Fish farming is a comparatively new enterprise in Kakamega County having been brought to the fore under the national Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) of 2009.
Under the ESP, the government facilitated the construction of ponds in swampy areas for the farmers and did the first stocking for them.
The results are mixed with some farmers having been unable to sustain the ponds while others have kept the business going.
However, at Eshisiru area in Butsotso Central location in Lurambi Sub County, there is one Jafi Fish Farm that is doing so well.
We met one of the 10 workers, Bakari Ashiali who is the manager of the hatchery and the nine ponds constructed on a wetland.
He says that the farm was set up three years ago as a private undertaking that would supply fingerlings as well as mature fish.
“We mainly raise tilapia species but there is also cat fish and ornamental fish,” he explained, adding that they have attended training workshops right from pond construction, fingerling raising to marketing.
He said the fingerlings are sold to other farmers who venture into the enterprise adding they sold a kilo of fish at Sh. 350.
Ashiali pointed out that they sell the fish to individual buyers at the farm as well as to the Lutonyi Fish Processing Plant in Kakamega town which does cooling and marketing.
He said due to the outstanding work, the County Government held the World Fisheries Day celebration at the farm in November last year.
The Deputy Governor (DG), Prof. Philip Kutima, who is also the agriculture county executive, says fish farming is a high potential enterprise in the county due to the favourable environmental and climatic conditions.
Kutima said the region is well known for agricultural activities including sugarcane which is a major cash crop and maize and beans which are produced mainly for subsistence. He said aquaculture has to be taken as a new economic frontier.
The DG stated that they are encouraging residents to embrace fish farming as a way of diversifying their agricultural activities and revealed that this financial year the allocation for fisheries development has been up scaled to Sh. 90 million from Sh. 10 million last year.
He pointed out that there are 7, 845 farmers with 8, 336 fish ponds in the county and they intend to have more residents take up the venture.
Part of the money, he said, would be used to establish a smart fish farm in Khwisero Sub County to act as a model for farmers.
“In partnership with other players, we are going to train the farmers on the best fish farming practices so as to enable them obtain optimal returns,” he said.
He said aquaculture is a worthy investment as it utilizes the marsh lands that would otherwise be wastelands.
Kutima encouraged residents to consume more fish so as to provide market for the producers, adding the dwindling fortunes from the sugarcane which has for a long time been the economic mainstay of the residents, calls for diversification.
“Farmers should try several venture so as to have something to lean on in case one of them fails,” he advised, adding that in the past five years the county government had prioritized maize, dairy and poultry value chains.
The farmers, he said, have to practice value addition in order to earn more from their enterprises.
He also instructed them to formulate the feeds on the farm so as to cut back on the cost of production.
By Sammy Mwibanda