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Blue Economy: Poor fish eating culture undermines Nyeri’s Sh61m factory

SMART HARVEST
By Allan Mungai | Sep 27th 2017 | 2 min read
President Uhuru Kenyatta is shown a specimen of trout fish by Justus Njue when he toured the Kiganjo Trout Farm on the slopes of Mt. Kenya in Nyeri County as part of efforts to promote the blue economy.

NYERI, KENYA: Fish farming in Nyeri is still lagging behind despite the existence of a state of the art fish processing plant which cost the government Sh61 million.

As a result of the low fish production, Wamagana Fish Factory, which is one of the four fish processors built in 2013 to promote fish farming in the country, is running below capacity.

With no major lake or river to support fish farming, the close to 3000 fish farmers in the county mostly engage in small scale fish farming in ponds and dams.

However, their production falls far below the capacity of the factory and interventions from the county government have not yielded immediate results.

Rose Kariuki, a resident of Nyeri, said poor fish eating in Mout Kenya region is also a factor that could be contributing to the underperformance of the factory.

“Fish is not popular in Mt Kenya region because it was not one of the traditional foods. Moreover, locals prefer fish from Kisumu to the ones sourced from local fishpond arguing that they are tastier and take longer before they go bad,’ she adds.

In 2016, the county government stepped up its interventions including stocking fish ponds with high yield monosex tilapia that cost Sh2 million and procuring a refrigerated truck and deep freezers which will serve the farmers.

However, the interventions have not re-energised the sector. There is still considerable difficulty offloading the raw fish. The fisher folk too have made efforts to increase the consumption of fish by taking a loan to procure a fish mincer.

That too has been facing challenges.

According to Nyeri County Fish Farming Co-operative Chairman Charles Mbaoni, despite having bought the machine they have been unable to fully operationalise it due to power issues at Wamagana Factory.

“We have been having power issues at the factory for a while now and until the problem is sorted out we are unable to sausage the fish,” Mbaoni said.

He said the farmers were struggling to acquire fingerlings, fish feed and a shortage of extensions services.

Currently, Kenya trails other nations in East Africa in fish consumption. Mt Kenya region in general has a poor fish eating culture which could be one of the reasons behind the poor performing fish sub sector.

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