Filling our food gaps with fish farming

Filling our food gaps with fish farming

To counter a n ever-growing threat to food security, the Kenyan government has identified fish farming as a workable solution.

By Antony Mutunga

The threat of desert locusts and the COVID-19 pandemic have seen food insecurity grow as crops are destroyed and those dependent on them for a living are forced to hike prices in order to survive. In fact, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), over 25 million people are expected to face food shortages in East Africa in the coming months as a result.

To counter this growing threat to food security, the Kenyan government has identified fish farming as a workable solution. The government, in partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), has come up with an initiative that will see fish farmers benefit from a Sh15 billion fund that will allow them to boost production.
This is in line with the government’s ten-year agriculture sector transformation and growth strategy, which was launched last year. The strategy identifies fisheries as an important sector in boosting food security.

According to Prof. Muchemi Ntiba, Fisheries Principal Secretary, the government is using the funds to provide seed money for the farmers. “The government will provide up to 70 percent of the funds required for a fish farm, while the farmers will cover the remaining 30 percent,” she said.
In addition, the government wants to increase fish consumption per capita in the country. Currently, fish consumption per capita in Kenya stands at 4.5kg as compared to the world where it stands at over 20kg in accordance with data from FAO.

Kenyan government has a target to raise this to 10kg by 2030 as they identify fish as not only a solution to food insecurity but also as a nutritious source of food to help the young generation in their growth and health.
Through the partnership, the government wants to focus on supporting community nutrition initiatives, capacity building for farmers, developing enterprises, and building an enabling environment and support services for aquaculture farming. As a result, this will not only help the farmers alone but it will also help other businesses that the fisheries sector will depend on, such as transport.

This is expected to create job opportunities especially for the youth, after the pandemic saw a large number of people either lose their jobs while others were forced to close down their businesses. With funding now available, more people can farm fish as an alternative livelihood. In fact, according to Prof Ntiba, the project will double fish production, and also provide opportunities for over 35,000 households in the fish value chain.
In 2015, the government in collaboration with the Indian Ocean Commission SmartFish Programme (co-implemented by FAO) and supported by the European Union, initiated the ‘Eat Fish for a Better Life’ campaign in 2015 to promote the consumption of local fish and to inform the public about the importance of fish consumption for our health and growth. And in 2009, the government also identified the sector as a key economic enabler under the economic stimulus Programme, and put in place policies to boost fish production. However, the fund was mismanaged and the project failed.

Because of non investment in fish production, the sub-sector has declined in recent years, as a result of which fish imports from China rose sharply. In 2017, the country imported over 12,000 tonnes of fish from China.
The current initiative is a commendable move by the government. But, to avoid previous challenges, there is a need for transparency, accountability and strict laws to govern the operations of the current initiative. The fisheries sector is indeed a boost to food security, it needs to be nurtured to support the country during times such as these.

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