Livestock Research for Rural Development 25 (2) 2013 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Characterization of fish production and marketing practices under small-holder fish farming systems of Eastern Kenya

E P Oyieng, H K Charo*, A K Kahi and J M K Ojango**

Department of Animal Sciences, Egerton University,
P.O Box 536, Egerton-20115, Kenya
* Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, Sagana Aquaculture Centre,
P.O Box 58455, Nairobi-00100, Kenya.
** International Livestock Research Institute
P.O. Box 30709-00100 Nairobi Kenya.
j.ojango@cgiar.org

Abstract

Aquaculture, a sub-component within the fisheries sector is a vital economic activity and livelihood component of rural communities living beside rivers and river floodplains in East Africa. It provides a good alternative source of income and proteins for rural communities. This study aimed to characterize fish production and marketing practices in smallholder farming systems under a national Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) in the Eastern province of Kenya, and to determine the traits of economic importance to the farmers. Information was collated from 198 farmers, 13 traders and three key informants within Meru District of Eastern Province.

The predominant species of fish reared was the Nile Tilapia, followed by the African Catfish and in some instances a combination of the two species were reared under polyculture. Good growth rate and survival of fish were noted to be the most important traits of economic importance to the farmers. Fish produced was mainly sold to the local community and within local markets. Traders, however, indicated that the demand for fish was much higher than the supply, hence also sourced fish from Lake Victoria in Nyanza for sale. It was also indicated that the taste of fish differed greatly depending on the source, with wild fish strains from Lake Victoria having a “sweeter” taste than the farmed strains. Strains of fish selected for improved growth and reproduction were not available for aquaculture. Feeds and feeding management of farmed fish was also a challenge. It was evident that there is a great need for supportive research on environmental impacts, productivity and quality of fish reared, and marketing of fish products within the riverine environments of Kenya.

Key words: aquaculture, fish marketing, traits of economic importance


Introduction

Aquaculture is a vital economic activity and livelihood component of rural communities living beside rivers and river floodplains in East Africa (FAO 2007; Mbugua 2008). It provides a good alternative source of income for rural communities, particularly women, since it can be carried out with minimal investment close to homesteads and can be integrated into existing farming systems (World Bank and FAO 2010) Through aquaculture, the protein requirements and fish consumption needs of the populations can be adequately met (Na-Nakorn and Brummett 2009). In Kenya, aquaculture contributes to an estimated 2% of the total fish produced and is practiced mainly under smallholder mixed farming systems, where farmers grow crops and keep livestock in addition to fish farming (Export-Processing-Zone-Authority 2005; Mbugua 2002). Smallholder aquaculture farmers operate mainly in the medium to high agricultural potential areas, and tend to farm for household needs rather than purely economic objectives (MOLFD 2007). However, in order to raise incomes for rural smallholders through aquaculture production, a shift towards a more business oriented approach is required.

To improve the livelihoods of the communities dependent on aquaculture as part of a poverty reduction strategy defined in a vision for the next 30 years (G.o.K 2007), the Government of Kenya launched an Economic Stimulus Programme to improve the use of inland water resources which cover between 10,500 and 11,500 km2, through the adoption of commercial aquaculture. The programme aimed to construct 200 fish farming ponds in each of the 140 constituencies found in the country. The ponds were to be stocked with appropriate fingerling determined by the different communities (G.o.K 2007). However, the fish ecotypes and fish seed for improved productivity have been inadequate (Charo-Karisa et al 2008). Many of the fish genetic resources in Kenya have not been adequately characterized for management and improvement under smallholder farming conditions. Information on phenotypic characteristics, potential production rates and behaviour within different environments is scarce, and there is no clearly defined selection and breeding programme in place for improved fish ecotypes. Supportive research to address environmental impacts, diversity and quality of fish reared to support the growth of the industry is also required.


Objectives

This study aims to characterize fish production and marketing practices under smallholder farming systems found in the Eastern province of Kenya and to determine the traits of economic importance for fish to inform planned selection and breeding programmes for improved productivity within the area.


