Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fishing on Mount Kenya?

Recently, I joined a trip with some friends of mine to Mount Kenya. Yes, you know that's the place where people go to see elephants. But I usually do things a bit differently, so i went to see fish.

Some years ago, the Kenyan government has acknowledged that it is impossible to control protected forest areas, such as in Mount Kenya. Instead of having lots of policemen facing the mission impossible to make sure that no tree is cut, the Kenyan government rent out licenses to use the forest to communities, when the use is sustainable and does not threaten the natural resources base of the forest. In this way, the communities "own the forest" if there is illegal use, they will report to the authority. It is a quite smart way to manage forests in a developing country...

The first trout fish community, the ponds are covered to avoid that birds "go easy fishing"
Trout fish farming is such an non-competing use of the forest. Trout fish can be farmed in ponds that are colder than 18 degrees in which there is always running fresh water. Hence river water from Mount Kenya can be diverted through the ponds before joining the river again. In this manner there is no impact on this downstream communities.

A pond for growing trout fish, it has always running water, otherwise the fish dies
We visited two communities. The first has a fully functioning closed system that allows to produce the whole cycle from the fish fingerling to the trout fish for the market. This community even is testing an asexual breed, which is produced by a research center and which should grow faster than the normal fish.

This video shows a demonstration how to catch the "parent fish" and extract the eggs. The egg extraction needs a lot of experience, as a fish can only be out of water for less than 1 minutes and 30  seconds. These eggs are then kept indoor, in a small basin until they become fish fingerling. From there, they are kept in small wooden boxes that have running water, until they are big enough to survive in a small pond. From the small pond they will be moved to the big pond. A trout fish needs 10 months to come to maturity. A parent fish can produce eggs for about 2 -3 years before it needs to be replaced.
The extracted fish eggs
The fish fingerling, kept inside
Basin for fingerlings before they are big enough for the big ponds
This community also produces it own fish food with fish leftover, soy flour they buy on the market and other farm residues.

The machine to make fish food
The second community we visited, just has three functioning ponds, but run out of capital to construct other ponds, or the infrastructure to produce their food or the fish fingerling. The community of 25 farmers from the surrounding villages got the licence for the forest, and produce little fish but they have big plans. Next to a complete infrastructure, they also want to create an eco-lodge where people can enjoy the forest and come fishing. As trout fish has a huge potential and there is a market deficit, this is a promising project. 
The ponds of the second community, can yield at 6000 marketable fishes
Any idea where this community could get funds to develop further? then let me know!

The community members presenting their projects

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