Fish farming is a thriving source of income and nourishment

In the NICE project, fish plays an important role. Shifting activities from field to lake can be challenging for farmers. However, with due care, “swimmers are winners”.   

Janet Namwamba, a fish seller who is just from buying tilapia at the market

Early on market day, the Hainja Farmers’ Hub in Port Victoria, Busia County, is already abuzz. Women like Nelly Netima keep records of the tilapia being harvested from cages in Lake Victoria. Others like Janet Namwamba are busy selling the fresh fish they have just bought at Mulukoba Beach. For consumers in this part of Kenya, fish forms a popular and important part of healthy diets.

Nelly Netima, a fish farmer keeping record of the fish brought by the fish farmers as they are being sorted

Peter Lucas Hainja joined NICE* in 2022. Before getting into fish farming, he grew African Leafy Vegetables. However, as he lives several kilometers from the lake, access to water was limited. This made it hard to produce such crops year-round. Hainja decided that tilapia would be an attractive alternative. Fish farming is lucrative and less affected by seasonal changes.

Hainja saved up to finance his new venture; NICE provided training. At first, things did not go well. Hainja received 2500 fishs to kickstart his enterprise but soon had only 100 left. Thieves stole many at night, and the cage “caretakers” sold Hainja’s fish feed to other people. Accurate counting of the fingerlings sold was a further challenge.

However, years of experience in agriculture gave Hainja the confidence to continue with his Farmers’ Hub business. The establishment of a Beach Management Unit tackled the thefts. “We collectively installed cameras and floodlights and hired guards”, Peter Lucas Hainja explains. “That has reduced theft cases to almost none.” Capacity-building by NICE enabled the Hub to improve its feeding regimes and stocking solutions. Hainja now concentrates on 10-gram fingerlings. They are easier to count and mature faster. That change has “hugely impacted our yields and earnings”, he adds.

With tilapia, the whole community benefits.

Peter Lucas Hainja, Fish Farmers’ Hub owner

The adult tilapia live in large, connected enclosures at the lake surface. In these cages, the fish are fed until they reach the right size for consumption. They are then harvested, weighed, and sorted for sale. Having the fish in cages lets farmers monitor the animals’ growth and immediate environment. Careful checking increases yields and profits.

Fish cages belonging to Peter Lucas Hainja

Fish fits excellently with NICE. It is nutritious, tasty and contributes significantly to increased food security. The fish value chain provides employment for many young people.

* The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation’s (SDC) Nutrition in City Ecosystems (NICE) project connects the demand- and supply-side of food systems, engages women and youth – including through social business models – and builds local governance capacity in Kenya, Rwanda, and Bangladesh. In Kenya, this project is being undertaken in Bungoma and Busia counties. The consortium partners are Swiss TPH, ETH Zürich, Sight & Life and Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture.