Fish Farming In Kenya – Business Plan18 min read

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Fish Farming In Kenya

Fish Farming in Kenya

Fish farming is a profitable business idea in Kenya. Aquaculture plays an important role in the provision of food, livelihood, and source of income in 3rd world countries including Kenya. The country is home to distinct geographic and climatic regions and resources like large rivers, the Indian Ocean coastline, swamps, and Lake Victoria, the largest freshwater lake on the continent.  Therefore, a commercial fish farming business is profitable in Kenya.

Kenya takes different forms of aquaculture ranging from the ‘kitchen ponds’, to fairly large earth ponds of about 1000 m2. Dams and other impoundments of stored water are stocked with fish and then harvested periodically. Aquaculture system practices include intensive, semi-intensive, and extensive systems. Tin Kenya, the semi-intensive systems form the bulk of aquaculture production, contributing more than 70% of the total production from aquaculture. Intensive systems are few in Kenya, while hyper-intensive systems are being set up and are projected to contribute as much as 90% of all farmed fish in Kenya by both volume and value.

Currently, fish farming in Kenya has a source of income for several Kenyan households and turned out to be a key economic activity. In Kenya, some farmers practice this productive economic activity for its profits, and others are doing it for family consumption.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Fish Farming in Kenya, Fish Farming Business Plan

Guide to Fish Farming in Kenya
Guide to Fish Farming in Kenya (Image credit: pixabay)

In Kenya, aquaculture sector growth is occasioned by the adoption of scientifically proven practices and rising demands for fish aquatic protein. Some of the measures that the Government is planning to support fish farming business in both public and private sector initiatives are;

  • Providing basic infrastructure for aquaculture development for example roads, electricity to fish farming areas, water, schools, hospitals, and telecommunication and radio network systems.
  • It creating a legal framework and policies for aquaculture development.
  • Encouraging research and development for the aquaculture system.
  • Developing monitoring and evaluation systems.
  • Providing land for aquaculture development.
  • Implementing policies for commercialization activities in the fisheries sub-sector.
  • By involving the communities and stakeholders in the process of policy formulation and implementation.
  • Encouraging the private sector to drive the aquaculture sector growth.
  • By creating private-public partnerships in service provision through dialogue and joint programs.

Selecting Land Area for Fish Farming in Kenya

Selecting a suitable area for fish farming is very important. Earthen ponds are very suitable and it is mostly used culture units in Kenya for commercial fish production. Consider the below tips while selecting lands for fish farming in Kenya;

  • Try to choose which is relatively level. Normally, a slope of about 1% is ideal. Steeply sloped lands are not suitable for building ponds for rearing fish.
  • Select the area by keeping in mind your plans.
  • Avoid flooding and polluted areas. Find out who owns adjacent and uphill land, how they use the land, and what chemicals like including fertilizers and pesticides they use.
  • The selected land should be slightly lower than the water source, so the fish ponds can be filled by gravity. The larger the surface area is the better in most cases.
  • If the selected land for fish raising becomes slightly lower than the water source. Then, this will help you to fill the pond by gravity rather than by pumping.
  • Ensure availability of a great water source such as streams, lakes, rivers, and springs, etc., near the land. The quality and quantity of water play a vital role in better fish production.
  • Determining the quality of soil also very important for fish farming. Soil with good quality ensures maximum production. So, the soil of the selected land area should have to good enough for fish culture. Rocky, sandy, or gravelly soil is not suitable for constructing a fish pond. Generally, soil with at least 20% of clay is suitable for holding water and constructing a fish pond. Though, after constructing the pond apply necessary fertilizers for making the soil suitable enough for fish farming in Kenya.
  • Suitable transportation systems are important for fish marketing and buying necessary materials from the market.
  • A market near the farming land is important for fish production. Transporting the fish so far for marketing will reduce the price and quality of fish and also increase the cost. Therefore, select land from where you can easily market your products.

Selecting Perfect Species for Fish Farming in Kenya

For selecting proper fish species, it is also important to select a good site and well-constructed pond and other good facilities. Tilapia fish has huge demands among all the fish species available in Kenya.

Almost all people in Kenya prefer tilapia fish. Some other fish species you can start culturing that have great demands in the Kenya market are African catfish, common carp, trout, and carp fish types, goldfish, and koi fish, etc. You should follow some tips while selecting the perfect fish species for fish farming in Kenya.

