Fishermen find sweet deal in fish ponds

Friday September 19 2014

Sangorota BMU Group chairman Francis Orawo at their fish farm in Kisumu with farmers. PHOTO | JACOB OWITI

Sangorota BMU Group chairman Francis Orawo at their fish farm in Kisumu with farmers. PHOTO | JACOB OWITI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By ANGELA OKETCH
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The cool breeze from Lake Victoria hums incessantly as the water rises up and down making beautiful waves.

For a visitor, one may want to stay on the shores of the lake to enjoy the breeze and watch the water form the lovely patterns.

But for members of Sangorota BMU Fishermen Group in Kisumu, this is something they are used to as they have a fish farm on the shore.

The group rears tilapia in six ponds. It is a great transformation for the members, who initially were fishermen.

They would venture each day into the lake, cast their nets and catch fish for their daily bread.

“We switched to ponds in February because of dwindling fish stock in Lake Victoria,” says Francis Orawo, 35, the group’s chairman.

Most residents in Nyanza believe that good fish comes from the lake, a reason why people do not have ponds.

A survey done in June in Kisumu County by Sustainable Environmental Development Watch (SUSWATCH), an NGO, blames low adoption of aquaculture to the perception that only the lake has good fish.

This is the myth Sangorota BMU members are steadily dispelling as they keep fish in ponds and create jobs.

“We rear fish which we sell to fish mongers at between Sh200 and Sh300 depending on the size. We have so far harvested 1,000 fish from two ponds that we started with,” says Orawo, whose group has 12 members.

Orawo says the group rears mono-sex fingerlings for better harvest.

“If you rear both male and female tilapia, they will over-populate in the ponds and you will end up with low quality fish. Mono-sex fish mature faster, sometimes at six months, instead of eight.”

Before they switched from the lake, the group did research and found out that they would have no strong competition if they adopt ponds, besides having regular supply of fish.

They wrote a proposal to Lake Victoria Environmental Management Programme (LVEMP II) and luckily they got a grant of Sh1.7 million for the project.

PROTECT FISH

“We raised Sh390,000 from our group savings and loan, in addition to the grant, which we used to construct the first two fish ponds with the help of an expert and added four others. We put cow dung in the ponds to colour the water and bought nets to protect the fish from predators,” says Orawo.

They started with 2,000 fingerlings which they bought at Sh10,000 from a hatchery in the area. Each fish pond is 20 by 10 feet and accommodates 1,000 fingerlings. They are constructed on land offered by members.

“We had our first harvest this August. We only got 1,000 fish. Although the harvest was poor considering that they were two ponds, it gave us the reason to continue.”

Orawo explains that the harvest was low because some of the fish did not mature properly.

“Some of them were too small because of improper feeding. We have since learned from experts what to give them for better growth.” Anne Anyango, 27, a member of the group says to produce fast growing tilapia, a proper diet is necessary.

“We feed our fish on dagaa remains and commercial feeds.” It has been a long journey for members of the group. They would spend the night there only to come out in the morning with little fish.

“We used to go fishing in five boats but we would often get about 100 fish that could not meet our customers’ demand. It was tiring. Now we are assured we will get what to sell,” says Orawo.

The group is currently working on buying a cooling plant to store fish for constant supply to the market.

“When we start harvesting from all our six ponds, we would need the plant because fish is perishable.”