If we Kenyans ate as much fish as we devour beef, thousands more of us would smile all the way to the bank and millions would be healthier. As white meat with less saturated fat than red meat, fish is healthier. But it can also lead to healthier wallets because Kenya’s potential for aquaculture is a whopping 1.4 million hectares. This can produce more than 750,000 tonnes worth KES250 billion.
But reaping these gains from the local market largely depends on our eating habits. That is why in 2014, the Ministry of Agriculture launched the ‘Eat More Fish’ campaign across the country in places like Narok, Kirinyaga and Nyeri. It is a simple case of supply and demand. We have more Japanese cars on our roads because we Kenyans demand for them.
We will only have more fish on our plates and consequently more money in our economy if we Kenyans demand for them. Currently, weeat approximately 4.5Kg of fish per person per year instead of the 17kg per person per year that is in accordance with global fish consumption standards. But despite our low fish consumption, we still cannot meet the local demand.
Every time we drop by our local fish joint for a plate of hot tilapia, it’svery possible that the fish could have come from China, India, Seychelles or Tanzania our main fish import sources. Fish processing factories have also not been spared the low fish supply.
John Msafari Chairman of the Kenya Fish Processors and Exporters Association (AFIPEK) reports that since 2002, twelve Nile Perch fish processing factories have had to shut down due to lack of raw materials. The factories were processing on average about 40 tons of fish each in two shifts per day and employing about 600 people each.
This lack of fish is simply unacceptable for a country with a sizable share of the largest freshwater lake in Africa and a decent share of the Indian Ocean. We need to work aggressively and strategically to build a sustainable fish industry that will provide sufficient supply without depleting our lakes and ocean.
Sustainable fishery has critical ally in the fisheries law that was enacted in 2015. The Act seeks to, ‘protect, manage, use and develop the aquatic resources in a manner which is consistent with ecologically sustainable development, to uplift the living standards of the fishing communities and to introduce fishing to traditionally non-fishing communities and to enhance food security.’
We must as a matter of urgency and strategy implement this law to the fullest. This will be achieved if all the stakeholders in the sector, including forty million Kenyans join hands to make Kenya a fishery powerhouse. Not only does fishery have the power of employing hundreds of thousands of Kenyans, it can also keep all of us healthier. Let’s move from plant to action.Think Green, act green!
Yours in Green,
Dr Isaac Kalua