Many farmers who have gone into fish farming without training have ended up with empty ponds.
Samuel Mwangi, a farmer from Ndundori location in Nakuru North is disappointed. Together with fellow farmers from his village, they watched a TV programme on fish farming aired by one of the local TV stations three years ago. The programme got them thinking about how they could dig fishponds and start fish farming and make money like the farmer they had watched in the TV programme. Nakuru town, with a big population would be their main market for fish.
Farmers used poor material
With abundant water in the village, they decided to dig fishponds for each of the members in turns. They named the group the Ten Fish Farmers Self Help Group. The farmers went to Naivasha town and bought used polythene sheetings, used them to line the ponds, and stocked 1000 fish fingerlings in each. Mwangi says everything went on well until they started noticing something unusual. “We realized that the fish had not grown to market size after maturity.
My neighbours had more serious problems: Their ponds could not hold water for long, because as they walked into the ponds to get fish, the polythene sheeting would tear off, causing water seepage.” Maina Kamau, another farmer in Nyahururu says he made a fishpond and bought fingerlings from a farmer in Rongai, Nakuru, but they all turned out to be tadpoles that grew into frogs. They croacked the whole night making it difficult for him to sleep. He has drained the pond and he has given up on fish farming altogether.
Successful fish farmers ….
Most farmers introduced into fish farming as part of the government funded Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) four years ago have managed to go into fish farming and are making good profit in fish sales. The programme, which was allocated over Ksh 4.5 billion between 2009 and 2011 managed to put over 300 fishponds in 160 constituencies in the country by June 2011. The aim of the project was to produce food, create employment and generate income, particularly for the unemployed Kenyan’s and the associated households, through sustainable fish farming enterprises.
… Inexperienced farmers failed
Following the launch of the project, hundreds of farmers who were not part of the project dug their own fishponds and stocked them with fish. Politicians came in and demanded that fish farms be established in particular areas of their constituencies – regardless of whether the sites were suitable for fish farming.
Due to lack of knowledge on how to construct fishponds, selection of the right type and size of fish to stock including general management, a majority of farmers who set up such fish farms without consulting fish farming experts, failed to turn them into successful enterprises. As a result, some of the farmers have abandoned fish farming altogether.
Farmers need skills
Fish farming can become a good source of additional income for farmers if it is done in the right way. It requires a lot of technical knowledge, which farmers can only acquire through proper training and correct information from the right sources before they can start. The best source of fish farming information is from fish farming experts in the Ministry of Fisheries Development. Below we give farmers some of the information and skills they need to have before going into the enterprise.
Water: Availability of enough quantity of clean water is one of the most important factors in fish production. Water flowing by gravity is cheaper for a fish farmer. The water should be available throughout the year. It must be free from pollution by pesticides and related chemicals.
Type of fish: The type of fish to be produced depends on the market, climate and whether it is actually possible to grow it in fish farms. Tilapia is one of the most common type of fish that the market in Kenya prefers. Other types of fish include trout, common carp and some ornamental fish like olanda, koi carp and goldfish.
Climate: Different types of fish do well in different climatic zones. For example, tilapia and African catfish require warm water of more than 25 °C; their growth is very slow in altitudes of more than 1600 metres above sea level because water is cold at that altitude. The average temperature for best performance of these types of fish is 28° C. Such temperatures are found in lowland areas. In areas with lower temperatures, ponds with larger surface area can help keep the water warmer.
Trout fish require cold temperatures of less than 18°C for proper growth and below 10°C for hatchery production. Such temperatures are common in higher altitude areas. The water must be adequate, clean and fast flowing.
Production site: The production site should be in a region suitable for a fish farm. The site should be well drained and protected from floods. The soils should be suitable for construction of a pond and the proposed production system. The fishponds require a large land area with a gentle slope as compared to fish tanks and raceways. It will be more cost effective if the land does not cost much. A large pond area allows for a greater natural production. For tilapia production one hectare of pond space can produce 8 to 10 tonnes of fish every year if the pond is well managed.