Until six years ago, aquaculture in Kenya had stagnated at an annual production of around 1 000 tonnes. This situation was further exacerbated by poor extension services and inadequate reporting and documentation. Since 1999, however, through consistent efforts in on-farm research and training, Kenya's aquaculture production has risen and is currently likely to be almost 1 500 tonnes. The focus is now on encouraging the development of private, commercial large-scale aquaculture, which is likely to increase Kenya's production to about 12 000 tonnes in the next three years. This development follows the efforts of the Department of Fisheries to promote aquaculture as one of the means to eradicate poverty and hunger. During the preparation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper in 2000, the Government identified aquaculture development as a core activity for funding through the current Medium Term Expenditure Framework budgeting system. The last six years have been marked by aggressive research, training and private sector involvement in aquaculture. Production in real terms has doubled and is set to grow by over 1 000 percent (ten times) in the next three years. The prevailing conditions combine good prices and high demand, which are likely to boost fish production from aquaculture.
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.
Aquaculture in Kenya follows a pattern similar to many countries in this region of Africa. It is characterized by low levels of pond production that have stagnated over the past decade. Fish farming was introduced by the colonialists for the purpose of sport fishing at the beginning of the 1900s and it evolved to static water pond culture of tilapine fish in the 1920s, later supplemented by common carp and catfish. Trout was subsequently introduced as a riverine sport fish. In order to be able to produce seed for the warm water and cold water species for stocking of rivers, dams and ponds. The colonialists set up two fish farms in 1948, the Sagana Fish Farm (for warm water species) and the Kiganjo Trout Farm (for cold water species). Mariculture was introduced in the late 1970s with the establishment of the Ngomeini Prawn Farm as a pilot project. Although fish farming in rural Kenya has a relatively long history dating back to the 1920s, it was only made popular in the 1960s through the 'Eat More Fish' campaign. However, no spectacular progress has been achieved in this sub-sector since its introduction.
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.
In Kenya the number of full-time employees in aquaculture is 400. The work of extension is performed mainly by the staff of the Fisheries Department (Fisheries Officers, Assistant Fisheries Officers, Fisheries Assistants and Fish Scouts). The Lake Basin Development Authority, a semi-public organization, also has fisheries field staff who are answerable to a Technical Officer. Although thinly spread along the Lake Victoria Basin, they are better trained than other extension staff. The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute has opened up outpost stations for conducting aquaculture research and offering limited services to fish farmers. Universities such as Moi University, which has a Department of Fisheries, also offer technical assistance to farmers.
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.
Tilapine species form about 90 percent of farmed fish in Kenya. Polyculture of the Tilapines with the North African catfish (Clarias gariepinus ) is often done to control the prolific breeding of the former. Some exotic species, including the common carp (Cyprinus carpio ), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss ) and largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides ), have been introduced in Kenya for aquaculture purposes.
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.
In 2003 total production of the three main fish species farmed in Kenya (Nile tilapia, rainbow trout and North African catfish) amounted to 948 tonnes. The value of production for 2003 came to US$ 2 153 000.
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:
The domestic market for farmed fish is quite promising. Prices are as high as Kshs 140/US$ 1.86 per kg in Eldoret and other parts of the country and there is consumer awareness of the health benefits of eating fish as well as quality assurance of farmed fish. This combination of good prices and high demand becomes a real boost for aquaculture. Currently prices are getting even better than those on the world market for whole tilapia. Almost all major towns in Kenya where aquaculture is practiced in the surrounding areas constitute an assured market. This now includes most towns in Western, Central, Eastern, Rift Valley, Coast, Nairobi and Nyanza provinces. The market for food fish is still mainly confined to whole fish except for North African catfish fillet for which there is a high demand in some parts of the Central Province. The distribution chain is mostly short, characterized by farm-gate pricing, although lately there are increasing numbers of middlemen, especially in the fast-growing bait fish market for catfish fingerlings. Prices in the bait market vary widely from Kshs 3/US$ 0.04 from fish farmers to as much as ksh10/US$ 0.13 paid by Nile perch longline fishermen.
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.
Aquaculture has lately become a source of healthy animal protein in many parts of Kenya. It has now spread to parts of the North Rift, Central and Eastern Provinces, which initially were not fish growing areas. A number of fish farmers who were farming at subsistence level have turned into small-scale commercial fish farmers earning as much as Kshs 450 000 (US$ 6 000) per acre of water surface. Some of the commercial farmers who are starting production want to produce both for the local and export markets. Thus, it is likely that in the next three years aquaculture will make a significant contribution to both food security and foreign exchange earnings in Kenya.
The main aquaculture activities practiced by poor households in inland areas include small-scale farming of tilapia. Coastal aquaculture has yet to take off.
The government strategy advocates a paradigm shift in the roles of government and the private sector in aquaculture. This finds expression in all major policy documents of the government of Kenya, such as the PRSP (Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, 2001), KRDS (Kenya Rural Development Strategy), ERS - W&E (Economic Recovery Strategy for Wealth and Employment Creation, 2003) and SRA (Strategy for Revitalising Agriculture).
Some of the measures that the Government is planning in order to support aquaculture in both public and private sector initiatives are:
The main regulation governing aquaculture at the moment is the Fisheries Act (cap 378), which is still very general and only deals with the transfer of one species from one catchment area to another. The aquaculture legislation, as distinct from the more general Fisheries Act, is still in its initial stages of drafting.
The Fisheries Policy is being developed and a 'zero draft' is ready, the proposed date of completion of it, is December 2005.
Research priorities in Kenya are demand driven. The role of the Government is to support applied and farmer-participatory research directed at small- and medium-scale commercial farmers; ensure that research is responsive to the needs of farmers; and develop methods whereby farmers who own large-scale, capital intensive systems have access to Government research facilities and scientists on a contract basis.
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:
Moi University offers a MSc and a Ph.D degree in Fisheries with an Aquaculture option. A diploma in Aquaculture can be obtained from the Kenya Wildlife Training Institute at Naivasha. Other short courses in aquaculture are offered by the Department of Fisheries at Moi University.
The last six years have been marked by aggressive research, training and private sector involvement in aquaculture. Production in real terms has doubled and is set to grow by over 000 percent (ten times) in the next three years. During the preparation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper in 2000, the Government identified aquaculture development as a core activity for funding through the current Medium Term Expenditure Framework budgeting system.
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.
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