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Sustainable aquaculture practices needed to boost production

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Noven Owiti and Jasmine Atieno

Agricultural researchers have rooted for better sustainable aquaculture management practices as a workable strategy that could significantly boost fish production in the country.

The scholars attributed poor  fish rearing methods to the low yields being recorded by most farmers locally.

Dr Kevin Obiero, a research scientist at Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) says Kenyan fish farmers have continued to register low productivity because of over-relying on traditional farming systems.

While stressing the need for more capacity building to the local fish farmers, Dr Obiero noted that focus should shift to using new techniques of fish farming in order to supplement the overall annual Kenyan fish production and grow the economy.

He underscored the need to promote fish farming as an alternative to boosting annual fish productivity locally.

Increase fish production

According to the scientist, scaling up commercialised fish farming in the country was better placed to ease pressure of getting fish from the natural water bodies.

“Our farmers must begin to use sophisticated fish rearing methods so that we improve on the quality and quantity of fish we produce,” Dr Obiero said, during a training session for fish farmers on a new concept of fish farming in Kisumu last month.

The programme on new aquaculture techniques, which is set to be rolled out, targets 24 counties and is aimed at promoting fish farming across the country to increase fish production from the current 18,000 to 71,500 metric tonnes and consumption levels from 4.5 kilogrammes to 10 kiliogrammes per capita per year by 2022.

The World Bank funded Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture project will be undertaken after KMFRI, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) and some universities develop aquaculture Technologies, Innovations and Management Practices (TIMPs) through research to address the underlying challenges in the aquaculture value chain.

Dr Obiero says through adoption of climate-smart aquaculture technologies, innovations and management practices, fish farmers stand a chance of recording double yields in future.

“Successful implementation of these practices is expected to increase agricultural productivity, build resilience to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he explains.

He states that in the project farmers and agricultural extension officers will be equipped with appropriate know-how so that they can champion the update of the new technologies seeking to increase overall fish production.

“We are carrying out the trainings to help our farmers gather technologies that can be rolled in the earmarked counties to enhance fish production,” he adds.

Dr Erick Ogello, a lecturer at Maseno University department of fisheries and natural resources, says application of fish farming innovative mechanisms will stimulate improved production, thus ensuring food security.

Ogello says implementation of the programme will bring on board fish farmers, fishermen and other common interest groups from the counties who play critical rolea in the fish value chain.

He affirms that the partnership to introduce new techniques will also ensure more embrace fish farming hence boost the country’s production.

“The broader objective is to train farmers how to culture fish in their backyard so that we have enough to consume locally,” says Ogello.

He expresses concern over the depleting fish stocks in the Kenyan natural systems, while calling for swift action to minimize rampant unregulated fishing activities in the natural waters.

“It has been discovered that fish stock in our natural water systems is declining rapidly, for instance in Lake Victoria, which is a chief source of the commodity, fish has reduced significantly over the years.

This calls for concerted efforts to exploit aquaculture to bridge the deficit,” says Ogello.

Nutritional security

In Kenya, Aquaculture has been prioritised to contribute to the Food and Nutritional Security Pillar of Kenya’s Big Four Agenda through direct fish consumption and income stabilisation among vulnerable groups by their involvement in the aquaculture value chain activities and linkages. 

Head of KMFRI’s Sagana research centre, Dr Domitila Kyule, has been facilitating value addition segment under KCSAP project. 

Through KMFRI, Dr Kyule has also developed a smokeless kiln that dries and bakes fish at very low temperatures hence it does not burn fingers.

Through her project she has rolled out 13 farmed fish value added products namely fish pie, fish sausages, fish kebabs, fish samosas etc.

She has been training farmers and other stakeholders from various parts of the country on how to prepare farmed fish products and the participants are also expected to train others in their areas. 

“Through the programme we want fish farmers and traders to be able to maximise profits. Some farmers have also been crying for post harvest losses and the training is aimed tat curbing such issues.

The other thing is that Kenya needs to increase consumption of fish; therefore, value addition provides the diversification and increases of consumption.

Fish is very nutritious and a good immune booster, it builds immunity which is also required to fight diseases, especially in times of a pandemic like this,” says Dr Kyule. 

In summary

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