Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms including fish, molluscs, crustaceans, aquatic plants, algae, and other organisms.
Fish farming in Kenya
Kenya is a net exporter of fish, mainly Nile perch and its by-products from Lake Victoria to Netherlands, Israel, Portugal, UAE, Australia and China.
Most of fish and fish products consumed locally in Kenya are Omena, Nile Perch, Tilapia and Catfish either from wild capture fisheries, mainly from Lake Victoria or farmed fish (Aquaculture) however, majority of customers in the markets always believe that farmed fish is not as tasty as wild fish, they prefer wild fish to farmed fish.
There is a demand for freshwater fish, which is increasingly recognized as a source of safe, healthy ‘white’ protein that contributes to nearly one-fifth of global animal protein intake. Many fish species are also a critical source of micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids that are important in promoting normal nerve cells development and visual functions in infants and help reduce the risk of heart diseases.
Fish farming is practiced mostly in the Central, Nyanza, Western, parts of Rift Valley and Coastal regions and this has made a significant contribution to rural development as a food and nutrition security, income generation and employment opportunities.
Fish production in Kenya.
Fish production is achieved through Wild catch (from Lakes, Rivers and Ocean) and Farmed fish (in earthen and lined Ponds, fish farming in Dams, Tank fish farming, Cage fish farming & integrated fish farming)
The main types of fish being produced from Kenya’s inland waters are Omena (Rastrineobola argentea), Nile perch (Lates nilotica), Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), Catfish (Clarias gariepinus) and Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio). Tilapia and Nile perch are the top most traded fish in terms of value and are the most popular with customers. The demand for Tilapia and Nile perch is more than the current supply and this provides a good opportunity for investment in aquaculture.
There is a huge potential of farmed fish in Kenya because of the several inland natural water resources including Lakes Victoria, Turkana, Baringo, Naivasha, Chala, Kanyaboli, and Jipe, among others. Major rivers include the Tana, Athi, Nyando, Nzoia, Gucha, Migori, Yala, and Mara. In addition to water bodies from dams, which are spread across the country, Kenya has approximately 600 km of coastal shoreline with an exclusive Economic Zone of 200 nautical miles, which could be harnessed to enhance aquaculture. Kenya’s inland water covers 13,400 square kilometers with two major lakes are Lake Turkana (6,405Km2) and Lake Victoria (4,128Km2) and many seasonal and perennial rivers, most of which empty into the western Indian Ocean.
Kenya also has a highly developed fish processing sector and quality assurance laboratories that is focused on the export of Nile perch products to Europe.
The Kenyan aquaculture sector is broadly categorized into freshwater aquaculture and mariculture (Ocean). The freshwater aquaculture has recorded significant progress over the last decade but the mariculture sector has yet to be fully exploited.
Aquaculture Systems in Kenya
Earthen and Lined Ponds
Fish farming in earthen ponds has been advocated for the development of cheap food resources in developing nations.
Dams fish farming
The construction of dams is encouraged to provide water and also to encourage communal fish farming activities. Dams have also been used to house cages.
Tank fish farming
Tank farming is a good alternative to ponds or cages. Tests have shown that fish can be grown at high densities in the confinement of tanks under quality management.
Cage fish farming
The fish are enclosed in a cage that allows free water exchange which is done in existing water bodies (ponds, rivers, lakes, dams, and oceans).
Integrated fish farming
The approach involves the connection of agricultural systems to fish farming in a design that allows waste from one system to be used as input in another system. Farmers use mainly chicken and cow manure for pond fertilization, and this has recorded impressive performance in some areas.
Challenges facing the fish farming
- Lack of efficient and inexpensive farm-made feeds for different stages of fish development. Fish feed is a key component in any fish-farming venture because fish nutrition accounts for 40-50% of the total variable production costs on the fish farm
- Insufficient availability and quality of fingerlings for stocking.
- Limited knowledge of aquaculture investment.
- Lack of information on the economic performance of various fish farming systems.
The forecast for aquaculture in Kenya is largely positive. In 2025, the Kenyan population is estimated at 56M people. Assuming that the average consumption per capita remains at 4.3 kg per capita, this implies a total estimated consumption of 241,000 tons of fish will be consumed in 2025.