Fish farmers from Nyanza and Eastern regions of Kenya are set to benefit from a Sh100 million pilot program aimed at boosting yields and profits.
The program rolled out by Lattice Aquaculture with funding from Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) aims at increasing profitability through a data-driven integrated ecosystem approach.
The approach which is the first of its kind in the country brings together all the stakeholders involved in fish farming.
Lattice Aquaculture East Africa Regional Head Julie Muyela said the initiative brings together farmers, feed manufacturers, fingerlings producers, suppliers, aquaculture institutions, buyers and Micro-finance institutions.
Fifty smallholder farmers from the two regions, she said, have been identified and will be trained on best aquaculture practices to enable them appreciate both the technical and business angles of fish farming.
They will then be linked to input suppliers who will deliver high quality feeds and fingerlings in addition to doing farm follow ups to ensure their farms are efficient.
“We realized that fish farmers in Kenya struggle to make their businesses profitable. This is due to lack of access to finance and markets, poor inputs and insufficient technical skills. This program tackles all these challenges,” she said.
In an interview with KNA, Muyela said the program has brought on board financial institutions and an off taker to guarantee farmers access to credit and ready market.
Two financial institutions, she disclosed have been included in the ecosystem to cater to the farmers’ aquaculture financial needs.
The institutions, she added, have been trained on aquaculture business scenarios to enable them develop tailor made products for fish farmers.
“This project adopts the take aquaculture to the banks strategy. We are also going to train the farmers on requirements of the financial institutions to make them credit-ready,” she said.
On markets, the off taker, she disclosed, will buy at least 80% of the fish produced by each farmer at a competitive price.
Muyela added that the off taker has developed a mobile phone application to keep track of farmer locations, production, sales and prices in the targeted regions.
Lattice Aquaculture Technical Project Manager John Erick said the initiative will rely heavily on data from all the stakeholders involved to ensure successful commercialization of the fish farms.
“Data will provide farmers with insights into efficiency and profitability, such as feed costs throughout the cycle, feed usage, feed conversion ratios, cost price, revenue, good business practices among other things,” he said.
The financial institutions in the program, he added, will also use the data to build a business case for aquaculture financing in Kenya.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Kenya has a huge aquaculture potential.
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.
However annual fish production in the country stands at 150, 000 metric tonnes against a demand of 900, 000 metric tonnes.
IDH Aquaculture Program Manager Beth Wagude said the pilot project targets to increase production by 15, 000 metric tonnes.
The findings of the pilot, she added, would inform policy to pave the way for a national rollout of the program to help bridge the huge gap in production.
By Chris Mahandara