Fish farmers in Kirinyaga County have gotten a major boost after Governor Anne Waiguru extended distribution of free fish feeds to enhance aquaculture in the county.
The initiative has seen 335 fish farmers benefit from the supply of the fish feeds.
This is expected to boost Kirinyaga’s fish produce in the wake of rising consumer demand for fish in Mt. Kenya region.
Out of these farmers are 254 beneficiaries who had earlier been issued with some 254,000 fish fingerlings to venture into fish farming by governor Waiguru’s administration.
The governor said this is part of an elaborate plan by her administration to empower farmers to undertake aquaculture so as to diversify on their agricultural activities in order to increase their revenue streams.
Fish farming and consumption, a practice considered cultural a preserve for communities around Lake Victoria basin and the Coast region, is gradually being embraced by all thus pushing the demand high.
“Under the fisheries program, we have been supporting farmers by providing them with free fishpond liners, fingerlings and six months fish feed. The farmers on the other hand were expected to construct the fishponds and thereafter nurture the fish to maturity. Proceeds from the harvest should then be used to replenish their ponds with more fingerlings in order to sustain the project,” she said.
The governor said that the fish farming project is one of the components of Wezesha Kirinyaga Economic program.
Farmers who have embraced aquaculture say that fish farming has become a lucrative venture and the support by the county government will help boost their earnings.
“In February, I got 1,000 tilapia fingerlings as well as liners and this helped me start my fish farming business. Now the county government has given us fish feed which mitigates the tough task of having to go to Sagana to buy them ourselves,” said Felister Wandia, a fish farmer from Kiambagathi and a beneficiary of the project.
Wandia says she has been able to increase ponds and has a farm hand who is helping her feed and take care of the fish.
“Through fish farming, I am now able to comfortably feed my family as well as take my children to school thus has improved our overall standards of living.” She concluded by thanking the county government for its support and pledged to diligently pursue fish farming.
Joseph Wachira, a farmer from Mukure ward, is also a beneficiary of this project. “I started fish farming as a business in 2014. By then, fish feeds were very expensive and one had to travel a long distance to get them, but the county government’s intervention has made our lives so much easier,” said Wachira. He also applauded the county government’s move to provide farmers with liners stating that it was extremely helpful because they are expensive.
Nicholas Njuguna from Kangai ward said the fish feeds initiative has helped him expand his aquaculture venture because he can keep more fish and does not have to worry about feeds.
“I didn’t have to buy fish feed myself which would have been expensive as I received several bags of fish feed. The feeds are more than enough to last until the fish are ready for harvesting,” added Njuguna.
County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Agriculture and Livestock Development, Dr. John Gachara, said the initiative targets about 1,700 farmers to help them in their various agricultural activities, stating that so far, the county government has supported over 850 farmers.
“We will put up an aggregation center where the fish farmers can take their harvests through cooperatives which will do the marketing for the fish. Previously, the major challenge farmers faced was how and where they were to sell their fish and this aggregation center will solves this,” he said.
“Through the Wezesha program, the governor is going to launch large scale production of fish in Thiba Dam as well as three additional dams. In addition, we are putting up hatcheries and aqua parks that will ensure that fish farmers are getting adequate fingerlings at an affordable rate. This, we believe will move fish farming from just a source of livelihood to a major value chain within Kirinyaga County,” Gachara added.
He said for the past three years, fish farming in the county has been growing gradually.
“Fish farming will provide an extra income stream for our farmers and give direct support to women and youth who will be involved at various stages of the project value chain” he noted.