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Researchers in bid to save fish farming amid climate change

Wednesday October 16 2019

A workshop on aquaculture and climate change

Participants at a workshop on aquaculture and climate change in Nairobi. Stakeholders in the sector are burning the midnight oil researching on climate change-related issues that are affecting this sector. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Stakeholders in the aquaculture sector are burning the midnight oil researching on climate change-related issues that are affecting this sector.

The research, which has been ongoing for about a year now, aims at looking into ways to keep the sector afloat, amid challenges associated with climate change.

The main climate change issues that affect aquaculture in the country, according to this research, include water scarcity, drought, and flooding.

These issues result to damage to aquaculture infrastructure such as ponds and pond liners and reduced yield.


They also lead to loss of income and livelihoods.


The research is funded by the UK-based Royal Academy of Engineering.

It is implemented by Aquaculture Association of Kenya in collaboration with York St John University-UK and the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (Kemfri)

Just as a stakeholders’ workshop was going on in Nairobi last week, for example, Aquacultural Association of Kenya Chairman Domiciano Maingi received a video from a farmer in Meru, showing how he (the farmer) watched desperately as his fish were swept away by floods.

Dr Olalekan Adekola speaks during the
Dr Olalekan Adekola speaks during the aquaculture stakeholders meeting. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


“This is a confirmation of the reality on the ground, and a call for relevant authorities to take action and save our aquaculture sector,” said Mr Maingi.

The project’s objective has been to explore the potential to co-design approaches to minimise the impact of climate hazards on aquaculture in Kenya.

The intention is to contribute to the evidence base for better aquaculture strategy, policy and management in Kenya.

The research project calls for new technologies and policies which will respond to risks associated with climate change and ensure that the sector will remain sustainable.


“It aims at promoting climate-resilient aquaculture through shared space for co-designing”, said Dr Olalekan Adekola, an expert from York St John University, UK.

Kenya, he noted, has had a lot of space taken over by real estate development, characterised by numerous buildings on land that would have been used for aquaculture and other farming activities.

It would therefore be a great idea if the country adopted designs that will allow intensive aquaculture in small spaces, if Kenya is to achieve food and nutritional security.

AAK Chairman Domiciano Maingi addresses
AAK Chairman Domiciano Maingi addresses aquaculture stakeholders during a workshop on climate change and aquaculture in Nairobi. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Such technologies include greenhouses, raised tanks and aerated ponds among others.

“Farmers can also form networks and produce fish within the same area and share infrastructure,” noted Dr Adekola, adding that if a farmer has big space of land for example, he can invite his neighbours to establish fish ponds in partnership.

Besides, there is need for subsidising aquaculture inputs and machinery, regulation of standards of hatcheries, reinforcement of water usage and training on climate resilience and adoption of technology.

Stakeholders have also expressed the need to provide additional support to help farmers understand climate risks, train them to identify climate hazard warnings, how those warning are used and what should be done in case of incidences such as floods or drought.


Farmers should also be sensitised on how to manage the environment, especially water management through responsible and sustainable abstraction as well as effluent management.

There is also need for strengthening institutions which will regulate, manage and provide support for aquaculture farmers, especially when they are affected by climate hazards.

Dr Paul Orina, a research scientist at Kemfri, said that Kenya should emulate other countries in employing technologies that are affordable and friendly to the environment.


In Egypt for example, he notes that farmers can rear up to 10,000 fish in the same space that a farmer in Kenya rears only 1,000 fish.

“Farmers in Egypt are lucky because electricity is almost free and they can therefore use electric energy to circulate air in ponds,” noted Dr Orina

He said it would be ideal for fish farmers to use solar energy as it is not only cheap, but also friendly to the environment.

Kenya’s aquaculture sector contributes to 0.8 percent of the gross domestic product, which translates to about USD 461 million.

The sector supports the livelihoods of about four million people, directly and indirectly.


Framers are looking forward to learning new technologies that will enhance more production and thus get better income from aquaculture.

“We cannot continue farming on the same size of ponds and producing the same amount of fish year in year out,” said Mr Paul Kiritu, an aquaculture farmer from Ruiru in Kiambu County.

He said farmers are willing to produce optimally, even at a time like now when water availability is decreasing day by day, if only they get to learn the innovative technologies they can employ.