My 11,000 tilapia and catfish side hustle

Enos Odongo on his fish farm in Kisumu. The farmer has three concrete ponds in the farm in which he keeps some 11,000 catfish and tilapia at different stages of growth. PHOTO | ELIZABETH OJINA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The farm, which comprises three fish ponds, sits on part of his 1.5 acres where he also lives.
  • Odongo started the fish venture in November last year after visiting a friend in Thika who rears fish.
  • He invested some Sh100,000 from his savings in the business.
  • His biggest challenges are the high costs of running the business and a shortage of commercial fish feeds in Kisumu.

Some 2.5km off the Kisumu-Nairobi highway at Namba Okana, the Seeds of Gold team finds Enos Odongo on his fish farm.

The farm, which comprises three fish ponds, sits on part of his 1.5 acres where he also lives. The farmer has three concrete ponds measuring 6m by 6m, 4m by 4m and 6m by 4m, with a depth of 2m each.

“The ponds host some 11,000 catfish and tilapia at different stages of growth,” he says. “I chose catfish because it is hardy and easier to keep, plus I wanted to be different since tilapia is the dominant species in this region.”

Odongo started the fish venture in November last year after visiting a friend in Thika who rears fish.

“He challenged me because I come from an area where fish is a major delicacy yet I had not thought of doing the business. Through him, I realised that aquaculture is a good venture.”

He invested some Sh100,000 from his savings in the business, with the money going to building one concrete fish pond, and buying fingerlings and feeds.

“I am a building contractor and thus constructing the one pond I started with was not a tough task. I also bought 3,000 tilapia fingerlings from a farm in Maseno at Sh10 each and feeds,” he recalls.

But things did not go as planned, as weeks after stocking the fingerlings, kingfisher birds feasted on them.

“We used to see many birds around the pond, but we did not know they were feeding on the tilapia until it was too late,” says Odongo, who after consulting agriculture experts introduced catfish and later added two more ponds, one of which now contains tilapia. He has 4,000 tilapia and 7,000 catfish and has installed nets above the ponds to keep the birds at bay.

“Fishing is a side hustle for me. My two sons in their 20s help me run the farm because most of the time I am away attending to my construction business,” he says.

DEMAND AND MARKET

Odongo spends some Sh20,000 every month to cater for the fish, with most of the money going to buying feeds, which are costly.

“I try to cut the costs by crushing omena and giving the fish,” says the farmer, who is readying to harvest and sell the produce.

He already has a market, in Kisumu and Nairobi, but the containment measures announced to curb the spread of Covid-19 have prompted him to delay harvesting.

Enos Odongo inspects one of the ponds in his Kisumu fish farm. He invested some Sh100,000 from his savings in the business, with the money going to building one concrete fish pond, and buying fingerlings and feeds. PHOTO | ELIZABETH OJINA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“My main buyer is in Nairobi, but accessing the city currently is a challenge. I am hopeful that this will not affect my business for long, though I would still harvest and sell locally but the price may not be that good,” says Odongo, who plans to sell the fish for between Sh250 and Sh400 depending on the size.

His biggest challenges are the high costs of running the business and a shortage of commercial fish feeds in Kisumu.

“There are no manufacturers of fish feeds in Kisumu, and so we have to depend on supplies from Nakuru and Nairobi,” he says.

Safina Musa, a researcher at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute in Kisumu, says it is important for a farmer to know the demand and market before venturing into fish farming.

“Both tilapia and catfish are good, but the market demand will dictate the kind of fish one should keep. In places like the central region, people prefer catfish because of its fleshy nature while people in Nyanza region tilapia.”
She notes that tilapia is more hardy than catfish especially in their early stages.

“Catfish normally has higher mortality when young. You will find cases of the bigger fish feeding on the smaller ones.”

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