Kenya is endowed with an extensive network of aquatic ecosystems, which support the commercial production of fish required to fill the growing gap in national fish supply and demand.
The fisheries potential of Kenya’s waters is estimated to be between 150,000 to 300,000 metric tonnes annually. However, production from capture fisheries has declined over the past decade to about 120,000 metric tonnes.
Over 10 million Kenyans suffer chronic food insecurity and poor nutrition annually. To boost per capita fish consumption to 10 kg/year by 2030, Kenya will need 670,000 tonnes of fish to feed over 50 million people.
With the current capture fisheries plateauing at about 120,000 metric tonnes annually, aquaculture production would need to reach 550,000 tonnes to bridge the gap between fish demand and its supply.
Aquaculture is prioritised to contribute to the Food and Nutrition Security pillar of Kenya’s Big Four Agenda through direct fish consumption and income stabilisation among vulnerable groups through their involvement in fish farming.
Kenya, with an annual production of over 20,000 metric tonnes annually, is ranked the fourth-largest producer of farmed fish in Africa. Tilapia and catfish are the two most important farmed fish species in the country.
Aquaculture is one of the 13 value chains supported by the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project (KSCAP), funded by the World Bank and the Government of Kenya. The project activities are being implemented within five key components.
KCSAP Component 2, which focuses on Strengthening Climate Smart Agriculture Research and Seed Systems, brings together research institutions, universities and private sector enterprises to implement collaborative adaptive, applied and fish seed systems research for improved food and nutrition security in the target counties of Busia, Kakamega, Lamu, Marsabit, Nyandarua, Isiolo and Siaya.
For the aquaculture value chain, the project aims to upscale appropriate climate-smart aquaculture technologies, innovations and management practices (TIMPs) developed by the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS), mainly the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) and national universities. KMFRI will also conduct research on fish seed, multiply and avail fingerlings.
In this regard, successful adoption of TIMPs existing within KALRO, KMFRI, agricultural universities and other NARS institutions is expected to increase agricultural productivity, enhance resilience to climate change, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Dr Kevin Obiero, KMFRI Centre Director and aquaculture value chain thematic leader, over 30 TIMPs are being tested, validated and up-scaled for adoption by fish farmers. However, some of these TIMPs require further testing before up-scaling in the target counties. The TIMPs will first undergo validation trials through applied research.
The project activities focus on increasing access to and availability of breeding stock, high quality and affordable feeds and fingerlings delivery systems, as well as training farmers in better management practices to build their skills and knowledge.
Through the project, a team of scientists from KMFRI, Maseno University and the University of Eldoret developed an aquaculture training of trainers (ToT) manual and trained over 180 participants from Busia, Kakamega, Lamu, Siaya, Nyandarua, Isiolo and Marsabit counties.
Innovative fish culture practices
Maseno University is overseeing the implementation of biofloc technology, fingerpond technology, cage culture and integrated aquaculture. Pond-based biofloc technology has been established in Bukani Aquapark in Busia County to improve pond productivity. The technology works on the principle of converting environmental biowastes to promote the high production of microorganisms and other natural live food resources as additional food for the cultured fish. The project partners are also promoting environmentally safe cage culture in Busia and Siaya counties to increase productivity.
Insect-based fish feeds
Fish farmers are constrained by the availability of adequate amounts and quality of fish feeds. More often, available feeds are expensive, mainly due to the high cost of fish meal used in the manufacture of the feeds. In this regard, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), in collaboration with KMFRI and ICIPE, is spearheading the development of insect-based protein-rich feeds for improved growth of fish and high profitability from the fish farming enterprise.
The black soldier fly larvae are rich in proteins, energy (lipids), minerals and vitamins. Because the larvae can be reared on any organic waste, farmers can produce them from common wastes easily found in organic manure and kitchen refuse.
Value-addition and postharvest technologies
KMFRI has developed and disseminated five new products to improve the fish value chain in the country. The products include fish samosas, fish sausages, fish balls, fish fillets and fish fingers.
Apart from these, KMFRI is also promoting upscaling of three fish handling and preservation technologies, i.e., smoking kiln, improved fish display box and solar driers, to reduce postharvest losses in fish market outlets.
Egerton University is promoting social behaviour change communication to ensure value added fish products are consumed at the household level by farmers engaged in aquaculture. Through the project, Dr Maureen Cheserek, a Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics Lecturer at Egerton University, trained county-level staff from the Health Department (county and sub-county nutritionists) and fisheries officers.
“The trained staff will act as the trainers of trainees (TOTs) to cascade nutrition training to community health volunteers (CHVs), lead farmers, traders and processors. The project has also developed an online platform for knowledge sharing and implementation of activities, plus SBCC materials that will be used by the CHVs to pass the nutrition messages to fish farmers to increase consumption of fish and other locally available nutritious foods.
Strengthening fish seed systems
Recent developments within the aquaculture sector in Kenya have necessitated increased production of quality broodstock and fish seed in the hatcheries.
The Kenya Government is currently championing the development of fish seed standards to improve the quality.
KMFRI, in collaboration with Kenya Fisheries Service (KeFS) and other stakeholders from the public and private sectors, within the framework of KCSAP, also developed fish seed operational manual, harmonised hatchery authentication survey tools and an inventory of existing breeding infrastructure, facilities, and technical capacity of hatcheries for an effective early generation fish seed production, distribution, and maintenance system. These documents were developed in line with the Manual of Standard Operating Procedures (MSOP).
Furthermore, a multiagency team drawn from the Service, KMFRI, and universities, embarked on a national hatchery authentication to update hatchery lists and determine the status of the fish breeding and multiplication centres.
So far, over 60 hatcheries have been visited and the ultimate goal of the exercise is to guarantee quality seed production, which in turn increases growth in the aquaculture sub-sector.