Fish farming is proving to be among the fastest growing commercial venture for Uasin Gishu, a place which has traditionally been known for heavy reliance on maize, wheat farming and dairy livestock keeping.
With the construction of over 600 fish ponds, Uasin Gishu County Government has intensified its fish farming by putting up a model fish pond at the Fisheries Offices to be used for training purposes of both potential and fish farmers who visit the Offices seeking technical advice.
According to the County Executive Committee Member for Agriculture Samuel Yego, the move by the County Government to have a hatchery through the collaboration of the county government and Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Eldoret (UoE) will easily enable fish pond owners to access certified fingerlings at subsidized prices.
Yego informed that the most desired fish are Nile perch, tilapia and cat fish which are the common breeds reared by farmers in the region. “The high cost of farm inputs has forced some farmers in the region to adopt fish farming which they consider to be less costly and fetches attractive market prices,” explains Yego.
“Aquaculture, apart from supplying proteins, has proved to be a source of self-employment, income generation and contributes towards the government’s overall goal of poverty reduction and enhancement of food security,” he says.
Uasin Gishu County Fisheries’ Officer Charles Mwaniki said aquaculture is the new type of farming which is gaining popularity in the region pointing out that the hatchery would not only produce quality fingerlings but also enable farmers get trainings on fish farming.
“The hatchery project will empower communities within and out of Uasin Gishu County. Residents have embraced fish production as a commercial venture but lack of certified fingerlings has been a gap before this joint venture,” said Mwaniki.
“There is potential for fish production in Uasin Gishu County because there are many dams that were constructed during the colonial era. We want to ensure that the MOU satisfies the fingerlings needs of farmers,” added Mwaniki.
Dr Simon Agembe a lecturer at the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, University of Eldoret, (UoE) stated that the site of the hatchery is appropriate because of the availability of expert manpower and new technologies and that apart from serving farmers, the institution would use the project for teaching, research and extension services.
“We want to make this region a centre of production of certified fingerlings. This will benefit farmers in income generation and also job creation,” said Dr Agembe.
He indicated that the local consumers would be able to access fresh fish with good nutrients as opposed to fish products that are transported from distant regions and in the end compromising the quality and its nutrients in the long run.
The institution has been at the forefront in ensuring the county becomes an excellent centre for fish production and always improves on it through proper research and technology.
“We have held training workshops and seminars for both fish farmers and fisheries officers from Uasin Gishu, Nandi, and Elgeyo Marakwet counties. From 2004 and this is one project that is still active to date,” said Agembe
The University has organized a fully funded trip for lead farmers from Uasin Gishu to visit the leading fish farms in Central Kenya. “We have also offered free consultancy to farmers coming from this region and our working relationship with this county has also seen us training fisheries’ officers at diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate levels,” explains Agembe.
He added that the University has 47 fish ponds and the hatchery project would assist in production of certified fingerlings for the expansion of production and would also be used for training and research in the Fisheries’ department.
“With the establishment of our hatchery, the department has been supplying quality fish fingerlings to this county and beyond. Through one of our projects, the department has assembled and installed a modern floating HDPE fish cage for farmers at Kerita in Uasin Gishu County,” added Dr Agembe.
Currently, shortage of fish in the region has forced traders to import fish from Uganda where production is higher.
Traders and owners of eateries import an estimated 2.4 tonnes from Uganda per day for consumption in Eldoret and other urban centres in the region.
“We also get some fish from Kisumu but the prices there are higher due to low production,” said Rose Auma, who operates at the fish market in Eldoret town.
Helen Kimutai, who is one of the fish farmers at Kapseret, said she was earning more from fish compared to maize which she has been planting in the past.
Due to the high demand of fish, she makes sales of up to Sh120, 000 per month which earns her good profits after deducting the costs of feeds and labour.
Mwaniki indicated they were mobilizing and sensitizing the public on the importance of rearing fish and the need for farmers to join co-operative societies as well as the Aquacultural Association of Kenya for maximum benefits.
The county has established a pellet mill for the production of fish feed in the Mugundoi area to enable farmers to achieve feed with quality ingredients.
- By KNA