The current state of aquaculture in Kenya
Kenya’s aquaculture industry has potential, but growth is slowed by policy, market, financing, and conservation issues. While demand for fish is rising due to income growth and awareness of its health benefits, overfishing is a problem. Imports from China, which supplies 87% of the market, are cheaper than those from Uganda, but threaten the livelihoods of local fishing communities. Dwindling fish reserves cause conflicts with cage farming and social problems like the “Jaboya” practice of trading sex for fish. Inconsistent policies, market inefficiencies, and limited financing hinder sector development, particularly for women and youth farmers.
Aquaculture can help reduce the damage caused by fish scarcity to the environment and society, but Kenya’s aquaculture sector and its resource potential are largely untapped. The approach is not widely embraced by fishing communities and is seen as a threat. Currently, aquaculture only contributes to 10% of the fish sold and local trade is informal. Many Kenyan women are excluded from the value chain due to limited resources, land, and gender inequality. Policies and regulations for aquaculture are not yet well-developed. Fish farming requires discipline, data recording, and managerial competency, which rely on education and careful implementation.
The country has a vast network of resources that can be utilized to develop a commercial aquaculture sector, which could meet the growing national demand for fish. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognizes the significant potential for aquaculture to create investment opportunities, empower women, contribute to healthier diets, protect biodiversity, and build climate resilience. However, integrating aquaculture into fishing communities requires confronting behavioral changes and ensuring congruence with fishing culture. It is important to consider the benefits of expanding Kenya’s aquaculture sector while organizing it in a way that serves everyone.
Is there hope?
Kenya sees aquaculture as a key growth sector, with potential to improve food security, reduce poverty and unemployment. Stakeholders from government, industry, research, and civil society recently renewed their commitment to develop a sustainable and inclusive aquaculture sector for the benefit of all Kenyans. Aquaculture has potential to create employment, empower communities, and provide affordable fish feed, equipment, hatcheries, processing, storage, and transportation.
The African Food Fellowship supports a network of changemakers in the Kenyan aquaculture space, who are shaping policy agendas and investment priorities for action. Graduates from the 2021 cohort reflect on their Fellowship journey:
Through the African Food Fellowship, I shared my thoughts on importing frozen tilapia from China in a Kenyan newspaper. This led to calls and connections with media, investors, and scholars. We’re now studying the impact of imported frozen tilapia on Kenya’s aquaculture. –Aquaculture Fellow, Kenya Cohort 2021.
Before joining the fellowship, I viewed aquaculture only in terms of the value chain and the challenges specific to Kenya. However, I now understand that external factors such as the environment and government policies can also have an impact, positive or negative, on the aquaculture industry. My perspective has broadened to consider the wider implications of aquaculture practices. This expanded understanding will help me make informed decisions and prepare for uncertainties.Aquaculture Fellow, Kenya Cohort 2021.
Are you ready to emerge as one of the architects of Kenya’s aquaculture future? Apply to participate in the African Food Fellowship.
The African Food Fellowship unites Kenyan aquaculture professionals to drive reforms at county and national levels, promoting an inclusive and sustainable sector.
The African Food Fellowship seeks to eliminate barriers in agri-businesses' finance access and promote an innovative financial ecosystem. This will enhance Kenya's agricultural sector's fairness and competitiveness.
The Africa Food Fellowship seeks driven leaders in Kenya to strategize, mobilize, and support horticultural micro and small enterprises. The goal is to boost the availability of sustainable and healthy foods in the country.