BY SMART HARVEST
When Samuel Karunditu ventured into fish farming, he started from a point of naïvety. That was costly, but along the way, he learnt from his mistakes and now he has a story to tell.
“Back then, I assumed all I needed was a fish pond and fingerlings. I could just throw at them the food and within six months I would harvest,” he narrates.
Though Karunditu, who is part of the Economic Stimulus Plan beneficiaries, started fish farming in 2001 at Karima village in Kirinyaga as a novice, now he is a master of the game.
The retired chief has put over an acre of his land under fish farming and has even almost abandoned dairy farming (save for one cow) to capitalise on fishing.
“I keep cat fish and ornamental ones whose demand is on the rise within and outside the country,” he says.
The farmer has stocked half of his ponds with ornamental fish of five different species.
“I keep gold, coy, yellow comet, shubkin and fantale ornamental species which I sell at Sh30 per fingerling,” he says.
The farmer says Coy species has the highest demand and takes three months to mature.
“A one inch coy retails at Sh100 and I sell about 500 in a week which is enough to sustain my business,” Karunditu says.
He is also introducing cat fish farming which he says is less demanding than the ornamental type.
He says the raised wooden ponds whose interior is covered by a liner to avoid water getting into contact with the timber are easier to clean than the ordinary ones.
“With the ordinary ponds dug on the ground, cleaning is cumbersome as one has to drain it completely to get out the accumulated fish waste before pumping in fresh water. This routine disturbs the growing fish,” he explains.
As for the raised wooden ponds, he says cleaning is done automatically through elevating one side and fitting the waste outlet with a sieve to prevent young fish from being washed away.
Emptying the pond is critical to avoid oxygen depletion and/or accumulation of toxicants.
“Cat fish are heavy feeders and this is why a farmer must empty the waste they deposit in the pond lest it turns toxic,” he says.
The farmer points out that many fish farmers do not know that fish require high hygiene standards otherwise they will die from diseases. Diet is equally important.
“A balanced diet is what keeps my fish healthy and of good weight. I feed my young fish on a mixture of maize, cassava and bone meal which I make into pellets. I have an improvised pellet maker and only buy few ingredients to make the fish meal.”
At the farm, feeding is done at 11am and 3pm daily and the water is kept in constant circulation to keep it fresh.
Though most farmers who took up fish farming have abandoned it, Karunditu is a testimony that it can be rewarding because of the growing demand.
The farmer is among the few licensed to sell fish fingerlings by the County Fisheries Department. He says demand for fish has grown as more people embrace healthy lifestyles.
“The demand is growing day by day as people ditch red meat because of health reasons. This is why I am setting up brooding and hatchery facilities on my farm from where those seeking to venture into fish farming can access certified fingerlings to stock their ponds,” he says.
An animal expert John Munene says fish farming is a profitable venture if good husbandry is employed. With good arable land, one can roll out because it does not require a lot of labour: It only needs a daily check up to feed the fish and with good management, they mature in six months. As long as the fish are of good quality, customers will buy it once it’s in the market, he points out.