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ANNEX 3. Kenya

Aquaculture extension service in Kenya by C.C. Ngugi and J.O. Manyala

Kenyan farmers hold small plots (80 percent less than 2 ha) on which they cultivate staple and cash crops (mainly tea and coffee for export). They pay more attention to their crops because of the high returns. Propping their attention is a well-developed agricultural research, extension and marketing system. Livestock is also well catered for under agriculture with partly privatized veterinary services.

The current government objectives mainly focus on alleviating poverty, increase food production and focus on environment degradation. Since independence, the availability of major food items has grown more slowly than the population growth rate. Several strategies are considered including increased intensity of application of existing techniques, raising the genetic potential of staple and cash crops, fish and livestock and also diversification into areas with potential (e.g. aquaculture).

Consequently, a major priority development need of the Government of Kenya is to improve or introduce alternative, sustainable, low-cost family and community initiatives which will increase protein available for domestic use, and also generate income and reduce poverty (GoK Sessional Paper No.3, 1999; National Poverty Eradication 1999-2015). One such initiative is to increase the production of protein from aquaculture and fisheries.

Total freshwater fish production peaked in 1994 (202 890 tonnes) then plummeted to 172 665 tonnes in 1998, with very minimal contribution from aquaculture (about 1 000 tonnes; less than one percent of total production). Water limitation and easier land utilization options governed by unknown rate of return on investment have contributed significantly to slow growth in aquaculture. In Kenya, fish farming is seen as a marginal and risky investment. The potential yield of cultured fish depends on water temperature, altitude and local climatic conditions. Such areas suitable for agriculture are also likely to be suitable for aquaculture, resulting in competing demand for land use.

Public sector and institutional linkages

Fisheries Department (FD) interacts closely with other stakeholders to assure that fisheries programmes meet the needs of the industry and the kenyan public. Regional development authorities within the country such as Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA), Tana and Athi River Development Authority, Coast Development Authority, Kerio Valley Development Authority among others have direct charge over development within definitive areas and do not overlap with the FD but rather complement. The extent to which the department can accomplish its objectives is influenced to a greater extent by available manpower, that is currently the responsibility of Moi University, Department of Fisheries, quality research from Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) and Kenya Agricultural Research Institute. Fisheries Department also works closely with several NGOs, international development agencies and individuals to promote fish farming in Kenya.

Fisheries Department (FD) in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) is responsible for the administration and development of fisheries and aquaculture, enforcement of fisheries regulations including licensing, collection and reporting fishery statistics, market surveys, fish quality assurance and control of import and export of fish and fishery products.

The Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA) was established in 1979 with its headquarters based in Kisumu. The Lake Basin Development Authority has established several fry production centres and fish farms within its area of jurisdiction. LBDA owns a large rice mill near Kisumu with an annual production target of 8 000 tonnes of rice bran, a major ingredient in the manufacture of fish feed.

Trends in Total Fish Production and the
Percentage Contribution of Aquaculture to Annual
Fish Production from 1980 to 1998.


Total Fish


(% of Total)













































































The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) was created to replace the East Africa Marine Fisheries Research Organization and the East Africa Freshwater Fisheries Research Organization. KMFRI is dedicated to scientific research in the fields of marine, inland and culture fisheries as well as related basic research on fish biology and aquatic ecology. KMFRI undertakes research activities on: development of hatcheries and culture systems, production of quality seed through genetic selection, fish nutrition and diseases, development of local and suitable ingredients for incorporation into fish diets; identification and trial culture of fish species that may have potential for aquaculture, transfer and dissemination of research findings to farmers.

Moi University started the Department of Fisheries in 1990. It is one of the departments in the faculty of Forest Resources and Wildlife Management. The Depart-ment’s objectives oriented to community outreach are similar to KMFRI.

Non-Governmental Organizations

Available information indicates that INADES International, Action Aid, Catholic Church, Africa Now, Netwas International, Intermediate Technology Development Group, Plan International and World Vision are either interested or actively associated with aquaculture extension services in different parts of the country. Among the prominent NGOs involved in aquaculture extension has been the US Peace Corps, the pioneer organization that started transferring fish culture technology to the grass root level, followed by Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Most of these organizations have now scaled down their participation.

History and trends in past aquaculture extension in Kenya

Fish farming in Kenya has evolved from the introduction of sport fishing (rainbow and brown trout) at the beginning of the 1900s. Static water pond culture of tilapias then spread since the 1920s, supplemented later by common carp and catfish. Stocking of dams with fish during the colonial period was intended for control of aquatic weeds (Tilapia zillii), bilharzia snails and probably leeches (Astatereochromis allaudi) and mosquitoes (Gambusia affinis).

