Backyard fish farms increase household incomes

Maurice Okoth, has been a fisherman in Lake Victoria for the last three decades. But dwindling stocks and strict fishing rules by the government has seen his fortunes and earnings dip in the last few years. He however has not sat pretty but instead started a fish raising facility at the back of his house a model he has now taught over 200 former fishermen who now earn on average Sh15,000 every month from fish sales.

The venture which has been hailed as a positive model of how family fish breeding can help ensure food security and save the lake is taking the pressure from the lake which has been chocking under overfishing .
In Okoth’s backyard there is a giant water filtration tank, hatching containers, and 10 fish ponds holding altogether about three tonnes of fish.

I have relied on fishing to feed my family and educate my children. But when I saw how fast my incomes started going down after more fishermen joined the lake and the illegal business of fish trade, I knew it was a matter of time before I was out of job. I had to think first,” Okoth said.

The family venture ensures that Okoth’s family has enough to feed on while the surplus is sold to local hotels, supermarkets and hospitals. But aware of the magic fish hatching has in guaranteeing incomes, he has taught over 200 people in Kisumu about fish hatching and free of charge. “I teach them things like water filtration which is key in this business because it helps improve the quality of the water and increase the amount of oxygen in it, which is crucial of the fingerlings to survive and grow,” he said. 

Okoth has a 5,000 square metre fish raising facility. In it Today, his 5,000-square metre backyard is one sophisticated fish raising facility. The hub of the facility is the concrete filtration tank. Here, ground water is stored and filtered through layers of rock and sand for use to hatch and nurse fingerlings before they are big enough to be released into the ponds. There, the fingerlings, and brood stock, are raised inside floating nylon cages designed to keep them from escaping during flood. The 10 ponds in the farm hold about three tonnes of carp, tilapia, and African catfish. From their sales he is able to make an average income of Sh20,000 a month to support his family of five. Last year, using his savings from the fish sales, he bought two bicycles for his granddaughters to ride to school and a computer to help them in their studies.

It however isn’t an easy ride for Okoth. He struggles with rats which invade the facility at night farm by chewing away at the net that forms the fence around the ponds to keep the fish from escaping during floods. 

“The plan is to have many cats now even as I look at other ways of increasing production,” Okoth said. His venture is particularly supported by his son who hopes to take over from his father when he retires.

Industry players are supporting such initiatives as a way of increasing nutrition for families while earning decent income. Fish farming has been cited by institutions like FAO as an important practice capable of giving smallholder farmers alternatives in the wake of climate change which has taken a toll on farms and yields.