Materials and Methods

Description of study site

The study was carried out in Meru Central, the first district in Eastern Province where aquaculture was introduced under the Economic Stimulus Programme. The district lies to the east of Mt. Kenya covering a total area of 2,982 km2 of which 1,952 km2 is for human settlement (Figure 1). Most of the agro-ecological zones described in Kenya are found in Meru District (Pelley et al 1985). The climate and rainfall is greatly influenced by Mt. Kenya and the Nyambene Hills. Rainfall varies from 2 600 mm annually in the upper highlands of Mt. Kenya to 500 mm in the lower parts of the district. The area has two rainy seasons, March to May and from October to December (Pelley et al 1985). Most of the farmers are smallholder farmers with limited land size, practising mixed farming, i.e., crop cultivation, animal husbandry and aquaculture.

The system of aquaculture recommended through the ESP in this area is semi-intensive with a stocking density of 3 fingerlings per m2 in ponds of 300 m2 under a monoculture of Oreochromis niloticus.


Figure  1: Map of Kenya indicating the Study area
Data collection and analytical procedures

Stratified random sampling techniques were used to identify households within the community to provide information on aquaculture. Farmers were grouped depending on the nearest major town within each division then randomly sampled for questioning. Various players in the aquaculture production system were categorized into three broad categories; farmers, service providers and traders. The District and Divisional fisheries officers, together with the chiefs, provided key information on aquaculture practices within the area. Semi-structured questionnaires and participatory appraisal within the community were used to obtain information from respondents. The information collected included the farmer characteristics and the fish farming practices. Information on the fish production traits perceived to be of economic importance to the farmer and the marketing of the fish and fish products were also collected. A total of 198 famers -(112 from Meru, 42 from Nkubu and 44 from Mburugiti); 13 traders and three key informants provided information.

Qualitative and quantitative data analysis techniques were used to evaluate information collated on aquaculture from the target area. Results are presented using descriptive and inferential statistics. Differences between observations were tested using analysis of variance, and the Least Significant Difference (LSD) was used to test significant differences between means while the Pearson correlation coefficient was used to present the relationship between variables. The SPSS Version 11.5 (SPSS 2007) and GenStat 14 (Payne et al 2009) computer software were used for analyses.


Results

Characteristics of the fish farming systems

Characteristics of the farming systems in the study area are presented in Table 1. In all the towns, farmers reared fish mainly to obtain higher incomes and for food security. Fish were reared mainly by individual farmers with a few ponds managed by groups mostly under semi-intensive production. Groups rearing fish were mainly institutions and women groups. Most of the individual farmers were males and they practiced monoculture. However, in Meru town, six percent of the farmers practiced polyculture. Nile tilapia (O. niloticus) was the predominant species under monoculture followed by the African Catfish (Clarius gariepinus), while a combination of the two species were reared under polyculture.

Table 1: Description of the fish farming systems within the study area

 

Towns

Characteristic

Meru

Nkubu

Mburugiti

Number of farmers

112

42

45

Pond ownership*

 

 

 

Individual

103 (92%) a

38 (90.5%) a

41 (80.5%) a

Group

9 (8%) a

4 (9.5%) a

4 (8.9%)a

Farmers’ gender *

 

 

 

Male

73(70.9%)a

30(78.9%)a

33 (80.5%)a

Female

30 (29.1%)a

8 (21.1%)a

8 (19.5%)a

Management systemns

 

 

 

Extensive

2 (1.8%)

0 (0%)

1 (2.3%)

Semi-intensive

109 (98.2%)

42 (100%)

43 (97.7%)

Culture systemns

 

 

 

Monoculture

105 (93.8%)

42 (100%)

44 (100%)

Polyculture

7 (6.25%)

0 (0%)

0 (0%)

Fish species reared*

 

 

 

O. niloticus

111 (94.1) a

42 (100%)

44 (93.6%) a

C. gariepinus

7 (5.93%) a

0 (0%)

3 (6.38%)a

Source of water*

 

 

 

Wells/canals

8 (7.3%)

3 (7.1%)

6 (9.5%)

Streams/Springs

34 (30.9%)

6 (14.3%)

8 (18.6%)

Rivers

47 (42.7%) a

15 (35.7%)

18 (42.9%) a

Piped water

21 (19.1%) a

18 (42.9%)

5 (11.6%) a

Type of fertilizerns

 

 

 

Organic fertilizer

17 (15.7%)

7 (19.4%)

19 (48.7%)

Inorganic fertilizer

30 (27.8%)

12 (33.3%)

4 (10.3%)

Combination

61 (36.5%)

17 (47.2%)

16 (41.0%)

*differed significantly within the group characteristic and across the towns (p<0.05),

ns-did not differ significantly within the group characteristic and across the towns.

a - Parameters significantly differed between the towns and within the group characteristic

 In all the areas, water from the ponds was obtained mainly from the rivers. The respective municipal councils also provided piped water to the farmers which in some instances was used as the main source of water for aquaculture. There was, however, no relationship between the source of water and the management system adopted for aquaculture. The type of fertilizer used by the farmers, however, differed significantly (p<0.05, LSD) depending on the source of water (Table 2).