The concept of dam stocking then developed into small-scale aquaculture when individuals acquired land from the white settlers after independence. Rural fish farming dates back to 1940s and was popularized in the 1960s by the Government of Kenya through the “Eat more fish campaign”. As a result of the government’s effort, tilapia farming expanded in the 1960s when more ponds where constructed by small-scale farmers in central and western regions in Kenya. Aquaculture activities declined in the 1970s mainly because of low-level extension services and lack of quality fingerlings. Current estimates indicate about 32 000 ponds, most of which are either abandoned or neglected. A sectoral review shows that there were 10 000 existing ponds in 1989, of which 967 were actively managed. These ponds occupied an estimated total area of 131 ha and their total production was estimated at 65 tonnes or 495 kg ha-1 yr-1. Further speculation on the number of ponds would even be less accurate. For example the Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA) reported 4 140 known fish farmers with 5 934 fish ponds covering 77 hectares by the end of 1988 in its region. Commercial fish farming has met with some degree of success in Kenya, in particular the trout industry from hatcheries for the stocking of rivers for angling to actual table fish production units.

Although development in the private sector has mainly been in the form of small-scale rural projects often integrated with other agricultural activities, a number of investors have ventured into commercial fish culture. These farms mainly for trout produce the bulk of the farmed fish with a focus on developing modern aquaculture technology. Fisheries Department (FD) statistics indicate that there are five commercial trout farms on the slopes of mount Kenya and one tilapia farm using a recirculating system at Kitengela, Nairobi. The Baobab farm in Mombasa is a subsidiary of the Bamburi Portland Cement Company. It has tested cages, tanks, ponds and raceways for culture of tilapia, Clarias, carps and Macrobrachium spp.

The four 4-year plans as from 1960 consider aquaculture as a means of improving nutritional status in the rural areas, a phrase most of us are very familiar with but one whose success cannot be quantified. The 1984-1988; 1989-1993; 1994-1998 and 1999-2002 plans were very brief on aquaculture and only mentioned that aquaculture potential yield was still estimated at 1 000 metric tonnes per annum.

In the mid sixties, the director of fisheries launched the “Eat more fish campaign” that helped the spread of fish farming into various parts of the country. As a result, farmers in central and western provinces constructed and stocked ponds with Nile tilapia. Extension services were then started although they were mainly through provincial administration. Most of the ponds constructed were done with little or no technical guides and with no management capabilities. Extension services were thinly spread and thus farmers failed to reap the benefits.

The 1970s saw farmers abandon ponds for other farm produce and a marked decrease in aquaculture fish production. On the whole, farmers did not show inclination to pond preparation that usually accounts for over 50 percent of the probability of success in fish culture. Most fish farmers did not attempt even the basic initial liming and manuring. The stocking pattern also showed much variation from the recommended practice in stocking density, stocking ratio and size of the stocking material. Farmers stocked with tilapia at 1 fish per square metre as most of the manual recommended. Feed and fertilization schedules were not adopted at all. All these facts and figures clearly indicated that the recommended aquaculture technologies were disseminated at a very slow pace.

In addition to the extension activities, the Department of Fisheries, in collaboration with Moi University do undertake aquaculture extension programmes. As part of Moi University mission of rural development outreach, the Department of Fisheries at Moi University in collaboration with Oregon State and Auburn Universities (USA) received funding from USAID to conduct on-farm trials in central and western regions of the country. These trials bring together researchers from the University, extension officers (from FD) and farmers. After harvest, post-trial workshops are held to discuss constraints and evaluate alternatives, compare costs of production and decide if new technologies can be adopted. Such activities depend upon the nature and extent of resources available especially funds and priority area for development. The activities generally involve organizing short-term training programmes of one to two weeks for the fish farmers, Fish Farmers' Day and development of extension materials in the form of bulletins and fact sheets on aquaculture practices.

In the 1980s, the government through the effort made by FAO, approached various donors with the view of rehabilitating fish ponds and enhancing aquaculture production. Donors and NGOs then were involved in rehabilitation, construction of new ponds and provision of manuals to farmers. One region that donors moved to was western Kenya, which had high aquaculture potential and had an organized extension structure under the Lake Basin Development Authority. In 1982, a UNDP/FAO preparatory assistance mission reviewed the fisheries and aquaculture situation in the region. The mission concluded that there was an immediate need for more rapid and intense assistance for the development of rural small-scale fish farming in the Lake Victoria region. Rehabilitation of several thousand rural fish ponds that had been constructed and then abandoned over the last 30 years was emphasized. Furthermore, it was remarked that, sustained and effective fish culture extension services were needed to support and improve production by rural farmers. At that time, there were about 5 000 fish farmers in the western region with 10 000 ponds or 96 ha of land and over 500 abandoned fish ponds.

