Kisumu farmer Ouda finds gold in rearing fish
A dusty murram road off the Kisumu-Nairobi Highway leads to Joseph Ouda’s fish farm.
Ouda is among a few farmers in the lakeside county who have discovered the golden goose in rearing fish as a commercial agribusiness.
He rears tilapia and catfish for local market consumption.
The proprietor developed a passion for fish farming eight years ago in an area where people are predominantly used to fish from Lake Victoria.
“I started in 2012 with cat fish before I later introduced tilapia,” he recalls.
Ouda decided to capitalise on the phenomenon of decline in fish produced from the lake with the objective of generating direct income.
“Fish from the lake is getting depleted fast, which propelled me to craft the idea to supplement the diminishing productivity,” says Ouda.
He first constructed two ponds measuring 30 metres by 10 metres at a cost of about Sh50,000, which he then stocked with 2,000 cat fish and later 1,000 tilapia fingerlings.
After word went round that he was producing mature fish customers began visiting his farm to place orders for the products.
Despite a few challenges at inception, the business finally reached breakeven point.
“The technical advice I received from agricultural experts enabled me to master the best practice for profitable fish farming,” he said at an interview in his farm.
The first yield netted him Sh600,000 in 2013 and became a source of his inspiration. He re-invested the proceeds to scale-up the fish farm, which saw him add more ponds with target of fetching increased income.
Today, his fish farm located at Alendu area in Nyando sub-county on the outskirts of Kisumu town hosts eight ponds. However, only three are actively used for production.
Earnings from the fish farm range between Sh400,000 and Sh600,000 every production cycle (a seven to eight month period when the fish become mature for consumption).
Currently, the farm has about 2,000 tilapia fish and 1,600 catfish set to mature for harvesting by December.
Dennis Asuna, the farm manager, says harvesting is done when the fish are at between two to 2.5kg and mainly sold at the farm’s gate. A table size fish costs Sh150 to Sh300 at the farm.
On average, Ouda’s farm sells 2,000 grow-out stock every single harvest. “We find ready market because there is an overwhelming demand for fresh fish locally. We mainly sell at the farm,” he says
For healthy, first growth and guarantee of better yields, the fish stock are put on a proper feeding mode.
They are fed twice a day, preferably in the morning and evening with locally acquired commercial feeds.
The growing stock is given time to increase protein and fat content and to reach market size.
Fresh water is regularly pumped from a standby borehole to the ponds. The borehole ensures sustainable quality water provision.
“The amount and pressure of water flowing into the ponds need proper regulation so that the fish get enough aeration and oxygen supply needed to support their growth,” advices the farm manager.
The farm has offered a reprieve to locals who no longer rely on fish sourced from Lake Victoria.
Ouda regrets that the lake is getting depleted of fish stock due to overfishing and unregulated use of illegal fishing gears.
“Sourcing fish from the lake has become a costly affair for the residents who spend more money and time going for the commodity,” says Ouda, a retired army officer
The entrepreneur says his objective is to improve food security and nutrition in the community.
“My farm has provided convenient source of fish both for local residents and fish traders, who gather to buy the commodity at my gate,” he adds.
And fish farming is a lucrative venture for skilful farmers. “There is minimal input here: What you need is to keep a constant in-flow of fresh water into the ponds and to ensure the fish are regularly fed on approved feeds,” he says.
He advises new farmers to pay attention to certain factors, especially at the start-up stages, which require utmost care and commitment until a reliable market is establishment.
“Farmers must be willing to spend money on worthy course and to take risk that comes along the way too,” he says.
The high cost of fish feeds and seasonal flooding, which is common in Kano plains are his main challenges.
“The government should put subsidies on animal feeds and inputs to cushion all farmers,” he says.
Going forward, he intends to activate and maintain the other five unused ponds to enhance production in anticipation of more profits and to meet growing demands for fish locally, particularly after Covid-19 pandemic slowed down fish imports from China.
Recently the government announced plans to undertake Sh15 billion-worth project aimed at commercialising fish farming in the country.
The project will involve establishing fish farms around selected government initiated dams.
Fisheries Principal Secretary Prof Micheni Ntiba said the project targeting five counties seeks to promote fish farming as an alternative to fishing in lakes.
He underscored the need to scale-up commercialised fish farming in the country, saying the move was better placed to ease pressure of getting fish from the natural water bodies.
He decried the rising number of illegal fishing gears being used in Lake Vitoria as a dangerous situation for the Kenyan fisheries.
“Unregulated fishing activities in our lakes such as overfishing is to blame for the declining fish stocks especially for tilapia and Nile perch species,” the PS said.
“Over 90 per cent of all fish we are catching from the lake is immature and this poses a bad trend for our fisheries moving forward,” said Ntiba during stakeholders’ forum on the validation of a Lake Victoria Kenya Frame Survey 2018 report in Kisumu.