Table 2: Types of fertilizer used in ponds supplied by different sources of water

Source

Inorganic fertilizer

Organic Fertilizer

Inorganic and Organic fertilizer

Wells*

3 (6.7%)a

2(4.8%)a

11(11.8%)a

Stream/Spring*

5(11.1%)b

9(21.4%)b

32(34.4%)b

River*

28(62.2%)ab

23(54.8%)ab

29(31.2%)ab

Piped waterns

9(20.0%)

8(19.0%)

21(22.6%)

*differed significantly across fertilizer type (p<0.05),

ns-did not differ significantly across fertilizer type.

a, b - Parameters with the same letter differed significantly within fertilizer type

 Feed management

Most famers (66%) used only commercial feeds which were supplied by the government (Table 3). Additionally, farmers that had greater access to natural sources of water (rivers, streams and springs) tended to use more of commercial feeds than organic wastes (Table 4).

Table 3: Types of feed used for the cultured fish

Species

N

Commercial feed only

Organic waste feeds only

Commercial feeds and Organic waste

O.niloticus*

185

123(66.5%)

61(33.0%)

1(0.5%)

C.gariepinus

10

0

10(100.0%)

0

O.niloticus & C.gariepinus ns

7

4(57.1%)

3(42.9%)

0

*differed significantly across feed types (p<0.05),

ns- did not differ significantly across feed types


Table 4: Type of feeds used for the different water sources

 

Commercial feeds only

Organic waste only

Commercial feeds and organic wastes

Wells*

14(11.2%)a

3(4.6%)a

0

Stream/Spring*

38(30.4%)a

8(12.3%)b

0

River*

47(37.6%)a

37(56.9%)ab

1(100.0%)

Tap water

26(20.8%)

17(26.2%)

0

*differed significantly across feed types (p<0.05).

a, b - Parameters with the same letter differed significantly within feed type

 Fish health

In all the areas studied, only six percent of the respondents indicated that they encountered challenges of fish diseases in their farms. However, aside from indicating that the condition of the fish reared changed when they were unhealthy, no farmer specified a type of disease for the fish. Those who experienced diseases consulted the Fisheries Department for advice and treatment. There was no correlation between the source of water, or type of fertilizer used with the occurrence of disease.

Traits of economic importance in fish farming

In fish rearing, farmers have target traits of economic importance for the market, which later they hope to turn into profit. In the areas studied, growth, survival and feed conversion ratio (FCR) were the traits the farmers considered economically important. Farmers were requested to rank the traits in order of importance for the fish species reared (Figure 3). In all the areas, for both O. niloticus and C. gariepinus, high growth rate was most important, followed by survival.

FCR- Feed Conversion Ratio


Figure
2: Ranks of fish traits perceived to be of economic importance by the farmers

Markets and marketing
Market outlets for farmed fish

The various outlets for marketing of fish and their related products in the area studied are presented in Table 5. Most farmers in all the towns (90%) sold their fish to the local communities and within local markets.

Table 5: Market outlets for fish within the district

 

Meru

Nkubu

Mburugiti

Type of market

 

 

 

Local community

68 (68.0%)

19(57.6%)

28 (65.1%)

Local markets

22 (22.0%)

11(33.3%)

11 (25.6%)

Hotels/Restaurants/Schools

4 (4.0%)

1 (3.0%)

3 (7.0%)

Urban markets

1(1.0%)

1(3.0%)

0 (0%)

Local  & Urban markets

5(5.0%)

1(3.0%)

1(2.3%)

 A large proportion of the farmers had a ready market for the fish reared (52.5%), while for 47.5% of the farmers, marketing of their fish varied with the prevailing consumer demand. Most of the fish from the farms (95%) was sold fresh and whole. The target sale weight for the African catfish (C. gariepinus) was 1.72 .45 kg, while that for the Nile tilapia (O. niloticus) was 0.45 0.14 kg.

