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Fish farmers in limbo as Wamagana Fish Factory remains closed

By Lydiah Nyawira | April 12th 2019
Members of Chinga Dam Self Help Group ponder their next move, following the closure of Wamagana Fish Factory, in Tetu,Nyeri [Kibata Kihu/Standard]

Fish farmers in Central region are staring at losses as a processing plant in the county remains closed.

The Wamagana Fish Processing and Bulking Factory in Tetu Constituency, has remained closed following the malfunctioning of the power and water systems.

The factory, which was constructed under the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP), was later handed to the Nyeri county government.

As a result, fish farmers are left holding large volumes of fish in their ponds with no way to process or access markets.

This is even after the county embarked on a plan to restock fish ponds by procuring fish fingerlings, but failed to repair faulty electrical and water systems at the factory since 2016.

Among the farmers is Ezekiel Wachira, who is the chairperson of the Chinga Dam Self-Help Group.

Last year, the group benefited from a pioneer cage fish farming project at the dam.

They were ecstatic when the county partnered with the small group of 15 members and assisted them by procuring the 10,000 fingerlings and the 10 cages needed to carry out the venture.

Nyeri has 30 community dams and cage farming is one way of making the dams beneficial to community.

“So far, we have 10 cages which were stocked with 1,000 monosex tilapia fingerlings. However, based on the normal mortality rates, we are hoping to harvest at least 8,000 fish,” Mr Wachira explained.

Monosex tilapia fingerlings take a minimum of six months to mature and having been issued last April, the fishermen were hoping to reel in their catch by January.

Wachira explained the group is in limbo as the county is yet to give them a way forward.

But County Department of Agriculture and Fisheries refuted the claims, stating the fish are not mature for harvesting.

Acting Agriculture Executive Robert Thuo said the Fisheries department had carried out a site visit in February and noted the fish weighed 250 grammes which was below the recommended weight of 350 grammes.

"We might have no option but to sell the fish directly to anyone willing to buy but we do not know how to connect with larger markets considering unprocessed fish will not fetch high prices,” Wachira noted.

Chinga Dam has its own tilapia and catfish which the group had been fishing and selling, for years, on the side of the road.

In 2017-18 financial year, the county procured and issued fingerlings worth Sh1 million, rehabilitated fish ponds at a cost of Sh 14 million, a move praised by county chairman of the fish farmers’ cooperative society Charles Mbauni.

Undertaking repairs

Acting Agriculture Executive Robert Thuo admitted that while the department was undertaking repairs for the facility, he blamed the cooperative for failing to operationalise it.

“The factory can still run because it is only processing low volumes of fish. Also, the cooperative has not met all the stipulated obligations of an agreement they signed with the county,” he said.

But based on documents seen by The Standard, the county is yet to release the funds to farmers since they were deposited in June 23, 2016.

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