  • Select fish species that have great demands in the local market.
  • Choose the species that grow faster and more profitable for commercial production.
  • The species can easily maintain and also grows well in local weather and climate.
  • Consider the availability of necessary foods for the fish species.
  • Carefully select fish species that grow well and take less time to reach marketing weight.

In Kenya, Tilapine fish species form approximately 90% of farmed fish. Some exotic fish species, including the common carp, rainbow trout, and largemouth bass, have been introduced in Kenya for aquaculture purposes. The common carp was introduced during the colonial period but is not favored by the market.

Benefits of Commercial Fish Farming In Kenya

Benefits of Commercial Fish Farming In Kenya
Benefits of Commercial Fish Farming In Kenya (image source: pixabay)

There are many benefits or advantages of fish farming in Kenya. Here are some important benefits of fish farming in Kenya are listed below;

  • The climate and geographical conditions of Kenya are ideal for the economic activity of raising fishes. Kenya has an array of fish species hence you can select the most profitable ones.
  • Generally, Kenya has a high demand for fish products, so fish will fetch good market prices. You can opt to use some of the fish for consumption and you can earn and at the same time meet your daily nutritional demands.
  • The practice can be a good source of income for many people considering the current high rate of unemployment experienced in Kenya. The practice is the right method of exploiting the numerous water resources in the country for economic purposes.
  • The weather and also geographical location of Kenya are suitable for setting up commercial fish farming in Kenya.
  • There are several fish species are available for highly profitable fish farming in Kenya.
  • High demand and price of fish in the market in Kenya.
  • Normally, fish is a great source of food and nutrition.
  • In Kenya, commercial fish Kenya can be a great source of employment for those unemployed people.
  • The unemployed educated people can also start a fish farming business in Kenya. This will make working opportunities and earning livings.
  • Also, commercial fish farming helps for the proper utilizing of water resources of Kenya.
  • By using modern fish farming methods, maximum production is possible. Then, this will make the economy strong and ensure the availability of required nutritious food.

Methods of Fish Farming in Kenya

Well, the fish farming business is a venture that traces roots hundreds of years ago. Today, the Fish farming business is not just a part-time activity but rather can be a full-time venture done on a large scale basis requiring full-time participation from the farmer.

Here is a list of the leading fishing farming methods in Kenya;

1. Freshwater pond fishing – This type of fishing technique is characterized by domesticating a particular fish breed in either a natural or artificial pond.

2. Integrated fish farming – This type of fish farming happens when fish farming is done at the same time with crops and even animals in the same water body.

Crops and animals integrated into fish farming. Two major crops used for integrated fish farming in Kenya are;

  • Rice
  • Vegetables

Then, the most integrated animals during fish farming are;

  • Ducks
  • Pigs

For example, animals and plants benefit from each other, wastes from ducks and pigs are used by the fish as food. While the fish, ducks, and pigs feed on crops planted in the used water.

3. Brackish water finfish culture – It is also known as coastal aquaculture, brackish water finfish fishing culture is rapidly growing and plays a critical role in providing Kenyans with seafood. The target customers for brackish water finfish culture are hotels and outlets that mostly serve tourists among other foreigners. It has not been embraced widely in Kenya. Then, this is because end products are lobsters, crabs, and shrimps are not widely eaten in the country. This process of fish farming requires good water vessels that can go deep into the sea. Therefore, this is the main reason why this method is unpopular in Kenya.

4. Mariculture fish farming – In simple terms, the mariculture fish farming technique is practicing aquaculture in deep marine environments. It controls the burden of overfishing as they lead to preserving traditional fish.

Water Quality for Fish Farming in Kenya

Water quality is the most important limiting factor in fish rearing and directly affects feed efficiency, growth rate, the fish’s health, and survival. Aquatic life is highly dependent on physical, chemical, and biological factors of water, and playing a substantial role in the biology and physiology of fish.

In case if you miss this: Fish Farming Profit Per Acre In India.

Water Quality for Fish Farming in Kenya
Water Quality for Fish Farming (pic credit: pixabay)

Dissolved oxygen (DO) is one of the important parameters in aquaculture. Maintaining good levels of Dissolved Oxygen in the water is essential for successful fish production. Water quality is an important factor when culturing any aquatic organism. Water quality parameters that are monitored in the aquaculture industry include temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH level, alkalinity, hardness, ammonia, and nitrites.