Fish traders and their sources of fish

The fish traders at the markets were of mixed gender, 61.5% (n=8) male and 38.5% (n=5) female. The main source of fish sold by the traders was fish from Lake Victoria in Nyanza, with some fish coming from the farms within the study area. The traders dealing with farmed fish collected the fish from the farms although they preferred farmers bringing the fish to them. A major concern was the irregular supply of farmed fish and the preference of “wild” fish by consumers rather than cultured fish, as this was deemed to taste sweeter that cultured fish. Ranking of preference for fish marketed by the traders is presented in Figure 4.


Figure 3:
Preference for species of fish marketed by traders in the study area

Fish on the market was sold either whole (23.07%), in fillet form (46.15%) or fried (30.76%). Of the species sold at the market, Nile Perch (L. Niloticus) was said to move the fastest when sold as whole fish due to its “sweet” taste, however, it was also noted that this fish was highly bony. Nile Tilapia (O. niloticus) was the main farmed fish that was sold by the traders. The traders indicated that the demand for fish in the area was higher than the supply.

Suggestions for improving fish farming

Farmers from the different areas had different suggestions for the improvement of fish farming as presented in Figure 5. In all the areas, improvement in marketing and availing of credit facilities to support aquaculture were noted to be the most important interventions desired for improving fish productivity.


Figure 4:
Suggestions by farmers for improving fish farming


Discussion

Small-scale fish farming has been widely adopted by farmers within the Meru Central District. Though the ownership of ponds was said to be for men in the households, women played a significant role in routine fish management and culture activities, cleaning ponds and providing security to the ponds during day time.  Similar roles by different gender in the management of small-holder fish farming in West Africa have been reported by Singh et al (2008) and Lawal (2002).

Species reared and management practices adopted

The Nile tilapia (O.niloticus) was the most common cultured warm water species in areas of the Meru Central district. Oreochromis niloticus and its hybrid have been cited as the most important cultured fish species in the tropics under semi-intensive smallholder farms (Charo-Karisa et al 2006; Mbugua 2002). The African Catfish was not reared by many farmers although it is known to be versatile under differential water qualities, and to have a high flesh to bone ratio (Charo-Karisa et al 2008). Okwu and Achenje (2011) showed that in Nigeria, Catfish is cultured by a large number of farmers because of its good marketability, resistance to harsh environmental conditions and survival in diverse water conditions.

It was evident that farmers in the present study strived to implement the management practices specified in the ESP. This was a semi-intensive system of managing fish with limited external inputs. Practices adopted by farmers were not different in relation to the diverse sources of water used for fish farming. The main practice implemented in all the areas to try and boost off-take, was the use of both organic and inorganic fertilizers to promote the growth of plankton, one of the main fish feeds. Fish farmers in other regions have been able to increase fish yields in ponds by using inorganic or chemical fertilizers and organic fertilizers or manures, which help maintain the nutrient status of ponds (Bocek 2009; Brunson et al 1999).

Diseases were not noted to be a common occurrence in the study areas. However, the greater challenge was the loss of fish through predators like fish eating birds (e.g. kingfishers); frogs and reptiles (snakes and monitor lizards) and man. The communities would need to collaboratively determine measures for pond security with the most optimal management of time in order to enhance fish production in the area.

Feeds and feeding practices adopted in Meru Central

Farmers in the study sites were provided with formulated fish feeds by the government at a subsidised cost. However, due to limits in the supply, farmers provided the feed in small portions to enable the feed last to the next supply and this affected fish growth. Fish were also given vegetables and kitchen wastes and no mineral and vitamin supplements were provided. Feeds manufactured for fish by the private sector within the area were available, but the farmers indicated that the prices were too high. This had a great impact on the growth and development of the fish. Fish nutrition and feeding are critical for growth, reproduction and health in fish populations. Availability of adequate feeds also greatly influences the response of fish to the physiological environment and to various pathogens. Fish willingness to spawn and the quality of sperm and eggs produced is greatly affected by the quality of feed. Selective breeding for growth improvement in fish also improves feed retention and FCR (Neely et al 2008; Thodesen et al 1999).

