Fish farming has made observable contributions to food security, creation of employment, income generation and nutrition. In the Lake Region and beyond comprising of Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori, Kisii, Nyamira, and Kakamega, fish farming considered it as a source of employment while those viewing it as potentially able to enhance living standards.
A constant meal in homes, fishing serves one of the most densely populated regions of Kenya with over 14 million people which constitute about 30% of the population in Kenya. Fish farmers are making use of natural sources of water like Lake Victoria, Lake Kanyaboli, Lake Namboyo, Lake Sare and Lake Bob and tributary rivers to fill their ponds year in, year out. Counties continue to struggle with infrastructure for processing fresh and stalls for fresh fish markets.
Today, majority of fish farmers supply the region at least twice a week with majority of dwellers finding it relatively easy to access fish other than meat. Capacity building is necessary and awareness needs to be created to fish farmers so they can take the full advantage of the government initiatives on aquaculture.
Apart from ongoing engagements from State Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Blue Economy, the initiative towards Lutonye Fish Processing Plant: a Sh120 million processing plant that caters for counties within the is commendable. Other efforts include plans to buy fish ponds and distribute harvesting nets to farmers and subsidizing fish feeds and products.
According to Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, “The plant has a capacity to process 30 metric tonnes of fish per day and it would provide a ready market for farmers.”
“The National Government initially pumped Sh60 million into the construction of the facility during the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) in the year 2009-2012,” and Kakamega County has constructed fish feed warehouse at a cost of Sh20 million.
“We appreciate the DAS Group Kenya Limited for investing over Sh40 million to upgrade the facility to meet all the requirements that qualified it to export fish to the much-coveted European Union (EU) market.”
“We will support the establishment and registration of 30 aquaculture field schools in collaboration with support from development partners to make fish farming and business attractive and affordable.”
Cabinet Secretary for Devolution Eugene Wamalwa urged farmers to diversify their ventures and embrace fish farming seeing as sugar cane farming in the region has been undergoing numerous challenges. Kakamega Fish Factory CEO Mr Samwel Ondiek emphasized the regions capacity “to process and export fish to meet the export market demands. But to meet this demand, we have to invest in technology and proper infrastructure.”
In Kakamega, there are 6,976 fish farmers with 9,988 fish ponds and has a potential to produce a total of 1,798 metric tonnes of fish in a seven-month production cycle. Caroline Vicini, Swedish Ambassador to Kenya assured the farmers of a ready export market in the European Union (EU). This would enable farmers dedicate more idle and agriculturally unproductive land to fish farming and use locally available resources so as to enhance profitability of their fish farming enterprises.
Ambassador Vicini urged fish farmers to take advantage of the European Union market of over 27 counties to produce more fish for exportation to improve their livelihood. The Lutonye Fish Processing Plant located in Lurambi, Kakamega County will buy fish from 14 counties which are to be exported to 27 European Union countries. For small scale fish traders, the challenge remains unexploited capacity in Lake Victoria and competition from imported fish, increasing conflict, overfishing in some zones, and falling incomes from the fishing business.