Farmers in Kyangwithya area of Kitui County are adopting a trend where they rear fish under chicken sheds, as arable land dwindles in the area, a move that has seen the farmers increase fish yields by upto 40 percent thanks to the chicken manure that promotes the growth of fish' main food.
Known as integrated livestock-fish farming, the technique involves transferring the wastes from raising chickens directly to fish ponds, with chicken sheds sited directly over the fish ponds themselves. At the right dosage, the nutrients in the manure give an enormous boost to the growth of plankton in the ponds, which are the main food of fish such as carp and tilapia. According to the farmers, poultry wastes are more nutrient dense than other livestock wastes.
Typically they contain less moisture, fibre and compounds such as tannins that discolour water when used as fish pond fertilisers. This farming technique has been a sojourn of trial and error. When the government introduced fish farming in over 140 constituencies in Kenya under the ambitious economic stimulus programme 0f 2009, farmers in Kitui jumped at the offer in what promised to revolutionize farming in the arid area. But the haste uptake of the project would come with its fair shares of setbacks. “We started struggling with fish feeds, their unavailability and then their prices went up. We started feeding the fish with cheap local plants but that also affected yields and after three months when harvesting came, it was a dissapointing story and farmers left the project,”said Jasper Kiema who is among the farmers who opted to stay.
training by an agricultural officer on how to integrate livestock and fish farming opened the doors, with the farmers now firmly stuck in the trade. Already the farmers under the Kyenze Farmers group enjoy market both local and international for their fish, with Tilapia, African catfish and Carp being the most common in the area. “After three months of harvesting I have managed to get over 10kilos of fish which I attributed to this new method of rearing fish under chicken sheds because before that I could get 5-6kilos. Again I have cut down on spending buying fish feeds and supplements,”says Selinah Ndila a single mother who relies on fish farming for her livelihood.
Chicken waste has a higher level of nutrients than waste produced by other animals which is why it is encouraged according to Lima Nduati an extension officer who has actively spearheaded the integrated agriculture model in the area. “One thing to note however is that chickens do not like humidity. It is therefore very important to the livestock fish intergrated farming that the chicken house be built at least half a metre above the fish pond, so that it’s not too humid for the chickens,”he said. Researchers have also thrown their support to the livestock fish intergrated farming observing that poultry manure is a complete fertilizer, with the characteristics of both organic as well as inorganic fertilizers. According to AjayKumar Banerjee, a Professor in Animal Breeding at Doon College of Veterinary Science in India and an active advocate of integrated agriculture, chicken manure produces a large population of rotifers,organisms that fingerlings feed on, quicker than cattle manure.
Farmers working with Prof Banerjee reported a 670kilos per hectare fish yield upon maturity of the fish in three months using poultry manure and no supplemental feeds. This being an impressive 60 percent jump from the traditional methods of rearing fish. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has also heavily supported the farming technique as as a primary means of providing protein for mushrooming populations in the developing countries Known as integrated livestock-fish farming, the technique involves transferring the wastes from raising chickens directly to fish ponds, with chicken sheds sited directly over the fish ponds themselves. At the right dosage, the nutrients in the manure give an enormous boost to the growth of plankton in the ponds, which are the main food of fish such as carp and tilapia. Though slowly picking up in the country, the practice is taking place on an enormous scale across Africa and other nations.
According to a 2010 FAO report, it is now the main basis for aquaculture in China and neighbouring countries. "Livestock wastes purposely used in ponds, or draining into them, support the production of most cultured fish in Asia," the report said.
Written by Aloyse Muinde for African Laughter