Following several interventions by Kerio Valley Development Authority and West Pokot county government to implement new aquaculture practices in Turkwel dam, the dam now holds a great potential to address challenges of food, nutritional security and poverty reduction in the region through fish farming.
Several government intervention measures on new aquaculture practices in Turwkel dam has turned out fish farming as an innovative strategy for promoting food security and dietary diversities among vulnerable households in the drought risk region of West Pokot County.
The government through the cash transfers and community empowerment programs in the region is contributing to the fight against child malnutrition and violence against children.
Children under five years of age in many villages in North and Central Pokot Sub Counties, West Pokot County are badly hit by stunting due to high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition.
Poor dietary diversity, poor feeding practices and reduced food intake is a major factor leading to rise in malnutrition rates in the region.
On Sunday, KVDA Chairperson Mark Chesergon while on a fish management mission at the Turwkel dam said the dam holds a great potential to address challenges of food, nutritional security and poverty reduction in the region.
“We close the dam for six months after we restocked 150,000 fingerlings to allow the restocked fingerlings to mature, and we have realized they have matured and fish production has increased, the fish are now healthier than the ones the fishermen got before. Fish did not fetch good money on the market. A fish used to go at Sh50 but now is Sh100, we are happy to know the progress,’’ KVDA Chairperson said.
He said that the authority restocks and conserves fish and monitors the progress in the dam as one of the sustainable activities by the government to boost food security and improve nutrition as well as livelihood opportunities.
He noted that the Authority wants to train and empower BMU and fishermen for them to be effective in conservation of beaches and sustainable fishing practices.
“We want to train and empower the Beach Management Unit (BMU) committee and fishermen, we want to know their progress and production of fish after we restocked the dam for effective conservation of beaches and sustainable fishing practices,” he said.
He said the aquaculture in West Pokot is still in its infancy stages, noting the authority is dedicated to gradually changing the narrative and encouraging more residents to embrace fish farming for food and economic benefits.
According to North Rift Fisheries Coordinator Ann Mokoro, the aim of the project is to promote income, food and nutrition security in the region.
“I thank KVDA for good work they have done in monitoring this dam for long time and for stocking the dam with fish because they realized that the stock were going down, from the records that we have, in the year 2020 the total production was about 108 tonnes, and it started decreasing to up to 28 tonnes so fishermen started complaining about lack of fish in the dam and therefore KVDA stock fish ,the fish which was stock in the dam in November 2022 and December 2021 was 100,000 and 50,000 respectively,” she said.
“In the natural popular of fish, we always have a ratio of 1:2 meaning that they were 100 females and 50 males which were stock in the dam from the sources that they got the fish that is Lake Basin Development Authority and the university of Eldoret we have realized that they got Oreochromis niloticus type of fish which is a better quality of fish which grows to a big maximum size and it going to add more potential to the dam,” she further explained.
She noted the reason for stocking the dam was to reduce breeding. “When fish of same family remain together for long, they become of the same type, and they get stunted because of inbreeding. What is coming out now is that average the size of fish has increased from 200 grams to around 300 grams because there is no more in breeding in the dam. The total production has also increased because the fishermen say initially, they were getting around 200 grams of fish, but now it has now increased and also the total number when the put the net in the dam they get many fish unlike before,” she noted.
She lauded residents who have food and more money in their pocket unlike before they ventured into fish farming business but noted that there is a gap in training of fishermen on fisheries and BMU regulations.
“Kenya Fisheries Services in collaboration with KVDA we are planning train fishermen and BMU committee on fisheries and BMU regulations, we have to train the community on the good and bad fishing gears so that we reduce illegalities in the dam which actually people really don’t understand that are illegalities, same time we need fishermen to be safe. we will also come with safety training so that when they go to the dam people don’t drown,” she alerted.
She further said fishermen and BMU committee needed to know the impact of extreme events such as increased temperature, dam level rise, floods and drought while in the dam.
“We will also bring in the issue of safety in terms of climate change because we realize that winds’ direction is changing now and then so these people need to be trained on climate issues so that every time they go to the dam, they have to listen to their radios and watch their televisions to understand when they should go to the dam when the weather is favouring them because some time the bad weather leads to insecurity in the dam,” she explained.
Ms Mokoro noted that they would train fishermen on value addition to increase the prices and get markets outside the county.
“Another issue we have realized in this place is that prices of fish are very low, and therefore we plan to train them on value addition so that they can increase the prices of fish and even take them to markets outside Kapenguria town because here in Kapenguria the same which is 300 grams which goes up to Sh500 in Eldoret town they are selling it at maximum of Sh200 so if they are assisted to get equipment for value addition and they will get more money,” she reiterated.
She reiterated the need to support this project by restocking fingerlings, supplying fishing materials and by training fishermen in safety measures’ while in water.
Regina Lopkorinyang, a 41-year-old fish trader at Riting area said she was struggling to feed and educate her children but after venturing into fish business, she is able to feed her children and even take them to school.
She said fish business enables women in villages of Kodung’ole, Chepkachil, Kaletiang and Riting to form women groups for merry go rounds into money spinning enterprises for members.
“Initially we were not eating fish, and we used to refer to it as a snake. We came to realize that fish is food and medicine,” she said.
She thanked KVDA and the county government for giving the fish which helped transform our livelihoods.
“Fish have enabled us to educate our children, have food for our families and helped create employment for women and youth,” she noted.
A fisherman at the dam, Charles Owiti said he has encouraged six youth from the region to start a fish business.
He lauds the prevailing peace in Turkwel dam through the fish business the residents engage in and how the dam has created employment for the youths and women.