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Drought and overfishing bring innovation among Kenya fishermen

by Robert Manyara NAKURU (Xinhua) -- Kenyan fishermen alarmed by declining catch in the fresh water bodies have invented novel methods of rearing different types of fish that are considered a delicacy in many communities.

Okoth Odhiambo, a veteran fisherman in Lake Victoria that is located in Western Kenya, and dozens of his peers has adopted floating cages that can accommodate 2,000 young Tilapia fish.

The cages, similar to miniature boats, float in the deeper sections of Lake Victoria and have provided a respite to fishermen grappling with a dwindling catch in Africa’s largest fresh water lake.

"There is too much overfishing at the lake that we fear there will be nothing to capture in the future," Odhiambo told Xinhua during a recent interview.

"It is no longer possible to solely depend on the lake for fish because of the ongoing overfishing.

"We even have some fishermen who have decided to have fishponds to supplement what they capture from the lake," he added.

UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes that catches of Nile perch, a most sought-after and exported fish species, has declined due to overfishing after the 2000 peak at 110,000 tonnes but since 2007 stabilized around an average of 45,000 tonnes per year.

John Kabiru, chairperson of Aquaculture Association of Kenya-Nakuru County Chapter, said it was crucial for fishermen and farmers to adopt modern ways of raising fish to wean off overreliance on inland waters.

"These days there are improved, tech-savvy methods of raising fish," said Kabiru.

"We now have modern fish ponds which are suitable for people who want to raise fish on a micro scale. They also very appropriate for adoption among urban farmers who are limited with space," he added.

Kabiru noted that land is no longer a major determinant in raising fish as the modern technologies have made it easier for people to put up the fish species in different customized ponds including tanks.

He said while fisheries and aquaculture sector is significant to Kenya’s socio-economic development, and awareness on fish raising technologies is critical to ensure communities maintain their source of income against the collapse of traditional fishing avenues.

Kabiru said climatic changes are a major threat to the fishing communities and thus the need to encourage adoption of alternative means of raising fish.

In February, the remaining waters at Lake Kenyatta, in the coastal Lamu County where about 50,000 people including fishermen and farmers depended on to sustain their economic activities, dried up following a prolonged drought.

While water scarcity is increasingly a challenge in Kenya’s fisheries and aquaculture, private sector has been chipping in to provide a better solution.

Farm Africa, an international organization promoting developments in remote parts of Africa, is currently popularizing use of solar-powered pond pump.

According to Solomon Otieno, the organization’s marketing officer, the device that utilizes solar power to pump water into a fish pond, is suitable to farmers in arid and semi-arid areas.

"Solar pump enables farmers in dry areas to fill their ponds with water from wells and be able to irrigate their farms with water from the pond," he said.

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