22 June 2010

Kenya: Fish Project Seeks to Create Wealth, Jobs and Food Security

The government expects to create thousands of new jobs and generate income for small scale entrepreneurs through fish farming.

In this year's budget allocation, Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta seeks to construct hundreds of fish ponds and fish processing facilities under the Fish Farming Productivity Programme in a bid to promote food security, create jobs and wealth.

In last year's budget, the Fisheries department received Sh1.12 billion that was meant to fund the construction and stocking of 28,000 fish ponds countrywide.

Construction of most of the ponds has been completed, with some entrepreneurs having already harvested the first batch.

The second phase of the project was allocated close to Sh3 billion in this year's budget, most of which will be used to develop supporting infrastructure that will reduce post harvest losses such as refrigeration and processing facilities, and the provision of core resources like production of fish feeds, transport and marketing.

The government aims at funding the construction of 4,000 more fish ponds in 20 constituencies, which will effectively see over 80 per cent of all constituencies in the country involved in aquaculture under the economic stimulus package.

"With the momentum for fish farming now building up, we recognise that the government's role in the medium term will largely be facilitative, with the private sector expected to be the prime mover of fish farming, seed and feed production, and marketing of produce," said Mr Kenyatta in the budget speech.

This means that an entrepreneur interested in fish farming only needs to have identified an area suitable for the construction of a fish pond, and government officials will take up the responsibility of construction, stocking and training the farmer to tend the fish.

The ministry has established a ready market for the harvest in case production exceeds local demand.

Plans are underway to have the fish bought at farm gates so as to reduce farmers' exposure to post harvest losses, according to a senior Fisheries department official.

The establishment of mini processing units around the country is expected to benefit farmers since they will be certain of their harvest reaching the market fresh.

A spot check at City Market in Nairobi revealed that prices of fish have appreciated by at least 20 per cent over the last one year, with a kilogramme of Nile Perch fillet going for Sh350.

Tilapia prices have, however, remained stable over the same period largely because of supplementary production by small scale farmers.

Economic opportunities

The new project is expected to increase fish production to over 20,000 metric tonnes a year, from the present 7,000 tonnes, according to Fisheries minister Otuoma Nyongesa.

Aquaculture Development chairman Harrison Charo-Karisa said there were massive economic opportunities that fish farming offers, which will create millions of jobs.

According to statistics from the Fisheries department, production in traditional sources such as Lake Victoria has been declining due to over-fishing and the use of incorrect fishing methods that have interfered with regeneration of fish stocks.

The popular Nile Perch and Tilapia species have been adversely affected, resulting in price appreciation.

Fisheries department principal officer Lucy Obungu said the Nile Perch quota to the European Union, the largest export market, could not be met noting that Israel and Dubai had also emerged as important markets.

"There are declining fish stocks in the capture sources of Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana, which has resulted in our inability to exhaust our current export quota to the EU," said Ms Obungu.

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