Innovation of the Week: Aqua Shops

By Eleanor Fausold

Aquaculture has potential to stimulate economic growth and increase food production in Kenya. (Photo credit: Lilian Kamola Kaivilu)

In Western Kenya, where nearly 60 percent of households depend on fish as a source of income, dwindling fish supplies are hurting the economy and those who rely on fish as a source of food. Lake Victoria currently provides over 90 percent of Kenya’s fish supply, but a combination of overfishing and pollution have led to a decline in fish stocks, causing prices to rise because supply is not keeping up with demand.

As a solution, Kenya’s government is supporting the development of aquaculture in an effort to promote economic growth and stimulate food production. In addition to providing basic infrastructure and supporting research and development, the government is also providing funding for the construction of 46,000 fish ponds in 160 of the country’s 210 constituencies and has given farmers catfish and tilapia fingerlings, or very young fish, and fish feed to help get them started. Despite these governmental efforts, however, many farmers still lack access to the support and inputs required for long-term success.

In an effort to supplement and further the Kenyan government’s initiatives, FARM-Africa, in partnership with Natural Resources International, the University of Stirling, Imani Development, the U.K. Department for International Development Research Into Use Programme, and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, has established a series of six Aqua Shops in western Kenya. These shops provide farmers with technical advice about aquaculture practices and give them the materials, including fish feed and manure (for fertilization), needed to set up and maintain healthy fish ponds and lakes.

The Aqua Shops run under a franchise system through which one franchisor establishes a network of shops and then recruits franchisees to manage individual locations. To run a shop, each person chosen must demonstrate that he or she has had relevant practical experience and has enough capital to invest in the shops. The owners must also participate in an intensive two week training course on agribusiness and aquaculture run by FARM-Africa. Once the businesses are up and running, FARM-Africa helps link them to important input suppliers, giving them the information they need to help farmers generate more income and get the most out of their businesses.

So far, the program has prepared over 600 farmers to run fish farming businesses. As Susan Otieno, the Aqua Shop project coordinator, explains, “initial training for farmer groups was provided by FARM-Africa in order to stimulate demand for Aqua Shop services,” as many farmers lacked technical knowledge and did not understand how Aqua Shops could help meet their needs. Now, however, she says that many Aqua Shops are “offering their own training for a fee” and notes that “the plan is that all training services will be handled by Aqua Shops in the future.”

FARM-Africa hopes to expand the project nationally and, ultimately, throughout the region in East Africa. This expansion, however, is currently limited due to a lack of funding and resource availability. One promising way to increase availability of resources, Otieno suggests, is to encourage private sector investment in these initiatives. She says that “interventions that are business-oriented and involve the private sector have the possibility to be self-sustaining in a shorter period of time. Private sector investment also drives competition and efficiency, which is essential if the sector is to survive.”

Do you know of any other innovations in aquaculture? Tell us below!

Eleanor Fausold is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To read more about aquaculture, see: Is Aquaculture the Answer to Rising Global Protein Demand?, Fishing for Sustainable Aquaculture Practices, and Sustainability Questions Over Fish Farming

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