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Kilifi experts urge investment in aquaculture to boost food security

by Joy Nabukeya KILIFI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s huge aquaculture potential that has not been fully exploited has the capacity to leapfrog the country to greater heights of economic progress, experts have said.

The experts noted that dwindling fish stocks in large water bodies like seas, oceans and lakes, which is linked to climate change and over-exploitation, demands a paradigm shift.

During an interview with Xinhua in the coastal town of Kilifi recently, the experts urged policymakers to emulate Asian countries that have invested heavily in aquaculture that promise better economic and social outcomes to farmers.

Brendan Muli, a consultant at Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said the Kenyan coast in particular can become a leading producer of farmed fish subject to establishment of adequate structures.

The mariculture expert cited China as one of the leading producers and exporters of farmed fish, an indication that with proper planning, Kenya could join the league of countries with success stories on aquaculture.

According to IBIS World’s Fish Farming market research report which provides the latest industry statistics and trends, China has the largest aquaculture industry in the world, accounting for about two-thirds of total cultivated aquatic products across the globe.

The report says that 2017 output for the fish farming industry is expected to reach 20.2 million tons, or 40.9 percent of total cultivated aquatic products and 30.1 percent of total aquatic products in China.

"Over the five years to 2017, industry revenue is expected to grow at an annualized rate of 4.8 percent, with an anticipated 2.5 percent growth in 2017 to 41.2 billion U.S. dollars," concludes the report.

The Chairman of Mtongani Conservation and Eco-tourism group in Kilifi County, Elvis Ndundi, said the biggest challenge was in getting enough seed alongside separating fish species from predators.

"Fingerling collection is a strenuous undertaking because this is what will determine the type of harvest a farmer will have after three months," said Ndundi.

His organization has four big ponds and has also managed to go deep into the ocean to put a big cage to trap red snapper type of fish.

The Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) and FAO contend that lack of quality seeds and feed are the main drawback in fish farming, thus denying thousands of people an opportunity to create wealth through this enterprise.

To address these bottlenecks in aquaculture, plans are in place to set up hatcheries in Kwale and establish efficient procurement system for seeds and feeds to ensure the enterprise is sustainable.

Kenya’s marine research agency has already unveiled plans to put a multi-million hatchery on a 25 acre piece of land in Shimoni, Kwale County.

James Mwaluma, the Assistant Director in charge of Mariculture at KMFRI said that steady supply of seeds and feeds underpins sustainable aquaculture.

"Inadequate supply of seeds and feeds has been the biggest challenge in the expansion of marine fish farming," said Mwaluma.

"It was for this reason that KMFRI availed the land in Shimoni for this purpose and gone ahead to request for funds for a hatchery that is estimated to cost 10 million dollars," he added

The Executive Director, Community Action for Nature Conservation (CANCO), Hadley Becha said that friendly policies and robust financing are key to fuel growth of aquaculture in Kenya.

"The funds should not be for research alone, but should also assist in determining the mariculture production and supply sustainability; product quality and market, value addition; business model training and capacity building; conflict and environmental pollution mitigation measures; and more importantly, commercialization," said Becha.

Muli agreed that aquaculture at the Kenyan coast will open new revenue streams to farmers while addressing the crises of malnutrition that affects vulnerable groups like children and pregnant mothers.

He urged the government to prioritize financing towards aquaculture and educate farmers on its importance.

"The Kenyan Government should allocate more resources to aquaculture in order to incentivize farmers to venture into it," said Muli.

He noted there is cause for optimism following plans by FAO to set up two facilities in the north coast for crab farming and another one for other species like milk fish.

Muli said that immense research has gone into fish farming hence the realization that collecting fingerlings from the wild was not economically viable.

He told Xinhua the FAO - funded hatcheries will address bottlenecks in accessing feeds alongside efficient sorting out of fingerlings to weed out predators.

"Marine fish have different feeding habits from their fresh water counterparts.

"All along farmers have been using fresh water fish feed that has been found to be inadequate in terms of nutritional value," Muli remarked.



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