LBDA maintains one of the most comprehensive databanks of fish farmers in its area of operation. By 1998, the databank had more than 4 000 entries containing information on the personal details of each farmer, detailed information on the locality of the farmer, number of ponds, surface area coverage, type of culture, species being cultured and the general status of the ponds.

The average pond size was estimated at 100 m2 but in some districts this is skewed to the lower values. The average pond size in western Kenya was found to correlate with the size of the farm. Overall water availability does not appear to be a major constraint. Over 90 percent of the ponds are perennial seasonal ponds and represent about 2 percent while the remaining occasionally dries up during severe drought. The initial stocking of ponds has been done principally on the basis of supplies from other farms 50 percent, 30 percent from government fish farms or demonstration ponds, 10 percent from the wild (lakes and reservoirs) and the remaining from farmers’ own ponds. Tilapia monoculture represents over 75 percent of fish species culture with polyculture of tilapia and catfish currently standing at 15 percent, trout takes about 5 percent and the remaining 5 percent consist of catfish culture and other species. Mixed farming of two indigenous species, the Nile tilapia and catfish, is practised in Kenya since many years but the average production rate has remained as low as about 50 kg ha-1 yr-1. The demand of fish seed has suddenly gone up due to the extension efforts, the fisheries bulletin and ASK shows.

The LBDA aquaculture region is served by assistants and extensionists from FD and LBDA. In addition, coordinators and management staff handle regional and national co-ordination, development issues, women participation and training activities under LBDA structure. There are thus about 80 extension staff operating in western Kenya who serve the estimated 5 000 fish farmers. This represents probably the highest ratio in the region due to technical support from UNDP, FAO/BSF supported projects. In other areas, this ratio could be far much lower than in western Kenya.

Reflecting on the historical background of fish farming in Kenya, after over thirty years of aquaculture extension, there appears to have been no appreciable improvement in the effectiveness of the aquaculture extension system; there is lack of a strategic vision, no increase in production, abandoned ponds and virtually non-existent information system. The system is neither sustainable nor cost effective. Government allocation to extension-oriented districts is thin and few donors although involved in aquaculture activities have supported aquaculture extension in Kenya. At the Lake Basin Development Authority, the system did not create the expected level of impact, was costly and donor driven. The staff salaries consume an overwhelming proportion of the operation budget and the expatriate consultants took a big share of the project funding.

Current aquaculture extension

The Fisheries Department has been producing fingerlings of various species but mainly of tilapia in its fingerling production centres. Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research institute also supplies fingerling to fish farmers. Fingerling production from these farms complement with those run by LBDA and FD.

The Fisheries Department et Moi University have developed an aquaculture facility that will be used for training, research, demonstration and extension services in the region. Thirty-eight fish ponds whose size ranges from 100 m2 to 2 200 m2 have already been constructed. In addition to this, Moi University/Auburn University and the USAID-funded Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture Collaborative Research Support Programme (PD/A-CRSP) have undertaken extension work and on-farm trials to test different feeding strategies and sources of raw materials in the western and Rift valley regions of Kenya. The yields from these ponds were averaging 4 813 kg ha-1 yr-1. During the last two years, the result of extension action by this programme is that it is now possible to produce about 5 to 12 tonnes ha-1 yr-1 of tilapia/catfish polyculture from freshwater ponds through higher stocking density, application of complete feed and manuring. The technology has generated confidence among farmers and entrepreneurs and gained support from financial institutions.

Annual production of tilapia and catfish from the Lake Basin Fry Production Centres (FPC) and the districts where they were sold.


Districts Served




Kisii, Nyamira, Kericho, Bomet


100 000


100 000


Nyamira, Nyando, Rachuonyo


500 000


200 000


Western Kenya


500 000


200 000


Uganda, Busia, Amagoro


50 000


100 000


Siaya, Mumias, Vihiga, Bondo


150 000


50 000


Lugari, Kakamega, Trans Nzoia, Nandi


20 000


40 000


Kuria, Migori, Homa Bay


30 000


40 000


Bungoma, Mt. Elgon, Amagoro, Uganda


200 000


400 000


Under the PD/A-CRSP, Moi University has undertaken training 146 fisheries extension officers over the past 4-5 years on pond construction and management, between November 1999 and October 2001. The University has also trained fisheries students (23 B.Sc. and 13 M.Phil.) on specific areas of aquaculture under PD/A-CRSP, some of whom are now actively involved in aquaculture programmes throughout the country. The training sessions were mainly based at Sagana in central Kenya. LBDA has trained over 2 000 rural fish farmers from western Kenya and some 20 farmers have been trained as tilapia and catfish fingerling producers.

