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Fish pond production forced a 47 year old man to drop his teaching profession

By Mercy Kahenda | Published Sat, July 14th 2018 at 00:00, Updated July 13th 2018 at 23:30 GMT +3
Fish farming in ponds are now a major source of income for thousands of Kenyans contributing 2% of the national fish production. [Courtesy]

Farming was Nathan Irungu’s childhood dream, his efforts to implement the idea was however frustrated by lack of a parcel of land being an urban dweller.

Today, the former primary school teacher at Mercy Njeri estates, outskirts of Nakuru town is among the highest producer of fish through raised fish pond technology.

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Irungu, 47, has a total of 14 raised fish pond, farming practiced in a greenhouse to regulate humidity and temperatures that ranges between 23 to 28 degrees Celsius.

“This is not just an ordinary greenhouse, this is my fish farm. Green house helps to regulate temperatures in the pond, therefore enhancing growth,” Irungu informs Smart Harvest.

The farmer ventured into raised fish pond production in 2013. He leant about the technology at Methodist Bio-Intensive Agricultural Training center in Meru where he had attended a wedding ceremony.

“I learnt about the farming after traveling for a wedding ceremony, and as I waited for arrival of the bride, I took a walk and found myself into the institution. I was interested with raised fish pond, a practice I saw for the first time,” recalls Irungu.

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After the ceremony, he attended a training at the institution where he was equipped with best farming practices.

To begin within, he constructed a raised fish pond measuring 3 by 8 meters and placed it in a greenhouse and stocked 1,000 flies he had purchased at a certified hatchery in Kisii.

After six month of stocking, the farmer harvested his catfish, sold to locally available market, money he used to expand his venture currently practiced on two greenhouses bearing 14 raised fish ponds where he rears catfish.

Catfish according to him because they grow faster in higher temperatures and area also hardy (does not require water aeration). The variety also grows fast in higher temperatures.

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In 2015, Irungu decided to resign from his teaching profession to fully concentrate with fish production.

“Fish production was lucrative, for example there was good returns. I decided to give it my best,” says the farmer.

Advantage of raised fish pond according to Irungu is use of les space and it is easy to manage.

The ponds he adds are also movable, that can enable farmer move with them from one locality to another, unlike fish ponds that are landscape based.

“Raised fish ponds can be placed on any surface and require no excavation and associated removal of excess soil,” he says.

Among material required in construction of raised fish ponds include timber, nails, materials that can locally be sourced.

Timber used to construct the pond should be thick for instance 4.5 centimeter that slot with tongue and groove system for stability to prevent leakage of water.

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“Thicker timber is used for raised beds to support high water volume and pressure. It is also raised as security measure,” says the farmer.

Pond liners are also required to provide water tight seal. At local market, a liner is sold at Sh200 per square meter, prices that are affordable.

“Standard liners that stand against variable weather patterns and water condition that may be witnessed in production,” he informs Smart Harvest.

Before constructing the ponds, a farmer is required to select locality of farming because the material can be heavy making it difficult to move it. “Assembly of the pond should be done in locality for farming and filled with water,” he explains.

A farmer is also required to ensure there is no protruding obstacles beneath the pond to avoid causing damages.

“A pond width of four feet is a good rule when it comes to raised ponds as this is the maximum reaching distance advisable for safe cleaning and preventing over reaching and potential falls,” adds Irungu.

After construction of the pond, a farmer fills the pond with fresh water and stock it with fingerlings. Standard stocking is five fish per square meter.

The structure is later placed on a raised surface for example cemented block or stone for easier monitoring and for safety of the fish.

“Raised fish pond is a modern kind of fish rearing encouraged to individuals who do not own parcel of land. The farming is also movable,” says Irungu.

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Among management practices applied by the farmer include draining of the pond after every two months for proper aeration.

Failure to drain the water results into increased level of water Ph that affects its acidity.

The farmer explains to Smart Harvest that with growing food insecurity in the country, urban dwellers are encouraged to adopt the venture that require little space.

He notes that the farming is cheap as compared to fish pond that require landscape and soil. The raised fish pond uses a standalone timber structure that holds water.

Acidity he notes is not good with the framing because it kills fish. The water should be fresh from impurities that might also cause diseases.

Growth of algae in production of fish in raised pond is also discouraged because it brings competition of oxygen required buy fish.

“Decomposition of algae in raised fish pond is discouraged because of breeding. Both the plant and fish require oxygen for growth and if allowed, might cause total loss to the farmer,” Irungu informs Smart Harvest.

Pond pump is used to empty the waters to prevent it from becoming toxic because of waste produced by excreting of the fish.

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Farmers who do not have pumps are required to be keen in handling fish to prevent them from being drained out of the pond and dying.

Farmers who do not have continuous supply of clean fresh water are encouraged to practice rain water harvesting for the project.

“Source of water is major requirement in production of the fish. For me, I have water reservoir of 300,000 liters capacity for the project,” he notes.

Feeding is also observed for example catfish are fed once a day on proteins for quick growth, meals alternated with vitamins.

The farmer prefers to makes his own meals using maize, omena, crimps and soya instead of purchasing products whose ingredients is not known.

“Proteins is highly encouraged and feeding is encouraged in the morning or late evening,” he explains.

Irung’us future plan is to automate water system to be filtered for the filtration purposes to remove residue increase his number of ponds to satisfy high market demand.

Currently, he sells the fish to small business traders at Ponda Mali market, within Nakuru town and on order.

In addition, the farmer is planning to venture into breeding to supply quality fingerlings and flies to farmers. At now, he contracts experts who help him with breeding.

Side bar

An assistant fisheries officer Eric Bett on his part said monosex type of fish is encouraged in raised fish pond farming to avoid reproduction because of limited space compared to normal fish pond farming.

“We discourage multiplication of fish in pond as a result of breeding because if they do, they will compete for oxygen that will affect production,” advises the officer.

Bett explains to Smart Harvest that with growing food insecurity in the country, urban dwellers are encouraged to adopt the venture that require little space.

He notes that the farming is cheap as compared to fish pond that require landscape and soil. The raised fish pond uses a standalone timber structure that holds water.

“With proper management practices, a farmer is able to harvest table size fish at between six and eight months from the day of stocking,” says the expert.

 


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