Kenya is a country that has been blessed with numerous aquatic resources with aqua-climatic potential on almost all its borders. To the North is the salty Lake Turkana, to the West is Lake Victoria which is largest freshwater lake in Africa, and to the South is the vast Indian Ocean and several large rivers that transverse the landscape.
Although the government has invested Sh5.7 billion for the development of aquaculture in the last three years, annual rate of fish consumption in the country remains as low at 3.7 kilogrammes per person. This is being done through the “Eat More Fish” campaign to try and popularize fish farming. As a result of this effort, Tilapia fish rearing has greatly spread throughout the region. This was achieved through the construction of many small ponds, especially in the highlands of Central and Western Provinces.
However, the current low fish consumption is negating efforts of this government-backed campaign that seeks to help put up more farmers into Kenya’s fast-growing agriculture segment. The current average annual fish consumption levels in the country have remained at a low 3.7 kilogrammes per person. This is quite a small amount as compared to other countries in the region that have averages as high as 15 kilogrammes per person. During the recent Agricultural expo last month, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Fisheries Development, Micheni Ntiba, was quoted as saying that the ministry is thinking to raise the per capita fish consumption to at least 10 kilogrammes. This is in the back drop of the recent study by the International Food Policy Research Institute, which revealed that at least 35 per cent of children in Kenya face severe malnutrition, a situation that could be reversed by the consumption of protein-rich fish.
The ministry through its vast trade networks is banking on the newly established markets that are now opening up in African countries like the newly created countries such as South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Zambia to promote aquaculture. This strategy of looking for newer markets other than the already dwindling local one is aimed at reversing the situation of farmers lacking a market to sell their fish products. What this means is that the aqua-culture industry will have to be revitalized to improve its productivity.
Till the late 90’s, fish farming in Kenya seemed to follow a pattern that was characterized by small ponds, subsistence-level management, and very low levels of actual production and output. But unlike the old strategy for revitalising agriculture and improve productivity, commercialise agriculture and make farm products competitive, the new strategy focuses on co-ordinating and bringing together resources of 10 agriculture-related ministries to promote growth of aqua-agriculture.
This strategy would focus on fully commercializing fish farming in the country, in order to make the locally produced high quality fish products compete in the region and thus increase their market share.