to over 500,000 people and supporting over two million other people indirectly.
“We, however, feel that the sector is still highly underdeveloped and the Aquaculture Academy’s role is to unlock that latent potential through training,” said Muyela.
Muyela, who was speaking during the launch explained that the current focus by higher learning institutions on aquaculture related programmes is theoretical and lacks a practical aspect to the curriculum. The academy seeks to fill the gap as the first and only institution doing such training in Kenya through offering practical courses.
“Limited commercial and practical background means that students take a much longer route to arrive at the required operational level. The training mainly by NGOs has also been focused on smallholder farmers but we will fill a need in the market by training large and mid-size players with the aim of implementing a business-oriented training program that will build aquaprenuers at all levels across the value chain,” she continued.
The academy will train new and existing fish farmers, teachers, extension workers, agrovets and other stakeholders and investors in the industry. Students from across Kenya and East Africa will also be able to follow practical courses in the academy that are accredited by their universities and vocational institutes.
The Netherlands Ambassador to Kenya, Maarten A. Brouwer, said that the Netherlands has great expertise in the field of sustainable aquaculture, especially in terms of education and research which is a situation they would love to pass on to Kenya through the current partnership.
“The driver of success in the aquaculture industry in the Netherlands is what we refer to as the golden triangle. This is the partnership and close co-operation between the private sector, knowledge institutes and the government. This is what we are currently undertaking with FoodTech Africa and the launch of this Academy,” he said.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of The United Nations (FAO), aquaculture has great unrealised potential in Kenya given its numerous aquatic resources.
The Country has over 1.14-million-hectare potential area suitable for fish farming with capacity to produce over 11 million metric tonnes of fish worth Sh750 billion an amount that can greatly contribute to Kenya’s economy while at the same time improve on livelihoods.
The Aquaculture Academy which is an initiative of a 21-member consortium is a great example of global partnerships for sustainable development which is the seventeenth Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
The Academy has been established, based on an urgent need to improve commercialisation of aquaculture in the region and will have two campuses: one in Western Kenya at Jewlet Enterprises and another in Eastern Kenya at Kamuthanga Fish Farm.
The training will be short and also long training depending on trainees’ needs and will cover all the tilapia culture systems with production potential in the region, all the fish growth stages as well as all steps of the aquaculture value chain.
The target groups will be students, farmers, extension officers, would-be-farmers as well as any other person interested in commercial aquaculture.
Kenya’s Lake Victoria has been a source of fish for the region for centuries. However, Lake Victoria’s output is declining rapidly due to pollution, overfishing, and lack of regulation and this declining output has been partially replaced by the import of fish.
According to FoodTechAfrica which has been working to improve food security in East Africa through the establishment of a fully integrated aquaculture value chain, this is a missed opportunity since East Africa has excellent capabilities to produce local fish, for the local market.
By Wangari Ndirangu