The common sources of water used for fish farming are surface waters  (streams,  springs,  lakes) and groundwater (wells,  aquifers).  Of these, wells and springs are preferred for their consistently high water quality. The quantity and quality of water must be adequate to support production through seasonal fluctuations.

Improved Fish Rearing Technologies in Kenya

Some opportunities exist for increased fish production through improved production systems, increased investment in processing, value addition, efficient distribution systems, and expanded market access to regional and international markets. The below activities are proposed;

  • Production of dissemination materials
  • Conduct benchmark or baseline survey
  • Enhance access to fish farming inputs
  • Upscale strategies for proper use of feed ingredients and  containing pollution and complying with food safety requirements
  • Enhance market and marketing opportunities/linkages for fish and fish products

Fish Farming In Kenya through Fish Ponds

Today, fish farming through fish pond construction is one of the most profitable modern fish farming techniques in Kenya. After selecting a suitable land for fish farming in Kenya, and then it’s time to construct a pond. You have to select a pond design based on the fish species you want to produce.

Each type of fish species needs special types of pond design to grow. After choosing the desired fish species, make a pond that enables your fish to grow happily. A well-designed pond based on the fish species ensures good health and maximum production. Contact your local fishery department to get some suggestions and ideas about fish pond designs that are suitable for each type of fish species.

Farm ponds can provide some advantages that can help smallholders. Then, they provide for water storage, can be used to rear fish and aquatic organisms to be integrated with other farm enterprises, and improve and vary farm family diets.

Practices or Systems of Fish Culture in Kenya

The three major systems practiced in Kenya are the intensive, semi-intensive, and extensive systems. Extensive farming systems utilize the lowest management levels in aquaculture. Though, fish are stocked in floating cages, earthen ponds, and other water impoundments and left to fend for themselves. Therefore, stocking densities depend on the natural carrying capacity of the environment.

In extensive culture, the fish depend on the organic matter suspended in the water flowing through the cages. Then, stocking densities in the cages depend on the natural productivity of the water.

Semi-intensive farming systems, mostly producing Nile tilapia, have been the major contributor to aquaculture in Kenya, with an average production of about 3 tonnes/ha, contributing more than 70% of the total aquaculture production. Earthen ponds and cages are used as holding units for fish farming culture. The fish ponds are fertilized using both chemical and organic fertilizers in varying proportions to enhance natural productivity.

An intensive aquaculture system is largely used for rainbow trout raceway culture. The contribution of this fish is higher by monetary value than by weight. Other intensive practices involve the use of several types of tanks, and sometimes floating cages, as holding units.

Hyper-intensive tilapia culture has already begun through cage culture and about to be started in ponds as well. This system will soon contribute as much as 90% of all farmed fish in Kenya by both volume and value.

Fish Feed Production in Kenya

Fish feed is formulated by mixing many raw materials to make a balanced diet. Generally, the utilized feed ingredients for fish production are wheat or rice bran, cottonseed cake, cassava, freshwater shrimp, etc. Fish production has rapidly increased in recent years in Kenya.

The Necessity of Making Fish Feed by Farmers

Fish feed is important in fish farming. The high-quality fish feed can improve the fish living environment and ensure healthy fish stock growth.

Fish feeds constitute 40 to 50% of the total production costs in aquaculture. The cost of fish feeds is one of the main limiting factors to aquaculture development. Commercial feeds are too expensive for local farmers. To minimize feed costs for fish farming, the use of locally available fish feed ingredients is becoming common in Kenya fish farmers.

Priority of Floating Fish Feed

In Kenya, little quantity of fish feeds is produced locally. Generally, there are two types of fish feed for fish farming. They are extruded feed and pelleted feed.

Kenya fish farmers are facing one of the biggest challenges that are no efficient and affordable farms are available to make feeds designed for semi-intensive culture systems. In Kenya, farmers have to depend upon natural food in the pond system with some supplementary feeds to increase fish yields. Most of these supplements are cheap and readily available. Though this kind of fish feed cannot bring rich nutrition to fish, and extruded fish feed is more effective for fish growth because high temperature and the high-pressure process can kill the bacterial infections and also makes the pellets easier to digest. So fish farmers must utilize locally available feedstuffs by fish feed machine to feed fish to improve their profits.

Categories of Fish Found in Kenya

There are mainly two categories of fish in Kenya. That is the freshwater and saltwater fish.

