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Scaling Up Fish Farming In Kenya

Economics Catfish / Pangasius Tilapia / Cichlids +5 more

An ambitious project aims to train over 800 smallholders a year in sustainable aquaculture, with the long term aim of reducing poverty in the South Rachounyo District of Homa Bay County of Kenya. Charlotte Johnston, TheFishSite editor reports.

The project is being co-ordinated by the Holy Will Women Group, who through this project aim to scale-up fish farming activities to mitigate poverty among smallholders in the community.

Many of these smallholders have previously been involved in fish farming through government initiatives - but have received no training.

The lack of training caused many of these smallholders to be unsuccessful fish farmers.

What does the project entail?

The first thing the project will do is establish a semi-intensive fish hatchery/ production centre where high quality fingerlings and table size tilapia will be produced through a net enclosure system (Happa). The pond sizes will be 20m by 15m.

Working with the Ministry of Fisheries, the project will organise open days four times a year, to educate smallholders about aquaculture methods (the group aims to educated 800 smallholders a year).

On these open days, skills learnt will include site selection, water quality, pond construction, characteristics of certified seeds, stocking rate, feeding, predators, harvesting techniques, preservation, marketing, soil and water conservation, as well as book-keeping.

The first open day was held on 14 th October 2011, and was attended by 165 small rural farmers. Besides fish farming, other cross-cutting issues including HI/ AIDS, Gender sensitivity and the need for adaptation of improved methodologies in growing of crops such as maize, millet and yams were emphasis ed.

The field days are free of charge for smallholders, and the next one will be held when the next batch of funding comes through.

Once established, the site will allow smallholders in the region to farm fish while applying tested and scientifically proven practices. This will improve nutritional quality of the fish, increase household incomes and work towards reducing overall poverty.

The project is expected to run for three years. During these three years, fingerlings will be supplied to 800 targeted smallholders at a subsidized rate.

What does the project require?

Land has already been acquired for the project. However the group requires a number of tools and equipment to fully implement the project.

The group successfully approached Aquaculture Without Frontiers (AW), a non-governmental organization, for funding. The project was approved by AWF at the end of July 2011.

Funding will also be provided by other individuals and the Ministry of Fisheries.

Funding will allow the group to fence off the land, construct eight earthen ponds (there are two ponds already in place), construct four concreted holding ponds, purchase a water pump, nets, brood stock, start-up feeds and other essential items to establish the site.

What's next?


24 members of the group will under go five days of on-farm training at a semi-intensive fish farm. They will receive training from the Ministry of Fisheries and the Kenya Fisheries, Marine and Research Institute.

The training they receive will cover semi intensive fish rearing, and once completed they will be able to pass this on to other smallholders.

Establishing a model fish farm

Partnering with the Ministry of Fisheries, the group wishes to establish a semi-intensive model fish farm for training, production and demonstration purposes.

Assistance and technical back-up will be provided by the Ministry. The model fish farm will be used during the four training sessions to encourage discussions between smallholders.

Production of fingerlings

The project aims to produce over 200,000 fingerlings of tilapia and catfish every quarter, to satisfy local demand.

Tilapia: The fingerlings will be produced under net enclosures, known as happas. The happa is like an inverted mosquito net, of which the four top corners are tied to bamboo stakes. It is made of fine meshed polyethylene netting. The seams are sewn with nylon threads and double stitched to prevent splitting.

The first batch of 2,000 fingerlings was delivered on 26th of September, 2011, while a second batch was delivered on 4th of October, 2011.

Brooders weighing between 100-120 grams will be placed in the enclosure at a ration of one males to five females. After two weeks fry will be transferred to a rearing pond.

Once the fingerlings have reached the correct size they will harvested and sold.

The group has discovered that sweet potato leaves are an important feed for tilapia, and so are now used in dairy feeding programme.

Catfish: The simplest and cheapest method of producing catfish will be used. 10-20 breeders will be kept in small brood stock ponds.

A happa will be placed in a pond which is fertilised with poultry manure and half filled with water.

Ripe females will be injected with catfish pituitary (to enhance maturity) and placed together with males, at a ration of 3:1. The following day the pond is filled to trick the breeders that a new breeding season has arrived.

Spawning occurs the night after injection. The following morning breeders are returned to the broodstock ponds. The fertilised eggs remain in the happa where they hatch. After three to four days, the developed larvae will be moved to rearing ponds. After three to four weeks they are harvested and graded.


Having had problems with their initial commercial feed supplier, the group have moved suppliers and now source feed from Unga Feeds.

In September, red algae was spotted in two of the ponds, to prevent this water is now run continuously through the ponds, however this has so far been unsuccessful. It is under discussion as to whether water should be pumped out of these ponds and replaced.

Increasing the average annual income of smallholders in the first year

The project hopes to have increased the average annual income over at least 824 smallholders that practice fish farming in South Rachuonyo District from US$330 to US$1000 in the first year.

Smallholders with the greatest needs will be identified initially and have their supply of fingerlings subsidised by the group.

January 2012