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Home / Smart Harvest

Project seeks to restore life in Lake Baringo

Rasbo Mbakanyi at one of the Omega Farm Fish ponds at Olkokwe Island in Lake Baringo. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The vast Lake Baringo is quite an intriguing sight especially when fishermen cast their nets for the day’s catch.

The lake has been a source of livelihood for the nearby communities who depend on fishing. Their special delicacy is Nile Tilapia sub-species (Oreochromis niloticus baringoensis) or simply Baringo Tilapia.

But over the years, there has been a sharp drop in the fish numbers, prompting the locals to device various means to survive. An initiative is also being undertaken to restock the lake and meet the demand for fish.

Educational centre

The project initiated by Omega Farms — located in one of the seven islands within the expansive lake — seeks to restock indigenous tilapia fish in the lake.

According to Mr Perry Hennessy, one of the directors Omega Farms — which acts as a research and breeding centre — initially had 50 ponds but in 2013 they got submerged. Now it has two mega ponds where researchers breed Baringo tilapia fingerlings and afterwards sell to farmers at subsidised prices. They sell at Sh7 per fingerling.

“Lake Baringo is one of the few fresh water lakes in the Rift Valley and the locals depend on fishing as a source of income. However their is a big problem. The Baringo Tilapia, which is endemic to the lake, has been over-fished and the population dwindling that is why we started the project.

We are on a mission to restock the lake with the Baringo Tilapia by empowering the locals on how to breed the fish. We sell to them the fingerlings and train them on how to rear them,” Mr Hennessy says.

The good news is that the project started in 2010 has started to bear fruit.  

Mr Hennessy says they have started to see a major difference.

“The difference between the fish in the lake and pond is that the ones in the ponds are bigger because they are often fed,” he says.

The centre's capacity to produce more fish has also increased and that means more fingerlings for farmers.

The project started with breeding tanks of 1 million-litre capacities that generated over 100,000 fingerlings every week which were sold to farmers and others released in to the lake as part of the restocking programme.

The current tanks generate between 6,000 and 7,000 fingerlings every six days. The fingerlings take between four to six months to reproduce. In eight months, they are ready for the market. Within a year, a fish can weigh up to 1.2 kilos.

Invasive species

More farmers are adopting the farming of fish in the area so as to ease the fishing pressure on the lake.

“Since the start of the project, a number of farmers have since bought the fingerings and started fish farming on their farms, easing pressure on the lake. We are also training students from various institutions on fish farming,” Mr Hennessy says.

Going forward, for the success of the project, Hennessy says there is need for caution.

“We have seen what the introduction of the Common Carp fish has done in Lake Naivasha and would not like it to happen here. Introduction of that species will water down all our efforts,” he says.

Mr Hennessy observes that the introduction of Common Carp fish is a threat to the indigenous species.

The common carp, also known as European carp, is a species that thrives in fresh water across the world but is often considered destructive.

It ranks among world’s 100 worst invasive species. Common Carp often feed on other fish species.

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