Despite its introduction in Kenya in 1980s with most farms being located on flat land adjacent to sea water sources, such as tidal rivers or creeks, there is slow uptake of prawn farming in other areas prompting the government to promote it among farmers for food security and income.
In this, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) has staged its scientists to conduct research in prawn farming with plans underway to develop a marine hatchery at the National Mariculture Research and Training Centre in Shimoni, Kwale County that will provide farmers with prawn juveniles.
“Completion of the hatchery will be a major boost to mariculture research and see KMFRI being quoted on mariculture and aquaculture, among other research activities captured in the institute’s mandate further helping all the stakeholders access the vital information about the venture,” said Hon. John Mumba, KMFRI’s Board Chairman.
During his tenure as the first Provincial Director of Fisheries in the Coast region, Mumba initiated the development of the first Marine Prawn Farming Project in Africa at Ngomeni near Malindi through World Bank funding.
One of the farmer groups set to benefit from the KMFRI initiative is Mtepeni Community group which has been receiving support from Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO) since it begun rearing pawns in sometime in 2015.
The group which started with 15 members residing within a 5km radius Mtepeni mangrove forest constructed a pond with a holding capacity of 40,000 prawn juveniles.
The group, however, only managed to stock the pond with 35,000 wild prawn juveniles that were fetch from the mangrove breeding grounds in the Indian Ocean.
After some challenges which saw them only harvest 321 mature prawns and the rest left to grow up, FAO again gave them another support in 2017 to keep them on course. They would then harvest after four months maturity period.
“Our markets include traders, households and hotels, which are informed before the harvest day to buy the prawns on site if they can,” said Fulgence Wanje Kalenga, the group coordinator.
A kilo of prawns goes for between Sh300 and Sh1,200 depending on the species which include white prawns, tiger prawns, and cocktail prawns among others.
Consumers like prawns among other seafood as they contain high-quality protein and are low in calories with several vitamins and minerals.
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Kalenga express his confidence in KMFRI’s effort to promote the rearing of prawns as it will enable the group to get more technical and informational support from the institute.
“This will be as a double support for us besides all that we have had from FAO which has stood with us since we started four years ago. We are hopeful that the project will not only help us improve production but also income among the members and other farmers in the region and beyond.”