Characterization of fish farming systems in Kiambu and Machakos counties, Kenya

Kenya’s fisheries sector has the potential to contribute significantly to the national economy through employment creation, earning foreign exchange, poverty reduction and food security provision. The purpose of this study was to characterize the fish farming and marketing practices in Kiambu and Machakos Counties in Kenya. To achieve this a cross-sectional survey design targeting fish farmers was conducted in Kiambu and Machakos Counties in Kenya. The areas were selected because the two Counties border Nairobi Metropolitan area which is an important fish market and they have no long history of fish farming. A semi-structured questionnaire was used to collect data from 250 respondents selected randomly from the sampling frame provided at the District Fisheries Office and the area under study in each County was selected purposively from the sampling frame. Data were collected on socio-economic characteristics of fish farmers, pond management practices and fish feeding practices. The role of the ESP in funding input supply and service delivery, fish harvesting, marketing and consumption was also evaluated. The data were analyzed for descriptive statistics using SPSS program. The results showed that majority of fish farmers in Kiambu and Machakos County respectively, had attained atleast primary level of education. Majority of the farmers (over 70%) were men who controlled most of the income generating activities. The employment status of fish farmers in Kiambu and Machakos Counties showed that majority of the respondents (79.3% and 54% in Kiambu and Machakos County respectively) were selfemployed in agriculture, while the others were engaged in non-agricultural activities in Kiambu and Machakos Counties. Fish farming was practiced by a relatively large proportion of farmers below 50 years of age in Kiambu Machakos Counties. The average land size was 2.5±3.47 and 4.27±4.78 acres in Kiambu and Machakos Counties respectively. The means were not statistically different between the two Counties(p=0.05). Additionally, the study showed that farmers practiced mixed farming fish farming into crop farming where water from the ponds was used for watering ponds were located near vegetable plots. The study also showed that in Kiambu and Machakos Counties majorityof ESP and self-funded farmers respectively kept fish mainly for commercial purposes. Of the 250 respondents interviewed, 85.3% and 75% in Kiambu and Machakos Counties respectively were recruited through the ESP. The main source of information on fish farming was government extension agents as reported by 93.8% and 92% of ESP farmers in Kiambu and Machakos Counties respectively . Stocking of Nile tilapia in mixed sex tilapia in monoculture was the most dorminant culture method and fish were mainly stocked in earth ponds. There were no differences in the species of fish farmed and the culture method between ESP and self-funded farmers. Majority of the fish farmers under the ESP programme (84.4 and 68 percent) in Kiambu and Machakos County, respectively were provided with fingerlings by the government. Farmers in Kiambu and Machakos Counties used complete or formulated commercial feeds for feeding the fish. Formulated fish feeds were mainly supplied by the government. Farmers purchased inorganic fertilizers and supplementary feeds like maize bran and fish meal from the local agrochemical stockists. The average amount feed fed to 1000 fish per day from the age of 3 months was found to be 2.18±2.51kg in Machakos County and 1.44±1.29 kg in Kiambu County. Majority of the fish farmers (67.2%) in Kiambu and (70.7%) in Machakos County refilled their pond when water fell below a certain point. A relatively larger farmers ( 42.1%) fertilized their ponds at least once per production cycle and used manure from their arms. These results were significantly different between the two categories of farmers(P=0.05). Majority of the ESP farmers (64.8% and 78.7%) in Kiambu and Machakos Counties respectively relied on government extension to provide information on pond management. About 90% and 65% of the ponds observed in Kiambu and Machakos Counties respectively had green water, an indication of algae growth. Further, 8% of ponds in Kiambu and 15% in Machakos County had brown water. The results also indicate high Permanganate Values (PV) in the ponds especially in Machakos County. Machakos County had higher levels of toxic ammonia especially ponds along Athi river. Other ponds in both Machakos and Kiambu County had low levels of ammonia, which may also be harmful to fish if they are exposed for long periods of time. Results indicate high Permanganate Values (PV) in the ponds especially in Machakos County which implies high amounts of organic matter load which can influence the amount of dissolved oxygen. It was observed that most farmers in the two Counties used poor fishing gears such as mosquito nets and wire mesh to harvest fish. The average pieces of fish harvested in Kiambu and Machakos Counties were 231.15 (34.67Kgs) and 418.36 (62.75Kgs) per the main harvest respectively. In Kiambu County 80 percent of the fish were sold to local consumers as compared to 22 percent in Machakos County. The average farm gate price for tilapia in Kiambu County was KShs 180.8 while in Machakos it was KShs 131.4. This was statistically different between the two Counties (p=0.05). The study also showed that there were few cases of fish diseases in this region. The study recommends provision of capacity development approaches through training and credit initiatives to fish farmers in order to improve on pond management and feeding, conduct extensive baseline survey and feasibility studies before introduction of fish farming in different parts of the country and train farmers on the importance of determining the pond water quality at certain intervals and before stocking the pond to ensure that the water parameters like ammonia are within the required range.