An initiative is enabling fish farmers in Kenya boost their production through training in good management practices.
The project aims at addressing challenges in fish farming through classroom sessions and subsequent practical, on-farm lessons.
Arnoud Meijberg, head of the initiative at UK-based Farm Africa, says that due to rapid population growth, natural water bodies can no longer produce sufficient fish to satisfy the growing market demand.
“If farmers have good fingerlings but substandard feeds and poor business skills, then they are bound to fail in aquaculture production.”
Arnoud Meijberg, Farm Africa
“It will help with food security and generate income for farmers if they do it in the right way,” he said during an interview with SciDev.Net early this month (1 March).
Through the programme, smallholder farmers learn how to construct good fish ponds, identify quality fingerlings for stocking, use quality feeds for enhanced production, and price their farm produce.
“If farmers have good fingerlings but substandard feeds and poor business skills, then they are bound to fail in aquaculture production and make losses,” Meijberg explains.
The four-year programme funded by Farm Africa began in 2016 and aims to help at least 1,100 fish farmers commercialise. It has already trained more than 1,000 fish farmers in Kenya while reaching about 8,000 indirectly through media campaigns, agricultural trade fairs and aquaculture symposiums.
Plans are under way to expand the initiative to other East African countries such as Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda.
“I now know the right quantities and types of feed to give my fish,” says David Omuruli, who has six fish ponds and has benefitted from the training sessions. “I’ve also become good at record keeping which enables me to track all my expenses and avoid unnecessary wastage.”
He is now imparting the knowledge to other farmers.
Samuel Kariuki, director of the Centre for Microbiology Research at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, says that unhygienic practises and crowded conditions in fishponds usually contribute to the misuse of antibiotics for disease prevention and growth promotion in aquaculture.
He notes that this has led to the development of drug-resistant bacteria, currently a global health problem, as it has made common infectious diseases difficult and costly to manage.
“We can’t run away from intensive farming systems as they help meet food demand for growing populations. But we have to ensure that as farmers embrace them, they learn good management practises that will prevent unnecessary use of antibiotics.”
Humphrey Mbugua, manager of the Association of Kenya Feed Manufacturers, adds that governments need to adequately regulate the feed sector to prevent unscrupulous businesses from selling contaminated livestock feeds laced with antibiotics to unsuspecting farmers.