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Kirinyaga establishes fish aggregation center for increased earnings

Kirinyaga County Government has established an exclusive fish market in a move intended to enhance the marketing system for farmers’ fish in the county.

The fish market that has been set up at Kiaga will be the county’s aggregation centre for fish, thus providing farmers with a reliable facility for fish bulking, preliminary processing, and a one-stop fish shop.

Governor Anne Waiguru said that the centre is part of the Wezesha Kirinyaga programme that aims at supporting farmers to increase their agricultural production and boost earnings.

She said that her administration has been supporting aquaculture development in the county through the provision of fish pond liners, fish fingerlings, fish feeds, and extension services.

Waiguru added that the aggregation centre would now address the challenges of post-harvest management and marketing of the fish.

The County Executive Committee Member for Agriculture, Dr. John Gachara, said that the aggregation centre would enable farmers to aggregate and sell their fish from a central place that is accessible to buyers.

The centre will also offer a hygienic environment for preliminary fish handling, such as selection and cleaning, in preparation for delivery to a fish processing plant expected to be set up at Sagana Industrial Park. Surplus catch will be prepared for the local market as well as markets in other towns like Nairobi.

The aggregation centre has cold rooms as well as cooler boxes that will be used for the transportation of fish from the farms to the centre.

Gachara said that there will also be fish eateries at the aggregation centre, which is strategically situated along the Kagio-Kutus highway.

He said the market will benefit over 2,000 farmers, whom the county has organised to form a cooperative that will oversee the running of the centre.

Gachara said that the county government is committed to making fish farming a competitive industry and a recognised income earner for county farmers.

He noted that the availability of a fish market will protect farmers from exploitation by farm gate brokers.

“The aquaculture development programme is aimed at transforming fish farming from a livelihood to a commercial venture and is expected to help create a sustainable local economy,” said Gachara, adding that fish production is expected to increase with the construction of dams in Kanjai, Njukiini, and Ndia.

For fish harvesting in the dams, the CECM said that farmers will be provided with canoes and fishing gear.

With climate swings that at times manifest in prolonged dry spells affecting crop production, fish farming has emerged as a viable practise that will boost earnings for farmers and improve the county’s nutrition status.

The aggregation centre has been well received by fish farmers, who say that it is a long-awaited relief from their market challenges.

Felister Wandia, a fish farmer from Kiambagathi village in Ndia Constituency, stated that the aggregation centre is a welcome move that will save them from incurring post-harvest losses that occur when they fail to secure a market for the fish after harvesting.

“Sometimes we lack a ready market for our fish, while at other times buyers change their minds at the last minute, forcing us to take back our harvest. This centre will therefore provide farmers like me with a ready market as well as cold storage space as we sell our fish,” she said.

Her sentiments were echoed by Joseph Wachira, who said that the cold storage at the aggregation centre will go a long way in enabling his catch to stay fresh as they market it, thus shielding farmers from post-harvest losses.

He hailed the move by Governor Waiguru as the most progressive step towards boosting fish farming in the county.

Josphine Wangui, a member of Kariti Fish Farmers in Kirinyaga West, was also elated by the move by the county government to establish a fish aggregation centre, noting that it will encourage more farmers to take up fish farming as a commercial venture, thus boosting their earnings and subsequently their living standards.

Stanley Munene, a fish farmer from Kiini Ward, said that the support that Governor Waiguru has been providing, according to fish farmers in the county, has encouraged many people to take up the practise, noting that in the near future, the county will be a major fish producer not only for local consumption but for export as well.

By Irungu Mwangi

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