Kenya prides herself as a country with a strong agricultural background. In the recent years, however, the agricultural sector has been hard hit with prolonged drought, armyworms, and the general climate change. Kenyans have been urged to embrace technology and modernize the sector although the process is still at the infancy stage in most parts of the country.
As crop farming continues to be affected by changes in the climate, diversification into the sector is being advocated. Fish farming is one of the agricultural sectors that is underutilized. This is despite the fact that commercial fish farming has been ongoing in Kenya for a long time. Kenya has numerous aquatic resources that have potential for exploitation. These, coupled with varied climatic, geographic regions and water bodies such as the Indian Ocean coastline, large historical rivers, large swamps and other water bodies all support a potential for supporting the breeding of native aquatic species.
Fish farming can either be large-scale or small-scale. To have a successful fish farming, there are various steps that a farmer has to follow for successful results.
Considerations for fish farming
Select a suitable land and location – not all land and its location are suitable for accommodating fish farming. For effective fish farming, the land has to be relatively level and with a high ability to retain water (clay soils are mostly preferred). The piece of land should also be located lower than the water source (if it is a river or a stream). This is aimed at reducing the cost of having to pump water into the pond. The land should also be located in an area that has a good transport system. Fresh fish is highly perishable upon harvest, and fish needs to be either stored under proper conditions or transported to marketplaces as soon as possible.
Type of fish farming
There are two types of fish farming; large-scale fish farming and small-scale fish farming. It is advisable that the farmer should start with small-scale fish farming before moving up the ladder to large-scale fish farming. Some fish farming methods include cage system, tank system or pond system with cage system and tank system being suitable for small-scale fish farmers.
The type of fish to be reared. Before entering into fish farming, it is important to consult experts in the aquatic farming field on the type of fish that is suitable in your area. Also, find out the type of fish that is in demand and choose one that is suitable. Most species that are widely reared around the world include the carp, salmon, tilapia, and catfish.
This is the most important stage of fish farming. Fish needs a ready market and the farmers need to establish a market before kicking off the farming process. Fresh fish is highly perishable and proper storage facilities as well as proper transport channels to the market need to be considered. Make sure you source for places to sell your fish before you start. This is one of the reasons it is important to start from a small scale. Also consider that you can sell fish not just for human consumption but also as animal feed.
Specific reasons you should take to fish farming
Fish farming is easy to carry out as compared to other complicated modes of farming. The only thing someone needs is a suitable type of soil (piece of land) and a constant source of water. In absence of a sizeable piece of land, tanks and drums can be used. Where the type of the soil is not suitable to retain water for long, a waterproof paper is often put at the bottom of the pond before releasing water into the pond.
The market for fish is readily available both locally and internationally. Major urban centers in Kenya are readily available markets for fish. For large-scale fish farmers, the international market is available. The market for fish is growing, and Kenya has had to import fish from China because the demand exceeds the supply.
Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture are available to give technical support to fish farmers. Being an agricultural sector that has not been fully utilized, the Ministry is committed to making sure that more Kenyans take to the rearing of fish for both domestic and commercial use.
Fish farms are easy to maintain. As long as the fish are fed a good nutritional food and you make sure the ponds are secured by putting wire mesh to keep away predators, the farmer is assured of a good harvest.
Fish farming, however, is not without challenges but a major one is overbreeding which often leads to stunted growth in fish ponds. To overcome this challenge, farmers are often encouraged to stock their ponds with male fish only in a process known as mono sex culture.
The good news is that there is still more room for growth and investing in this sector. The sector is still growing. Statistics show that the demand for fingerlings increased from one million to 28 million in less than a year and it is expected to hit 100 million, something that the fisheries department cannot cope with. There is also demand for more than 14,000 tonnes of fish feed. If a farmer can specialize in these two fields, they will have an amazing and unlimited growth in few years.