Fifteen county governments have been challenged to invest in aquaculture and build internal markets for fish to sustain an eight-year aquaculture project funded by an international agency to the tune of Sh15 billion.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is funding the project which is being implemented in top aquaculture producing counties including Meru, Tharaka-Nithi, Embu, Isiolo, Laikipia, Kirinyaga and Nyeri.
Each county has been allocated at least Sh1 billion.
Fisheries Principal Secretary Prof Micheni Ntiba said the project will face serious challenges without a reliable local market, and urged the county governments to partner with private sector in implementing the plan.
The PS said an aquaculture project started in 2009 collapsed, noting that the current initiative is meant to revive it.
He said before devolution, the country’s annual fish production had grown from a meagre 2,000 metric tonnes to 60,000 tonnes helped by aquaculture. This has however dropped to 12,000 tonnes, he said.
“We were in 129 constituencies but what happened is that the funds for aquaculture development were lumped up with other funds, and it was not given priority. But we expect that this project will change this. But for sustainability, county governments must also allocate funds for fish development,” he said.
Prof Ntiba spoke in Meru during a campaign dubbed Fuga, Kula, Uza Samaki to sensitise Kenyans to eat fish. The initiative is targeted at encouraging Kenyans to eat fish with the view of creating a local market to sustain aquaculture projects in the 15 targeted counties.
“Wherever we go we are told that there is no market for fish but the biggest consumers are ourselves. Without consuming the products we will not succeed because outside markets are controlled by other factors. We have to build our internal markets if this project is to succeed,” he said.