Fish farming is a major economic activity in the western Kenya region thanks to the presence of Lake Victoria.
The lake is a source of sustenance for tens of thousands of Kenyan fishermen, most of whom venture out into the deep waters each night to obtain the fish.
Over time however, the fishing business in Lake Victoria has lost much of its viability, attributed to depleted fish stocks and the availability of cheap imported seafood.
In response, various business minds have sought other means of ensuring constant supply of quality fish.
One such mind is Albert Altena, who set up an aquaculture business in Uyawi, Siaya County, with the aim of achieving a constant supply of adequate and quality fish.
Altena’s African Blue Fish Farm was set up in 2014 and started harvesting fish in 2016.
The farm has set up fish cages in the lake, from where they introduce fingerlings, feed and nurture them until they are ready for harvesting.
Not only does the farm ensure reliable supply of fish to the neighbouring regions, but it also offers a much-needed source of income for locals.
“At the moment we employ 16 people here directly on the cages. We also have some casual workers who come to help us. That’s another five or six. We have another six at the depot in Otonglo, so total permanent workers are around 20,” said Altena.
“At the moment we produce nearly 200 tonnes per year of nice fresh tilapia. We harvest three times a week. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The fish go from the cages directly to the shore and there we sort, pack them on ice and then it goes into the truck and we have a sales depot in Kisumu,” he added.
Since 2016, the farm has had n impact on the locals, who say it has bettered their standards of living.
“If I need fish on Monday, I get the amount and sizes I want. If I need fish on Friday, I get all in the sizes I want. If I need fish again on Monday, I get the amount I need and the sizes I want. This I cannot find from the other fishermen,” said Jacinta Awuor, a fish monger in Uyawi Beach.
“I have worked with African Blue for five years and they have helped me. Business is easier. I live close by. So, I come pick fish and leave. There’s no begging here and there are no sideshows. Their pricing is also fair,” said Alice Orembe.
Besides economic benefits, aquaculture projects such as African Blue help reduce overfishing, thereby curbing depletion of natural stocks. This in turn ensures a balance in the ecosystem, as birds and other wildlife that depend on fish will be less threatened.
The farm hopes to be able to increase if fish production to 1000 tonnes ultimately, enabling it supply even more regions in the East African country.
“The market in Kenya is very huge. We cannot meet the demand. We need even more cage farmers in other places. This is why you see the Chinese imports. They try to fill the gap. So, we want to expand in the next 2-3 years to 500 tonnes per year, and in another two years, let’s say within the next 10 years I want to be on 1000 tonnes. That is my personal target,” said Altena.