How resilience is paying fish farmer after collapse of group

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A resilient farmer, who pulled away from his peers, is enjoying a rich fish market following withdrawal of 19 members from a Nyamira County self-help group.

Sixty five-year-old Charles Masaki supplies tilapia and cat fish to his fellow Sironga villagers and nearby Nyamira town residents, earning him enough money to meet his needs.

The 38-member Kenyambi Self-help Group collapsed because of challenges the mmbers were facing in fish rearing, hardly two years after its start.

Although the group worked together in accessing county and national government financial support, everyone was responsible for their pond.

Borrowing from an economic stimulus programme training they received, he insisted on having only male fingerings right at the begging.

Some of his colleagues thought multiplication in the pond meant more returns.

A few months into the project the other members were complaining of inability to sufficiently feed the stock.

Scrambling for food causes poor growth and slowed maturity. Male fish are preferred because of quick maturity. Sex reversal is possible at the breeding centres.

By the time of the first harvest, Masaki managed a few fish of good size and weight, earning him Sh25,000 from four ponds.

But the subsequent harvests have been “good and profitable”, he says. After about two weeks, Masaki harvests between 40 and 50 mature fish weighing about 250 grammes.

In the village, he sells the fish at Sh200 with a variation depending on the size. The situation is different at Nyamira town, where the same fish fetch Sh250 or Sh300. He does not miss a gross income of Sh9,000 in a fortnight.

It takes less than one hour to clear about 200 pieces in the town, which is also the headquarters for the county.

Masaki rides on the fast growing health conscious population, which is avoiding red meat, with fish becoming their preferred alternative.

Sironga region is swampy. Reeds and other weeds are prominent. Most of the ponds were chocked by the weeds, which also became hiding niches for fish predators. He maintained high standards of hygiene, closely monitoring the farm.

The group had bought fish meal milling machine with the help of the county and national governments. As the group disintegrated, feeds the machine was grounded and the few who remained reverted to buying commercial feeds from suppliers.

A 20 kg fish meal costs between Sh1,500 and Sh1,700. He substituted this with grass and other locally available feeds. Application of fertilisers encouraged growth of planktons. The substitution may have kept him afloat as his colleagues sunk.

With the 17 others, who have been struggling for the past two years, they have agreed to revive their Nyamira Feeds Millers.

They have secured an approval from Kenya Bureau of Standards allowing them to manufacture, package and sell fish and chicken meals.

Besides enabling them get cheap feeds for themselves, they will earn an extra coin from sales to other non-members.

Predators and thieves remain his biggest challenge.

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