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Home / Smart Harvest

Ex soldier breaks new ground with trout fish

Elias Mbui, 65, a retired Kenya Air force colonel from Kibugu village in Embu County had an adventurous life in the forces. But the officer who retired in 2008 has found a more fulfilling and peaceful life in fish farming. Mbui rears trout, a freshwater delicacy on the slopes of Mt Kenya in Embu County. According to Wikipedia, trout are species of freshwater fish belonging to the subfamily Salmoninae of the family Salmonidae. Unlike many retirees he was clear on what he wanted to do.

“I knew that I wanted to farm in my sunset years. I was prepared to venture into farming as I had a few coffee bushes here and there,” Mbui says.

He settled on fish farming after realising that keeping dairy animals was demanding due to the feeds required and disease attacks that forced him to engage vets all the time.

“With fish, once you get it in water, you just need some feeds and relax while you wait for them to grow. It is nutritious and healthy to consume,” he says.

Market for trouts 

He chose trout fish instead of the popular tilapia because he saw they are tasty and attractive.

“With their shiny silver colours these fish are attractive to the eye. When you look at them in the water you enjoy when throwing the feeds and they jump and you feel good. It relaxes your mind.”

Though he is slowly making inroads, he admits that the walk has not been easy.

“I think I am the only trout fish farmer in Embu County and so there are no veterans to learn from. I am learning from my own mistakes and there is nobody to consult along the way. But I feel proud of my journey. I get fingerlings from Nyeri county,” Mbui says.

Getting a reliable market is an issue he is slowly overcoming.

“When you tell people about trout, some wonder whether that is an airplane... The good news is that things are changing slowly and more people are embracing fish in their diets.”

There is an awareness campaign by the county government and other partners under the Sh15 billion  Aquaculture Business Development Programme to educate locals on benefits of eating fish. The other challenge is cost of feeds and he calls on government intervention to step in.

“Trouts are heavy feeders and the feed is expensive. We need the Government to give us subsidies to sustain the business,” he pleads.

Mbui’s farm can rear 15,000 trout fish but he keeps 5,000 due to the challenge of expensive feeds and lack of a good market. Getting freshwater for trout was a challenge too. He recalls one time he lost all his fish from irrigation that contaminated water upstream in the Rupingazi river where he draws his water.

The Embu County fisheries officer Justin Ireri, says trout is a cold-water fish farming and can only do better under the temperatures below 18 degrees in clear water from the mountain that has a continuous flow. He says a farm in Sagana established a hatchery after the trout species was introduced in Kenya from Scotland by the Britons for sporting activities in 1910.

“The fish is carnivorous and requires a high protein diet to do well,” Ireri says.

He says trout fish has omega three among other nutrients. He encourages people who have access to cold environment to embrace the trout fish farming adding that it has a niche market, high demand with a low supply. Embu County government in collaboration with International Fund for Agricultural Development was offering technical assistance to promote fish farming.

“It is a capital investment and requires a raceway (a concrete structure) which is easier to clean,” Ireri says. With the retired officer being the only person doing trout in the county, Ireri says Embu County has a potential of producing a minimum of 50,000 kilos of trout fish annually within the upper zone which borders Mt Kenya forest within three rivers of Rupingazi, Thuci and Nyanjara. The county has close to 1,500 fish farmers who are rearing tilapia and catfish.

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