1. Freshwater fish type

You want to recognize that Freshwater is found in rivers, some lakes, and large ponds away from the sea. Freshwater bodies have their fish types uniquely adapted to survive in these waters. The below are the type of fish found in Kenya’s freshwater lakes.

List of freshwater fishes in Kenya;

  • Nile Perch
  • Tilapia
  • Silver cryptid

Freshwater system dominates fish farming in Kenya and divided into;

2. Coldwater culture and warm water culture

Coldwater culture mainly involving the culture of rainbow trout in highland areas. Warm water fish culture involving the culture of Tilapine fishes, common carp, and a variety of ornamental fishes.

Demand for Fish Production in Kenya

The demand for and production of fish in Kenya is high. Kenya borders Lake Victoria has been a source of fish for the region. Though, Lake Victoria’s fish output is declining sharply due to pollution, overfishing, and lack of regulation. Traditionally the declining output is replaced by imported fish. Kenya has excellent conditions to produce local fish production, for the local market when they have the right inputs and knowledge available.

Tips To Start a Fish Farming in Kenya

Here is a step-by-step process to follow when delving into this lucrative economic activity.

For fish farming in Kenya, the land should have a reliable water source since the quality and quantity of the water you use impact production.

Construction and design of the fish pond – Ensure that the pond design you choose supports the fish species you intend to produce. The pond must favor the growth of your fish. An ideal fish pond design ensures maximum production and good health of your fish.

Selecting the appropriate fish species – Your choice of a particular fish species is mainly dependent on the farm location, climate, and market. For example, tilapia is known to have a massive demand across the country. You can select fish species that are easy to maintain with your location.

You should provide good quality food to ensure faster fish growth and maximum production. For commercial fish farming, you can go for manufactured supplementary feeds. It is also advisable that you change the water and then examine the water and soul quality regularly. Also, be keen on how you protect your fish from predators and use the proper medicines to keep your fish healthy.

Marketing tips – Fish has a ready and suitable market in Kenya since most Kenyans love the delicacy. Also, fish has a high demand in the international market. Also, you should send your fish straight to the market as soon as possible due to their perishability.

Fish Farming Business Planning in Kenya

Business planning is very important to both new and established aquaculture enterprises. It also enhances the chances for success by helping you identify and go over avoidable mistakes. The business plan will be helpful when looking for financing because many financial institutions require a workable business plan before providing the financing. For your fish farming business to succeed, you need a business plan.

A business plan is an analysis of the production, market, and financial aspects of the proposed aquaculture enterprise. It consists of;

  • A thought out description of production technologies
  • A well-researched and thought out marketing strategy
  • Be very instrumental when soliciting financing
  • Explain to potential financiers that the aquaculture system is a viable investment worth funding
  • Help the investor to keep on track during the fish farming business
  • To help minimize risks associated with the market, production, and financing

Opportunities for Aquaculture Investment in Kenya

1) Integrated aquaculture – Aquaculture can easily be integrated with conventional crop and livestock farming. The management methods and inputs employed are similar to those that crop and livestock farmers are familiar with. Integration has a lot of benefits for farmers to the production of fish for consumption or sale. It increases efficiency in the use of available production resources for the recirculation of nutrients among different production units.

2) Cage culture – Cage culture can be done in rivers, water reservoirs, lakes, the Indian Ocean, and in the many water reservoirs and pans in the country. The advantage is that more benefits can be generated from such water bodies than currently is, and the technology and the capital input do not have to be overwhelming.

3) Bait culture – There exists a very big market for baitfish for the Nile perch capture industry in Lake Victoria. The method for the culture of the baitfish exists locally among aquaculture experts and many farmers and a large market exists in the Lake region.

4) Ornamental fish culture – Only there are a handful of ornamental fish producers in Kenya. There are great opportunities in ornamental fish culture and there exists a ready market for the products locally, within the East African region, and also outside the region.

5) Declining capture fisheries and the increasing demand for fish products offer great opportunities to producers towards meeting the increasing local and export demand for fisheries products.

6) Integration with livestock farming in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) regions where fish can be stocked in water reservoirs meant for livestock watering.

7) Culture-based fisheries – There exist many water reservoirs in Kenya. These include domestic water reservoirs, livestock watering reservoirs in the ASAL areas, and hydroelectric dams. It mainly involves stocking such reservoirs with appropriate fish species. This can have an overall effect of increasing the fisheries resource base and so food security and incomes to fishers.


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