Concrete ponds, some round others rectangular, dot the fish farm in Kibarani, Kilifi County.
The ponds are owned by Shibe Delta General Enterprises Ltd, which comprises of 13 youths, and keeps catfish and tilapia.
“We raised money through the table-banking system to build our first pond and stocked in 500 tilapia fish. We then introduced catfish after finding it easier to keep and it has good market locally,” Dickson Mzungu, the chairman, tells Mkulima Young, adding that they started as a self-help group before upgrading to a limited company in 2014.
The business has been growing slowly but steadily grown since then, soaring as they recouped their profits back into it and built more ponds.
They later got a shot in the arm a year ago after they were trained and offered a grant through Vijabiz project run by Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the USTADI Foundation.
“We got financial support that has enabled us start the construction of 10 customised ponds and we are stocking them with 1,000 fish each. The 10 ponds will use the re-circulatory system that enables intensive farming where maximum stocking is effected,” says Mzungu.
Currently, they have a stock of 7,200 fish, but most of it is fingerlings introduced into the ponds in July.
“Harvesting starts after about four months where we harvest some 1,800kg. Four pieces make a kilo, but with proper feeding, three pieces can,” he says.
They sell a kilo of fish at between Sh250 and Sh300, says David Shehe, a member of the group.
Besides selling fresh tilapia and catfish, they also add value to the fish ending up with dried, fried and filleted products.
Other products include fish sausages, crumbs, powder meal, concentrates and minced fish meal.
“Our target market includes households, local markets in Kibarani, fish mongers (mama karangas) and hoteliers,” says Shehe.
The group markets its products by word of mouth at open air markets, Mkulima Young platform, social media platforms like WhatsApp, trade fairs and whenever they are invited to youth or agribusiness talk shows at local radio stations.
The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted business for them by curbing social gatherings where members of the group would visit and sell their products.
“The disease has also affected open air markets where we used to visit and collect fish orders from vendors and supply,” says Shehe.
Among the things they have lined up is setting up a fish shop where their products can be accessed easily by customers, fencing of the fish production project and lobbying the Kilifi County government to sink a borehole in the locality.
“Private firms are ready to sink a borehole for us and the community but at a cost of first Sh45,000 for geological test before one gets quotation, but we don’t have the money,” says Mzungu, adding that their overall goal is to offer a long-term solution to unemployment and food nutritional insecurity to local populations.
Noel Kasololo, the project officer Ustadi Foundation, says the registration of the group as a limited company would enable them sell their products to formal markets like supermarkets and other parts of the country.