After many years of strenuously rocking his bodaboda bicycle to earn a living, Wycliff Okumu, a resident of Lutaso village in Bungoma South could afford a radiant smile transpiring a promising future after receiving a shoal of mudfish fingerlings to venture into fish farming.
Okumu had been struggling to earn a living and hoped that one day his dream of venturing into a less strenuous business would come true. As he narrates about the less paying bodaboda business, he remembers how he has been going home so tired amid the hungry children to feed and parents to support.
It was then not until 2009 that the Ministry of Fisheries introduced the less costly fish farming programme to consider other the unemployed and potential small scale farmers.
The Bungoma District Fisheries office quickly took the advantage of the conducive geographical condition to initiate the programme.
The locals were educated on fish farming and encouraged to set up ponds because it was an affordable type of farming compared to other expensive cash crop farming like sugarcane, coffee among others.
The Ministry had to provide farmers with supplementary feeds and fingerlings free of charge. Okumu then had no interest to practice fish farming although he dug ponds for farmers. However, when he realized that the maturity period of fingerlings was as short as 2 to 3 months, he made up his mind.
“I had no interest in fish farming but after sometime, Irealized how beneficial it was to farmers I had been digging ponds for. Their lives were changing rapidly and this challenged me to also start,” he reckoned.
Without hesitation, he began to construct a pondat the riverside on his twoacreage piece of land and after inspection by officers in charge; he registered for provision of fingerlings and feeds at Bungoma District Fisheries office.
It was not long when the ministry of fisheries disbursed a shoal of fingerlings to the region for farmers and him as one of the beneficiaries of a thousand fingerlings to start the farming. “I had been waiting for these fingerlings to start fish farming and I am happy for having been given. I have not paid any single coin and I urge others who have interest in the farming to decide fully,” he said excitedly and gently holding his mudfish fingerlings across his chest in a perforated nylon bag.
Mr.Kiarie Kahareri, the Bungoma District Fisheries Officer said that since the introduction of fish farming in the region, a total of 2650 ponds have been established and over 2200 farmers have benefited. The encouraging response of farmers in fish farming has contributed to high productivity.
Farmers have always been trained on pond management and organized educational workshops giving them chance to interact with other farmers from various regions.
Mr. Kahareri said that fish farming is the cheapest venture sponsored by the government requiring a potential farmer to establish a pond then register at the District Fisheries Office for free fingerlings and supplementary feeds.
“Fish farming is easy to manage compared to any other form of farming and can be operated anywhere not only around swampy areas or riverbanks but also at residential homes by draining water from boreholes and roof catchment,” Mr. Kahareri said.
In five constituencies of Bungoma County, a total of 25 ponds have been established in institutions like Bumula Health Centre, Sang’alo Teachers’ Training Institute, Kimaeti Secondary and Cardinal Otunga Girls’ High School to enhance growth and consumption of fish.
As noted by Mr. Kahareri, fish farming is not just for consumption and earning income but has other significant importance. For example,it reduces pressure exerted on our lakes by fishermen; fish is medicinal for healing cancer, protein digestion deficiency and reducing aging. Fish is also a good indicator for aquatic pollution, a filtration agent on water used for human consumption.
In any business activity, there are challenges one has to encounter. Dry seasons, fish poisoning, pond mismanagement, theft and negative cultural beliefs are challenges experienced in fish farming and can be overcome through awareness on fish farming and pond management.
Mr. Kahareri pointed that there is a ready market for fish both locally like hotels, schools, hospitals and externally through government’s support by providing efficient fish processing plants equipped with modern storage facilities.
He appealed to the locals to take the initiative of practicing fish farming to better their lives at this tougher economic time.
“I urge potential fish farmers to start invest in the farming because it is a profitable and affordable activity for both small scale and large scale farms. Feeding is also not a problem since fish can also be fed on available materials like ants, vegetables, sweet potato vines, animal blood and cow dung casted in ponds to increase growth of natural plants,” Mr. Kahareri said frantically.
If you have no business to venture in or looking one to carry out? Then try fish farming to improve your living standard and brighten the future of your children.
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