Tilapine species form about 90 percent of farmed fish in Kenya. Polyculture of the Tilapines with the North African catfish (Clarias gariepinus ) is often practiced to control the prolific breeding of the former. Aquaculture takes many different forms ranging from the small hand-dug 'kitchen ponds', to fairly large earth ponds of 1 000 m2 . Dams and other impoundments of stored water are often stocked with fish and harvested periodically.
Aquaculture practices include the intensive, semi-intensive and extensive systems. The semi-intensive systems form the bulk of aquaculture production in Kenya, contributing more than 70 percent of the total production from aquaculture. Intensive systems are few, while hyper-intensive systems are being set up and are projected to contribute as much as 90 percent of all farmed fish in Kenya by both volume and value.
Following the campaigns of the post-independence era outlined above (Kenya achieved independence in December 1963, and was established as a republic in December 1964) the number of fish farmers increased considerably to over 20 000, but production only rose from 900 tonnes in 1980, to 1 080 tonnes in 1985 and to 1 012 tonnes in 2003. Since then it has maintained this level.
Aquaculture takes many different forms ranging from the small hand-dug 'kitchen ponds' to fairly large earth ponds of 1 000 m2 . Dams and other impoundments used for storing water are often stocked with fish and harvested periodically. Intensive commercial fish culture has been attempted at the Baobab Farm at Mombasa using circular concrete ponds and raceways. Cage culture, on the other hand, is being attempted along the shores of Lake Victoria and in some dams in Central Kenya with some degree of success.
According to the current data available there are 7 790 fish farmers who are owners of aquaculture production units (Fisheries Department, 2003). The actual numbers benefiting from aquaculture will only be available on completion of the national aquaculture inventory which is being carried out by the Fisheries Department, and which includes as one of its parameters the number of household members.
The rainbow trout was introduced in Kenya during colonial rule mainly for sport fishing. It has become quite important in terms of value, and a kg costs 300-1 200 Kenyan shillings or Kshs (i.e. US$ 4-16) depending on where it is sold. The common carp was also introduced during the colonial period, but is not favoured by the market.
The introduction of genetically modified species is still very contentious, but the Fisheries Department is exploring ways of developing genetically improved species by using the endemic strains available.
Extensive culture in cages is mainly done in lakes, rivers, dams and water reservoirs. The fish depend on the organic matter suspended in the water flowing through the cages. The stocking densities in the cages also depend on the natural productivity of the water. The main cultured species are Oreochromis niloticus , Clarias gariepinus and Cyprinus carpio . This system has not been well documented, but it is estimated that production ranges between 500 and 1 500 kg/ha/year, contributing 10 percent or more to the total aquaculture production in Kenya.
Semi-intensive systems, mostly producing Nile tilapia, have been the major contributor to aquaculture in Kenya, with an average production of about 3 tonnes/ha, contributing more than 70 percent of the total aquaculture production. These systems form the bulk of aquaculture production in Kenya. Earthen ponds and cages are used as holding units for fish culture. The ponds are fertilized using both chemical and organic fertilizers in varying proportions to enhance natural productivity. Exogenous feeding using cereal bran and other locally available feeds is done to supplement pond productivity. Polyculture of Oreochromis niloticus , Clarias gariepinus and Cyprinus carpio is practiced with various combinations of species. Production in these systems ranges between 1 000 and 2 500 kg/ha/year.
Intensive aquaculture is largely used for rainbow trout raceway culture. This has supported the tourism industry as it is considered rather a luxury and is supplied to hotels catering largely to tourists. The contribution of this fish is therefore higher by monetary value than by weight. Other intensive practices involve the use of various types of tanks, and sometimes floating cages, as holding units. In all these systems, more fish are produced per unit area by complementing or substituting the natural productivity in the culture units by exogenous feeding, aeration and both mechanical and bio-filtration where necessary. There are very few such operations in the country. Production in these systems ranges from 10 000 to 80 000 kg/ha/year depending on the management level employed.
Hyper-intensive tilapia culture has already begun through cage culture and is about to be started in ponds as well. This system will soon contribute as much as 90 percent of all farmed fish in Kenya by both volume and value.
There are also a few other species such as Redbelly tilapia (Tilapia zilii ), goldfish (Carassius auratus ) and common carp (Cyprinus carpio ), but their production is currently minimal.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Kenya according to FAO statistics:
There has been informal export of both bait fish and ornamental fish to Uganda.
There is currently no system of labelling or certification of aquaculture products, but the department has started the process of developing aquaculture legislation.
The main aquaculture activities practiced by poor households in inland areas include small-scale farming of tilapia. Coastal aquaculture has yet to take off.
Some of the measures that the Government is planning in order to support aquaculture in both public and private sector initiatives are:
The Fisheries Policy is being developed and a 'zero draft' is ready, the proposed date of completion of it, is December 2005.
The role of non-governmental institutions is to fund research, disseminate research results when appropriate, evaluate research results and contribute towards setting research agendas.
On-farm participatory research is practiced through government and donor participation. The results are verified and transmitted through forums such as workshops and farm visits.
The major Government Aquaculture Research Institutions are:
Following this development and the reorganization of government functions, aquaculture is now one of the four core functions of the Fisheries Department. The Fisheries Department has been at the forefront of policy for diversifying fisheries resource production. Measures include maintaining closed seasons and encouraging fish farming as an alternative to ensure sustainable management of such sensitive fisheries such as those of lakes Victoria and Naivasha. Lake Victoria basin is projected to contribute 90 percent of all farmed fish in Kenya, a trend that seems strange at present, as its contribution has so far been the smallest. Predicted trends on diversification and expansion are based on expectations of output from many private farms that are still in the initial stages of production. Furthermore, the recent demand of fish in the EU and even in West African countries has promoted the urge to start large-scale commercial fish farming in Kenya given that the infrastructure is being improved.
The conditions necessary for fish farming are readily available in Kenya. The technical feasibility of fish farming in the wide range of environmental conditions present in Kenya is being researched. Kenya can be divided into four climatic zones for the purposes of establishing the suitability of fish farming, based on water, temperature and fish species as follows: Western Kenya; the Highlands; the Arid and Semi Arid lands of North and Eastern Kenya; and the Coastal area. Although the recommended initiatives for enhancing farm fish production to supplement the output from capture fisheries are yet to be implemented, culture farm trials have been undertaken with many freshwater and salt water species. Kenya has a good base on which to expand its aquaculture output. Several possible activities that could harness this potential include: culture of food fish, shellfish and seaweed, fish culture for sport, raising of ornamental specimens for export, the recycling of organic waste and the production of industrial fish products such as fish meal and fertilizers.
Balarin, J.D. 1985. Reviews for aquaculture development in Africa: Kenya. FAO Fish Circ., (770.7):96 p.
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