Floating Fish Cage Ponds in Kenya Is Profitable
In recent years, fishermen in Kenya have faced challenges from dwindling fish stocks in Lake Victoria. However, many have found a new way to earn a living by practising floating cage aquaculture.
Building Floating Cage Ponds
With the help of the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (Kemfri), fishermen have built floating cage ponds that they have placed in Lake Victoria. The ponds, which measure 2.5 metres square, are used to breed 1,600 fish, which take between five and six months before harvesting. Each fish sells for Sh120, which earns a total of Sh130,000 per cage.
The Origin of the Idea
Two years ago, a Ugandan farmer who had his own fish cages at the Swan Farm in Jinja shared the idea with former fishermen at the Dunga Beach. He was sharing the Ugandan experience of the water hyacinth and said that he was in a group of farmers who had started floating cage aquaculture as a way of adapting to the changing lake environment.
Forming a Group
On learning about the practice, the fishermen at the beach formed a group that later invited the Ugandan farmer to help them build the cages. He held a series of meetings to teach them how to breed the fish in the cages and some safety precautions.
How the Cages are Made
The cages are made from metals that are placed together and held afloat using empty jerrycans. The ‘walls’ of the submerged fish ponds are made from nets that are tied to the metal bars. After the cages have been assembled, they are anchored to the beach so that they cannot be swept away by the waves in the lake.
Breeding the Fish
The group specifically breeds the tilapia nilotica and the tilapia exlentus (which is white in colour). Fingerlings for the two are given to the farmers by Kemfri for free. Initially, the farmers mixed males and females in the same cage but realised that the males were smaller in size when they were harvested, so they decided to only breed females.
Selling the Fish
The farmers sell their fish to several hotels in the lakeside city, depending on their demand. They harvest them when they are just 500 grammes or plate size, as the hotels prefer that size. This form of fish farming is good because the fish is kept in a clean environment, and the fish can also feed from the lake like other fish.
The biggest challenge to the farmers is the existence of the hyacinth in the lake, which sometimes sweeps and destroys the cages. Some fingerlings also die during transportation to Dunga. However, the farmers have employed someone to watch over them at night to prevent theft.
Benefits of Floating Cage Aquaculture
This form of fish farming is not like aquaculture done on land, where the water is not fresh because of the feed and lack of an outlet for the water. The fish in this setting can also feed from the lake like other fish. The fish are fed with food pellets recommended by Kemfri, which also use them for their research on diseases, growth and behaviour.
The fishermen, together with other fishermen, formed the Dunga Fisher Co-operative Society where they invest in shares, lend, and borrow for a 10% interest. Every year, each member earns a dividend, depending on the shares they have invested in the society.
The farmers also receive tourists who pay Sh500 per boat for educational trips to the cages, which are just about 100 metres from the beach.
The success of the floating cage aquaculture in Dunga Beach has attracted attention from other fishing communities in Lake Victoria, who are also interested in starting similar projects. The fishermen at Dunga Beach have been approached by groups from various places including Migingo Island, a tiny rocky outcrop in the middle of the lake that is claimed by both Kenya and Uganda.
The floating cage aquaculture is a sustainable and innovative way for the fishermen to adapt to the changing conditions in the lake and generate income. It also helps to reduce pressure on wild fish stocks, which have been declining in recent years due to overfishing and environmental changes.
With the support of institutions like Kemfri, more fishermen in Lake Victoria can learn about this form of aquaculture and adopt it as a means of livelihood. The success of Dunga Beach shows that with innovation and collaboration, it is possible to find solutions to the challenges facing the fishing industry and improve the lives of fishing communities.