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Transforming the Kenyan aqua cultural sector - PUM’s cooperation with Farm Africa

Food Security

When the UK NGO Farm Africa was looking for fishery experts to support one of their programmes in Kenya several of their contacts recommended PUM Netherlands senior experts: “They have an expert for every need,” says Farm Africa’s Arnoud Meijberg.

Arnoud not only praises the wealth of knowledge PUM has at its disposal through its experts but also its flexibility. Just by talking to the sector coordinator fishery, Arie de Bondt, he frequently gets new ideas and finds new solutions for the programme he is coordinating. The programme’s official name is KMAP, Kenya Market-led Aquaculture Programme. Funded with the help of the Dutch Embassy in Nairobi, which donated 4 million euros to this 4 year-programme, the goals are clear: boost fish production in ponds to help protect Lake Victoria’s strained resources, while offering the growing population a sustainable source of fish (or in other words: healthy food) and providing fish farmers with reliable incomes. Yet while the goals are very clear achieving them is everything but simple. The 4 year-programme is complex, not only because of its sheer magnitude – when KMAP started roughly 50 fish farmers had joined, meanwhile almost 1100 are receiving support –, but also because of its value chain approach. There are many moving parts to be considered, including aspects which are not directly connected to fish farming, like bookkeeping, transport, questions of policy-making and coordination with Kenyan counties and other authorities and many more …

Increased productivity and better quality fish feed

Still the programme which started in 2016 (officially lasting until 2019) has already seen some promising successes: f.i. the productivity of tilapia farms has increased by more then 40%. And while 4 other organisations are cooperating (namely BoP Innovation Centre, Larive International BV, World Fish Center and Centre for Development Innovation), it is without doubt that PUM - having delivered 23 advisory missions by 5 different experts since the programme’s start - has a sizeable share in these successes. It all started with a first fact finding mission in early 2016 when Arie de Bondt and Jan Geerlings visited Farm Africa and the fish farms and based their proposal and a planning on what they had found on-site. PUM mainly contributed to the areas of training Farm Africa’s so-called Aquaculture Agents, directly coaching a number of hatcheries and fish farms and improving fish feed production.

Especially when it comes to fish feed there were many wins to be made. Jan Geerlings is PUM’s specialist for all animal feed related projects. When he started there was almost no fish feed production at all in Kenya. Fish feed was imported from Europe or Israel, it was high quality but also very expensive. Homemade feed was flour based, which led to huge problems: it sank too quickly, the fish could not reach it. So it lay on the bottom of the ponds and started to cause a lot of contamination, a high degree of ammonia in the water and all complications connected with it. “Fish feed needs to float” Jan explains. Meanwhile there are 2 companies in Kenya working on high quality fish feed production, one of which is directly supported by Jan and his know-how.

'Women and young farmers are the most inclined to adopt innovative approaches'

Training and adopting the mindset of innovation

Jan was also was asked to write a handbook of fish farming which could be used to train Farm Africa’s Aquaculture Agents. Those young people in turn go out to train fish farmers and also as much as possible their employees. The importance and relevance of training has been proven over and over again since KMAP started: “All those fish farmers have always worked according to their specific procedure, following the motto: My father has done it like this, too … As a consequence everyone made the same mistakes, also because they copied each other’s approach when in need of advice.” Jan says. The advantage of the programmatic approach in the KMAP partnership between Farm Africa and PUM clearly is the opportunity to go back multiple times and follow-up with farmers to make sure they apply the new methods they have learned. Women and young farmers are the most inclined to adopt innovative approaches, which is why Farm Africa has been taking active steps to getting more women and young people on board to work in the sector and take the lead in growing it. Next to Jan, the PUM KMAP expert team members Ad Bouman, Andries Kamstra and Wim van Eijk all with their own specialism are boosting the project to a success.

One area of focus in this context was to reveal to farmers the necessity of record keeping. PUM and Farm Africa have set up rules and guidelines around record keeping and try to help fish farmers to implement these into their daily routine. “You always need to know how many fish you have in your ponds, how big they are etc. How many fish will you have to feed and how many will you harvest?”, says Jan. And while it took some effort in the beginning to explain those principles nowadays when he goes to a KMPA advisory mission farmers produce the logbooks before he even gets a chance to ask for them …

'We want people to understand this is a business. When they understand that they will be investing'

Arnoud summarizes: “We want people to understand this is a business. When they understand that they will be investing.” The Kenya Market-led Aquaculture Programme will have been the success it set out to be when fish farmers have taken on this new mindset.  The result will be aquaculture feeding local communities, respecting the environment, promoting sustainable management of resources and providing not only the fish farmers but the whole local aqua cultural sector with its livelihood. Then the impact will be lasting.

 

Text: Sylvia Szely

Photography: Jan Geerlings