Meru county government plans to channel at least Sh1.69 billion to promote fish farming.
Among the key target areas include establishment of a hatchery for warm fish fingerlings estimated to produce at least one million fingerlings annually, construction of demonstration fish ponds and mini fish feed processing machines.
According to Governor Peter Munya, the county government has already constructed two big trout farms in Imenti South and Tigania East to boost fish farming in the county.
To overcome the production bottlenecks such as use of illegal fishing methods and fluctuating prices of agricultural commodities, the fisheries department seeks to establish at least 2,900 fish ponds across the county and mill feeds for its farmers.
Munya says this will ensure there is enough supply of fish to the already completed fish processing plant at Kanyakine area of South Imenti, which requires five tonnes of fish everyday and provide ready market to more than 10,000 farmers across the county.
Gideon Kimathi, the Abogeta East Ward MCA and Meru county assembly deputy speaker, in whose ward the fish plant is located, says its construction was started and funded by national government during the last term of President Mwai Kibaki's tenure. The defunct Meru county council provided the land.
“The plant was handed over to the county government of Meru and currently the government is putting in place measures to supply the facility with fish. We target to collect fish from Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Embu and Laikipia counties,” said Kimathi.
The facility will be managed by the Meru Investment and Development Corporation, which is a parastatal within the county government.
The corporation has already advertised seeking people with the ability to manage the facility.
Kimathi said once it starts running, it will help create jobs directly and indirectly to residents of these counties through harvesting, transportation, sorting and processing.
“Farmers need to avoid stereotyping fish farming. Some people said fish is for Nyanza people whereas this is a good opportunity. We are encouraging them to venture into this economic activity because it doesn't need security or big land and it's not labour-intensive,” he added.
Kimathi says the county government department of agriculture has been petitioned to introduce mono-sex fingerlings to boost the activity.
“This was a mega project by the national government under the economic stimulus package; they can still do some affirmative action to ensure that the fish are taken care of by further facilitation. The county government has increased the fish ponds to ensure we double the fish production in the region,” he said.
To ensure that farmers pool together and produce in bulk to have a bigger impact, the county government has embarked on sensitization for farmers to join the county sacco movement.
“This will attract many other investors who will want to purchase from the farmers. The price of feeds for the fish has also been scaring farmers but at the Kanyakine fish plant, we have feeds milling machines so that farmers can acquire them at subsidised rates to lower the production cost,” said the MCA.