More efficient use of by-products from the fishing industry could serve to enhance fish nutrition. Bacterial protein meal produced using natural gas (methane) as a carbon source, has been shown to be an excellent substitute for fish meal in fish feed (Aas et al 2006). Feed for carnivorous fish like the catfish can to a large extent be substituted with grain protein and oils instead of animal protein and fat (Gatlin et al 2007). Algae and aquatic macro types are good feed sources for farmed fish but should not exceed 15-20% of dietary requirements (Hasan and Chakrabarti 2009).

Traits of economic importance in small-holder fish farming

Farmers received fingerlings from the government through the ESP and hence were not involved in the breeding and multiplication of fish. Fast growth rate and good survival rates were noted to be of most importance to the farmers when rearing the fish supplied. There was, however, no information available on the genetic potential of the fish reared within the environments targeted by the ESP. Reproductive performance and growth rate have been noted to be of primary importance for increased productivity when rearing tilapia strains (Ponzoni et al 2011). Other traits of importance include mothering ability, survivability, adaptability and resistance to parasites and diseases. Due to the high fecundity and short generation intervals of fish, selective breeding programmes when implemented have shown rapid genetic gains (Gjedrem et al 2012; Ponzoni et al 2011). Information from studies conducted in other tropical environments should be adapted and used to inform the development and implementation of a breeding and improvement programme for smallholder fish production as part of the ESP.

Marketing of Fish from the small-holder farmers in Meru Central

Most fish produced on the smallholder farms was sold directly within the local community, either to individuals or to the nearby markets.  The production practices introduced by the ESP mean that farmers tend to harvest their fish in large batches resulting in periodic gluts and lower prices. Prices offered for fish in the local markets also tend to be low as middlemen involved in transactions pass on the costs of transportation to the farmers. The marketing of fish was dominated by male traders, contrary to what has been reported in fish markets found in other parts of the country. Women have been reported to dominate fish marketing in Lake Victoria regions of Kenya, and in several urban centres (Ikiara 1999). According to Kristyn and Sergio (2005), fish is the most heavily traded food commodity and the fastest growing agricultural commodity in the international market. In Nigeria, demand for fish has been reported to be doubling as other sources of animal protein become expensive due to the ever-increasing human population and high production cost of other protein sources (Akolisa and Okonji 2005).

Traders in the local markets of Meru district collect fish from several sources then transfer these to other larger urban trading centres for more profit. Most of the traders in the urban centres, however, obtained fish they sold from Lake Victoria. A high fishing pressure on Lake Victoria due to demand from other parts of the country has been noted by the Fisheries Department in Kenya (Mbugua 2002).

Farmers tended to focus more on the production and management of fish than on issues related to the markets and marketing of fish. There was some misconception that the ESP that introduced the fish would also be a key supporter in the marketing of fish produced. A challenge for those implementing the ESP is to manage the expectations of communities targeted in development. There is also need for development and strengthening of fish markets and marketing of fish products within Meru Central if indeed farmers are to obtain better incomes from aquaculture.

Recommendations for developing small-holder fish farming in Kenya

Aquaculture is fast growing within the food production industry globally, with the vast majority of aquaculture products being derived from Asia (Gjedrem et al 2012). Compared with farm animals, fish are more efficient converters of energy and protein. It is estimated that at present less than 10% of aquaculture production is based on improved stocks, despite the fact that annual genetic gains reported for aquatic species are substantially higher than that of farm animals (FAO 2006). Strains of fish selected for improved productivity are not available for small-scale producers in Kenya. Therefore, research should be carried out to develop and adopt strains using information on market demands for various fish products. The marketing of fish products is central when promoting aquaculture enterprises.

Further research and capacity development is required in the area of fish feeds and the management of feeding for optimal outputs. The costs of feeds were perceived to be high relative to the anticipated returns from the investment. Therefore, alternative and economical sources of feed using locally available materials need to be explored. There is a need for further research and information on alternative sources of raw materials for fish feeds. The area studied had readily available natural water sources, however, information on the quality of the water was not available. Water plays an august role in fish production; hence understanding the physical and chemical qualities of water is critical for successful aquaculture.


Conclusion


Acknowledgement

The authors wish to acknowledge Sagana Aquaculture Centre, Kenya, which through the Kenya Agricultural Productivity and Agribusiness Project (KAPAP) provided support and facilitation to perform the research.


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Received 13 January 2013; Accepted 14 January 2013; Published 5 February 2013

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