With the fluctuation of miraa prices for the last fifteen years due to a ban on international markets including the Netherlands and USA, farmers in the Igembe region, which is predominantly a miraa growing zone, have been advised to embrace aquaculture to maximise the potential of their favourable climate and good soils.
Fish farming is one of the remedies to uplift the living standards of the residents, as it will generate income by rearing and selling fish.
Apart from its high level of nutrients, among them omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain development, fish contains other nutritive components which are vital for our general body health.
Highlighting the importance of fish farming, Igembe South Fishery Officer Geoffrey Thuranira emphasised the need to diversify from miraa farming by utilising lands that are not under miraa for fish farming, terming it as one of the best ways of generating income for the farmers.
“The national government has a policy of a blue economy, which should trickle down to the farmers,’’ he maintained.
Thuranira added that with the uncertainty of Miraa markets, farmers need to look outside the box for other sources of income.
“With over 75% of the Igembe residents relying on miraa as their only cash crop, the economy of the region has faced a lot of challenges, hence the need to diversify,’’ he noted.
The Fisheries Officer further noted that his office offers extension services to the farmers on the best practices for rearing fish, among them techniques on how to dig fish ponds, prepare feeding material for fish, and harvest.
Thuranira also disclosed that the government provides equipment used in making fish ponds, including bottom drains, pond liner, and fingerlings, to the farmers.
Having realised the nutritive benefits and potential earnings from fish farming, some farmers in Igembe South have already embraced the venture as an alternative source of livelihood.
Agnes Kanario, a fish pond owner from Ikuu Kanuni ward, Igembe South constituency, explained that she decided to venture into fish farming due to frustration and dwindling markets for miraa, which is the only cash crop and source of livelihood in the entire region.
She said that she had to uproot her miraa plants on one side of her farm to create space for a fish pond.
Kanario narrated how she faced mockery from her neighbours and immediate relatives for the move, but she forged ahead to ensure the success of her project.
She maintained that she has been in the venture for two years, and she didn’t mind what society would think of her for uprooting Miraa.
She revealed that she has been able to harvest fish three times due to the high demand for the commodity in the area.
“With fish being not only a source of income but also good for one’s health, the demand has really increased, and I have realised good returns, which have enabled me to pay school fees for my three children,’’ she opined.
Kanario said that she benefited from the fingerlings and the polythene paper liner issued by the county government and urged fellow residents to embrace fish farming.
“Relying on Miraa is sometimes stressful due to unpredictable fluctuations in prices when you have bills to settle and children to educate,’’ Kanario observed, adding that she has divided her farm into two portions, one for miraa and the other for a fish pond, where she rears male tilapia, which grows big once mature and is therefore more profitable.
By Kamanja Maeria and Abigael Jediel