Lamu group rears mud crabs for local, export markets

Mokowe Mainland CBO members at their crab hatchery at Mokowe Old Jetty on September 25, 2022. PHOTO | KALUME KAZUNGU | NMG

A group of Lamu residents is betting on rearing crabs in muddy areas, fattening them, and selling them to local restaurants and the export markets.

The residents are practising mud crab farming, which has seen them reap huge financial benefits.

Abdirashid Aden, the group’s chairperson says they started mud crab farming with a capital of only Sh6,000 and bought 10 special crates used as cages for rearing young crabs. The first trial was hectic and they could not harvest any as most of the crabs died while others were stolen at their site.

He said the second round of crab farming was successful as they managed to rear and fatten ten crabs up to the maturity stage where they sold them for Sh10,000.

The third round was also successful and the group managed to sell eight crabs locally and got Sh8,000.

Today, the group has 15 crabs being taken care of at their hatchery located within the Mokowe Old Jetty area.

Mr Aden says as the group decided to come up with an innovative and sustainable way of crab farming.

“There is high demand for crabs in Kenya and the world, and this can only be tapped through farming instead of wild fishing, which could threaten the species in the ocean,” says Mr Aden.

Ali Swaleh, the group’s secretary, says they aim to have the project expanded and become one of the largest blue economy initiatives in Kenya and exporter.

Part of their plans is to own a seafood business or resort where tourists and guests can visit and enjoy fresh sea delicacies, including crabs.

“With the little investment we’ve made as members, we’ve already established that crab farming can be a major income-generating activity and a source of employment to the many educated but unemployed youth in Lamu. Because of the low production, we only sell our crabs locally but our focus is to seek an international market where we shall be exporting the crabs once we expand production,” says Mr Swaleh.

Athman Aswa, who is in charge of feeding the crabs, said the group started by conserving mangroves and conducting frequent beach clean-ups before getting authorisation from the Kenya Forest Services in Lamu to carry out crab farming.

The crab keepers have so far built 10 floating cages using special crates, pipes, and cardboard that hold up to 15 crabs and use them for fattening the sea creatures.

Crab fishers are assigned the duty to catch crablets with a minimum weight of 180 grammes to 200grammes.

“We feed them twice a day, including low-cost fish, shrimps, meat, small-sized crabs, innards of birds and animals from slaughterhouses, and bread among others. We then fatten them in the cages for over a month. The total duration for mud crabs to reach marketing size and weight is between three to six months. We sell a crab weighing between 750 grammes to one kilogramme locally for Sh1,000,” says Mr Aswa.

Bahati Fundi, the group’s technician in charge of constructing the floating cages says one of the challenges of crab farming is the lack of a boardwalk that will enable the farmers to easily access the cages to feed the crabs.

“It’s challenging reaching this muddy place to feed crabs daily. Sometimes we get hurt. Once a boardwalk is built, it will be easy for us to access the cages and feed our creatures whether it’s during high or low tide,” says Mr Fundi.

Apart from selling them to restaurants, the crab keepers are courting holidaymakers from Nairobi, Malindi, Mombasa, and Kilifi, who visit Lamu so that they can buy the crabs from their Mokowe hatchery.

The organisation’s target is that one day, they will be able to make up to Sh300,000 in profit every month.

Lamu County Senior Fisheries Officer Simon Komu lauded the group for their innovation terming it as crucial as it can elevate the fishing sector in the county.

He said apart from crabs, the group can also consider expanding their activities by growing prawns and ornamental fish for sustainable farming.

“The introduction of crab farming in Lamu is a new dawn. We already have certain groups, including women in places like Pate where they grow octopuses and make huge benefits out of it. We welcome such ideas to uplift the fishing sector in this place,” said Mr Komu.

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