Fish farming in Meru County the next frontier of agricultural millionaires
Post by Dorine.
With 10,000 acres of land with potential of producing 66,000 metric tones of fish production, two fish processing plants, a fish hatchery and a trout farm; the future of fish farming in Meru County beams as the new agricultural economic booster.
In 2013/2014 financial year the county government allocated Sh. 25.2 million to establish 140 fish ponds and one fish breeding hatchery.
In the 2014/2015 financial year, Sh. 10 million was used by the department of agriculture to put up sixteen institutional ponds, one hatchery farm and a trout farm as a way of commitment towards supporting fish farming.
Further the county government is in the final stages of equipping Kanyakine fish factory having inherited it from the National Government which constructed it through the Economic Stimulus Program.
The factory construction started in 2009 to boost inland fish farming and was handed over to the county government in April 2015 after agriculture was devolved under the new constitution.
The County Executive for Agriculture and Fisheries Jenaro Guantai while opened a fish feeds processing unit at the Kanyakine fish plant in October last year, when he said that the factory is fully equipped with components of collecting fish from the farms, processing and storage, and serve as the main market outlet.
"This facility is a base for teaching the people of Meru County on how to rear fish while earning a living through selling processed fish products", said Guantai, during the opening ceremony of the unit in Kanyakine.
Meru County is currently among three counties that have implemented the role of processing due to its agricultural potential.
The factory is fully equipped with cooler boxes and freezers for fish preservation and the county government is in the process of purchasing trucks fitted with coolers to aid transportation of fish from farms to the factory.
The county government currently has an underway plan to purchase 18 fishnets, 16 liners, fins and brook stock for the hatcheries to increase the production of fish.
"Imenti South residents have benefited from this scheme and have learnt how to build and maintain fish ponds, a move that has increased fish production in the county as compared to the previous years," he said.
Among challenges facing fish farmers are theft, lack of market and inadequate value addition where Guantai has promised to work with the farmers to overcome the challenges that deter this lucrative activity.
According to Samuel Otieno, the deputy director of fisheries in the county, the fish processing plant at Kanyakine will require more than 20 tonnes of fish every week for processing if it has to operate to its full capacity.
He added that the 140 fish ponds constructed in institutions all over the county are not enough to sustain the industry where he called upon individual farmers to develop ponds to enhance the stimulus fish production.
Besides the Kanyakine fish processing plant, there is a similar one in Mitunguu and both are aimed at promoting fish eating in the local Meru community.
He further said the department has identified different species that can do well in different ecological zones within the county while advising farmers to observe great care on the oxygen concentration and ammonia content in their ponds which he attributed to fish deaths in the ponds.
Tilapia and catfish can multiply well in warm areas of Tigania, Igembe and Buuri because the temperatures are conducive for the species while much colder areas of below 20 degrees Celsius such as Timau or Kibirichia, trout and tilapia species thrive best.
Otieno was responding to requests by farmers and fish farming stakeholders who had called upon the county government to do more research on type of breeds of fish that are fit for various zones in the county.