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Regional fish farming industry gets Sh1.2b boost

Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania will benefit from a Sh1.2 billion (Euros 10.5 million) five-year fish promotion regional initiative. The True Fish programme, with support from the European Development Fund, takes off from 2019 to 2024.

The money will mainly seek to boost  fish production in  the East African Community (EAC), especially on the Lake Victoria, to respond to a food security action plan developed by the EAC 6.5 years ago.

Eastern Africa is frequently ravaged by food shortages despite a huge potential and capacity to produce enough food for regional consumption and a large surplus for export.  A large-scale drought situation in 2016 estimated there were 12.8 million food insecure people in the Horn of Africa.

Fish farming has the potential to be a key driver for poverty eradication and sustainable development in East Africa. It cannot only help improve regional nutrition and food security, but also provide new sources of rural income and contribute to conservation of wildlife  and water bodies.

Kisumu-based Riat Technical Vocational and Educational Training college will take a leading role in offering relevant aquaculture businesses training courses in collaboration with similar colleges in Uganda and Tanzania.

According to the Tanzania-based Head of the European Union delegation Roeland van de Geer, the project captures Kenya’s declared agenda of boosting food security and nutrition. “This is because fish farming is a key driver for poverty eradication and sustainable development, particularly the lake region that in recent times has seen fish catch dwindle,” he said.

A survey published last year by the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LVFO), a management body within the inter-governmental East African Community, showed that many fish breeding grounds have been destroyed by pollution and illegal fishing.

Such techniques include the use of gillnets (vertical panels of netting), beach seines (nets deployed from the shore) and plastic monofilament fishing lines that can snare all kinds of aquatic wildlife.

The study found that the catch of Nile perch — which has become the dominant species since its introduction in the 1950s — dropped from 750,000 tonnes in 2005 to 337,000 tonnes in 2008. Similarly, the tilapia catch dropped from 27,100 tonnes to 24,800 tonnes over the same period.

According to Godfrey Monor, Executive Secretary of LVFO, catches and biomass of fish in the lake and in particular Nile perch and Nile tilapia have declined, accompanied by a corresponding reduction in per capita fish consumption.  Consequently, the EAC has been making efforts to help increase fish production through aquaculture.

Water hyacinth has also made the work of fishermen in the lake difficult. The growth of the plants in the huge water body has not only hindered fishing but also transport on the lake has become difficult.

According to the secretary general of the EAC, Liberat Mfumukeko success of the programme in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda will present an opportunity for the initiative to be rolled out to the remaining member states of Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

He said the EU-EAC True fish programme aims to tackle some of the key challenges as well as sustainability risks for the development of market-led, competitive and sustainable commercial aquaculture in Lake Victoria basin.

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