Why fish farming is key to food security
Posted Friday, September 16 2011 at 22:30
As drought ravages northern Kenya and the rest of the country’s food security is threatened by the escalating cost of living, two scientists are burning the midnight oil, transforming agriculture.
At the Sagana-based National Aquaculture Research Development Training Centre, the talk all day long is fish, fish and nothing but fish.
Welcome to the world of Dr Harrison Charo-Karisa, the man who heads the institution, and Dr Jonathan Munguti, his deputy.
Much of this training is on-farm, with the objective of having multiplier effects since those trained pass new skills to other farmers.
At the Sagana station itself, training is carried out all the time, with more than 1,000 fish farmers trained there so far.
Other farmers have been trained in their own districts in places such as Kakamega, Taita, Kitui and Bungoma.
The rapidly growing numbers of fish farmers is deemed as a sign of the economic potential of the sector, which seems set to become critical in Kenya’s economy.
PhD holders from different European universities, they teach, guide farmers, supervise graduate students from around the world, and travel around Kenya and in neighbouring countries promoting fish farming.
The energetic and extremely focused young men – neither of them is in his 40s yet – are the only two aquaculture specialists in Kenya.
The world of fish is also their world, and their CVs are overflowing with the numerous honours they have been awarded by institutions across the globe.
It is little wonder, then, that the duo go about their jobs with a passion, criss-crossing the country as they carry out fieldwork research and advise farmers on the best practices in fish farming.
Apart from the fact that the two scientists and the specialists working under them, who include eight research officers trained to at least Masters level, six other senior fisheries officers specialising in extension work, have been training farmers on feed production both inside Kenya and in other countries including Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda.
The team has carried out intensive research on feeds, in addition to producing pedigree fingerlings for sale to farmers and conducting two-week induction courses at the centre for those aspiring to go into fish farming.
While Dr Karisa is a specialist in the genetics and breeding of fish, the subject of his PhD, which was awarded by the Wagennigen University in the Netherlands in 2006, Dr Munguti is a specialist in aquatic nutrition, a field that fascinates him up to this day, and which he discusses with much excitement.
Dr Munguti was awarded his PhD by the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria, where he studied between 2004 and 2007.
He had earlier been awarded an MSc degree in Environmental Science and Technology by IHE, a top institution in the Netherlands.
Between 1995 and 1999, he studied for a Bachelor of Education degree (Zoology/chemistry) degree at Moi University, Eldoret.