Vijabiz project changed the fortunes of Kibaokiche Group and was a wake-up call for rural youth in Kaloleni sub-county.

The Kibaokiche Fish Farmers Youth Group, working in the Kaloleni sub-county in Kilifi county, has been farming fish since June 2018.Before joining the Vijabiz project,we lacked the skills and knowledge on fish farming practices needed to run a profitable business. We did not have specific know-how on fish varieties, feeding practices and pond management. We reared poor quality breeds of fish that took time to mature  – it could take up to one year, and the  fish would be irregular sizes-KIBAOKICHE FISH FARMERS YOUTH GROUP.

The Kibaokiche Fish Farmers Youth Group was already engaged in fish farming when it joined the Vijabiz project.

After learning about modern methods of fish farming, including using the right breed of fish, improved feeding methods and managing the ponds properly, the group’s production increased significantly.

Selling 80% of its products in processed form fetched an even higher price. One of the successes of the group has been the number of women who have been able to develop their role in the fisheries business.

The group, comprised of 16 men and nine women, used traditional methods of fish farming, where they reared small numbers of fish that took a long time to mature. It was difficult to find a market for their undersized and poor-quality fish, leading to losses.

Vijabiz invited the group for several training courses that changed the fortune of the group. They are now the only youth group in the ward undertaking fish rearing, and it is showing great promise so far.

…it was the power of information that transformed Kibaokiche group…

“We were already involved in fish farming, so our members were eager to join the business opportunity workshop organised by Vijabiz in Nakuru and an intensive training course on fish farming in Sagana Kirinyiga county in January 2019,

there, we learnt about modern methods of fish farming, including using the right breed of fish, improved feeding methods and pond management,

we were also linked to different markets by the Nakuru County Government Department of Fisheries. Two members of the Kibaokiche group attended the training course, passing on the knowledge to the rest of the group,

part of the training course was a tour of successful fish projects from which we were able to learn from first-hand. This crucial training and learning journey contributed to many changes in our group,

we now use fast-maturing breeds of tilapia that come from a source verified by the Department of Fisheries. These breeds take around six months to mature, allowing us to harvest and sell our first batch of fish in July 2019,

we would like to stock more fish in our ponds, but at the moment we are limited in our capacity to buy quality fish feed. We do know which shops sell the right feed but they are a bit more expensive, which can be a barrier at times,

the quality of this first harvest was also partly due to our improved feeding approach. We now implement a new daily feeding system for our fish, which changes the feeding process and types of feed depending on the different stages of development of the fish,

before, we were under- or overfeeding our fish. Now we know exactly how to determine the right amount of feed: by observing the fish. If we overfeed them, the leftover feed starts polluting the pond, and if we underfeed them, their growth is stunted,

generally, it is said that fish consume about 5% of their weight – so when they grow, we feed them more. But it is a bit more complicated than this, we have learnt,”

…they have learnt how to overcome challenges…

“The climate, for example, can influence how much they eat. Also, the fish have other sources of nutrition that they find in the pond,

now we do not just feed them a specific amount based on a calculation, but we pay attention to them. We watch as they respond to the feeding and adapt. We also make sure we continuously check water and oxygen levels,

when water levels are down, we add piped water. This year the rains were late, which meant we needed to buy water, in turn affecting production costs. Higher costs forced us to harvest and sell our fish earlier than expected,

sometimes when there is not enough water, we oxygenate the water that we have. Ponds require a lot of fresh oxygen and this is done by gently splashing the water using tree branches, and running fresh water through the pond,

we can tell when to oxygenate a pond by looking at its surface, noticing when the fish are struggling at the surface for too long in search of fresh air,”

Sales, sales and more sales!

“With the skills acquired from these training courses, the group’s fish harvest in July 2019 was more than 375 kg. Most of the fish was processed into fried and cooked fish for our large customer, the Damview Hotel Mariakani,

we also processed the fish into fried fish fish balls and fish samosas which two of our members sold on the market. We sold 80% of our products in processed form, selling at an average of KSh 450 (€4) per kg. This is an incredible improvement compared to the price we were fetching for our unprocessed fish: only KSh 220 (€2) per kg,

the group’s area of operation and the target market are the local open markets, as well as Kibaokiche High School and hotels in Kaloleni such as Hotel Damview Hotel Mariakani,

before we sell, we carry out market research to find out who we can target to sell our fish to. Initially, we would sell only 30% of the fish we stocked. Now we sell over 95%, increasing our revenues substantially. This is also because we created awareness in our communities about the products we sell,

through the use of online platforms such as Facebook, we are able to market our fish and widen our market share,”

‘Unfortunately, not everyone can afford fish, which still limits the sales we make, but more and more people are interested. As Kenya has a large market for fish, imported fish from China is widely prevalent. Poor government legislation concerning this market has contributed to their influence in the fish market and is limiting space for small-scale fish businesses like ours. Yet since we are now producing better quality fish, which are big in size and mature fast, we are able to compete with other fish traders in the market’

The Kilifi County Trade and Tourism Department gave us a KSh 100,000 (€915) loan for expanding our business. We managed to utilise the funds efficiently, hence the department selected us to showcase our work to other youth groups,

as such, we have been demonstrating to other groups how grants and loans could grow their businesses. Our training on business management was surely essential for this success,”

“we are grateful to Vijabiz project”, says the group…

“The Kibaokiche Fish Farmers Youth Group is now more empowered to run fish farming as a business: we produce high quality fish and are able to find a market for our produce. Poverty in the country can be reduced through vigorous youth empowerment programmes such as Vijabiz,

the group has been producing fish at a farm it rents which holds two ponds but has recently started leasing a space – paid for with members’ contributions – where we plan to construct up to ten ponds,

this could boost our production significantly, as a single pond produces approximately 400 kg of fish,

one of the successes of our group is the number of women who have been able to develop their role in the fisheries business,

the women in our group have already shown improvement in their living standards and are becoming more independent economically

it would be highly beneficial if Vijabiz and all its partners continue their efforts in empowering rural youth, as it will help many to set up income generating activities which will unlock their financial freedom. We want all youth in the subcounty to realise the benefits of participating in agribusiness. With Vijabiz we are ready to go!”