Leakey Farm in the arid Kampi Samaki of Marigat in Rift Valley province is home to thousands of fish that are not grown in ordinary fish ponds but in tanks which rely heavily on the water from the nearby Lake Bogoria. The region is so dry that there are hardly any economic activities and getting water to establish a fish pond is a herculean affair.
The one acre farm has 80 plastic tanks with a 200 litres capacity each that are used to rear the fish at each stage of growth. There are also eight stone tanks used for breeding. This form of rearing fish has proven economical as the fish farmers don’t have to pump water daily into the tank because tanks are interconnected with pipes.
Water is pumped from the lake or river and through out it circulates in the different tanks without being wasted. To ensure that water is circulating at all the times, there is a standby generator in times of power outages.
"When there is a power outage, an alarm goes off which alerts us to put on the generator to allow continuous circulation of water," said Luka Kipterit the manager of the farm. Each of the eight tanks has a capacity for holding 100 big fish, with the small ones being removed from the breeding tank when they reach three-month-old and transferred to the plastic tanks.
To avoid the big fish eating the small ones, stones are put around the walls inside the tank where the young ones can hide. With the 80 tanks each holding up to 1,000 fish, the one-acre farm has a capacity of about 100,000 fish that are sold at various stages to fish farmers who want to breed and to hotels. The fingerlings are fed using boiled and crushed cabbage, leaves and boiled rice.
The breeding tanks are built under trees that provide food for the big fish and are covered with wire mesh to prevent eagles from eating the fish and prevent unnecessary dirt from contaminating the water. "The breeding tanks are built strategically under a species of acacia trees and the falling leaves are fish food," added Kipterit.
The fish are also separated depending on their sex thus a customer can opt to buy male or female only depending on their preference.
"With the lake in the proximity, this type of fish farming has become popular with majority of us because with the scorching sun water evaporates fast in a pond and it has to be in constant supply,” said Endarasha Timon, another farmer who has recently invested in rearing fish in tanks.
The mature fish have a ready market in Nairobi. However residents in the area also buy fingerlings with the aim of trying the tank fish rearing. One fingerling is sold at Sh10. Already about 100 families in the area left with no other alternative due to the erratic climatic conditions in the area have embraced fish farming. The extension of the local market to cater for fish stalls is testament to how quickly this kind of farming has gained ground in the area.