Research support for extension

Several technical and scientific documents have been produced at various times that directly support aquaculture extension. An example is the manual on simple methods for small-scale propagation of Clarias gariepinus in western Kenya. Another document is on the economic benefits and enterprise budgets of commercial tilapia production from locally available feed. These are some of the documents that have direct bearing on extension services and possibilities of moving from small-scale to commercial fish farming in Kenya. In 1999, LBDA carried out four studies aimed at consolidation and commercialization of fish farming in western Kenya. Recently, Moi University, LBDA, KMFRI and FD have been developing a National Plan for aquaculture development in Kenya that outlines the desired structure to promote faster development of this sector.


The LBDA is the only institution, which has attempted to provide a revolving credit facility specifically for fish farming in Kenya. LBDA targeted mostly groups and individuals who were already involved in small-scale fish farming, fingerling production or small-scale fish feed manufacturing. A total of 166 persons and 59 groups has been allocated up to 1,5 million Kenyan shillings per phase.

Constraints in aquaculture extension

Aquaculture extension services provided mainly through the FD and LBDA programmes have been found to be too inadequate to disseminate the improved aquaculture technology packages throughout the country. In Kenya, aquaculture systems are characterized by poor quality fish seeds, low inputs, low density of stocking, stunting in tilapias and partial harvests all leading to poor fish production per unit area. There has been a total failure of policy orientation in both research and extension efforts towards what are technically feasible. Above all, data on fish pond production especially yield per unit area are not reliable if available at all. Within this framework, research needs vary temporally and spatially. They also vary depending on the outlook of the nation’s food policy. In Kenya, given the urgent need for food fish, priorities should focus on small-scale systems.

In order to overcome these and other constraints, the Department of Fisheries together with other development agents are involved in: promoting commercial hatcheries for seed production, ensuring the transfer of small scale and commercial aquaculture technology, providing training in aquaculture, establishing more hatcheries and demonstration fish farms and training fish farmers and fisheries extension officers. In addition, it mobilizes technical and financial assistance or otherwise from other organizations and extends technical service support.

Research and extension linking mechanism is established mainly through training of extension personnel at research institutes and interaction between senior officials of the Fisheries Departments and University researchers. The grass root level workers and junior officers do not get opportunity to interact with the scientists working in the field. Moreover, all such senior officers who frequently attend meetings, seminars, and workshops on behalf of their organizations hardly make any effort to share their experience or exposure with junior officers and field level workers of their own organization. No system has been developed to facilitate a two-way flow of information between the top officials of the departments who frequently get exposed to research and development information and the grass root level extension and field personnel. Limited opportunities for training of FD and LBDA personnel indicate that the importance of training is yet to be realized. Most of the extension staff are trained at their entry level and since then, there has been no opportunity to undertake further training even short-term refresher courses. For providing training to the beneficiaries under FD and LBDA, training targets are fixed in terms of number and as such, training is treated as an exercise in filling this number rather than updating the training content. In other words, all the existing training courses are run for certification and promotion rather than upgrading the knowledge and skill. Moreover, most training programmes cover only the technological aspects while the subject of transfer of technology remains either untouched or inadequately covered. Extension personnel and aquaculture development officials have virtually no easy access to literature on the latest technologies and methodologies.

Monitoring mechanism is also weak and restricted to compilation of data in terms of coverage of water areas, average production rate, and number of people trained. Little or virtually no coverage is given to know-how of the technology package, level of adoption and field problems. Reporting is also very poor. In spite of a fixed schedule for sending reports, in most cases it is delayed. The available manpower in the Fisheries Division is not sufficient and they are not equipped to monitor the nation-wide programme of FD and LBDA. So far no attempt has been made to introduce MIS system in the monitoring cell through the development and use of suitable software for project monitoring and evaluation.

Other constraints are related to interdepartmental functional relationships. Responsibility for the transfer of technology lies with the Department of Fisheries while the water bodies are vested to other departments/local organizations and synchronization is lacking. Although LBDA developed and administrated an aquaculture loan schemes, the outcome was discouraging and led to its collapse. Fisheries Department does not administer any fish farmer loan schemes and neither are there subsidies and/or concessional loans. Subsidies might be justified, as an incentive to adoption of new strategies, but should be withdrawn as soon as the new strategies gain popularity and then the normal economic forces should be allowed to play their part. It is better to give a capital subsidy through commercial banks rather than the Government watching over the recovery of concessional loans.

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