From a small fish farmer to an international consultant
FAO provided Shadrack with the feed to jump start the two existing fish ponds which were still operating below capacity, as well as built two additional fish ponds.
When Shadrack Kipkurui Meli completed his Diploma in Fisheries and Aquaculture from Moi University, Chepkoilel Campus, he did not know that being a fish farmer would transform his life to an international consultant in aquaculture.
Upon completion of his studies in 2013, the 27-year-old fifth born of six children went to central Kenya, Mwea, to work on a fish farm. During his two year stint he trained many fishfarmers, and the uptake was overwhelming even though traditionally people from Central part of Kenya do not eat fish.
This overwhelming response was what jolted him to come back home, to Nandi in 2015. At the time, his father had already started two fish ponds, as part of the then government project to introduce fish farming, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.
It was by happenstance that at the same time Shadrack had made the decision to embark on fish farming, and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) had already earmarked their farm for capacity building. FAO provided the feed to jump start the two existing fishponds which were still operating below capacity, as well as built two additional fishponds.
When the FAO Kenya Representative to Kenya Dr Gabriel Rugalema visited the farm on 25 April 2019, Shadrack’s Senetwa FishFarm had eight ponds with two species of fish– tilapia and catfish. Two of the eight fishponds are nurseries.
“It is impressive to see young farmers taking up farming actively and training other people who get interested when they see farming as a successful income generating activity. Keep on growing and adding onto your body of knowledge. Together, we can eradicate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition,” said Dr Rugalema.
In Nandi alone, Shadrack has trained 100 farmers. He has also trained other farmers in Tanzania and Uganda. In 2017, he participated in the young entrepreneurial training organized by FAO in Benin. With Shadrack’s leadership, the fish farmers in Nandi have recently formed a co-corporative as part of their access to larger markets strategy.
Market is vital for the success of any business. For Shadrack, access to local markets is not a problem as he sells his catch in Elgeyo Marakwet, within Nandi County and sometimes as far as Nakuru – depending on where the orders come from. Currently, Shadrack’s minimum income per month is Sh20,000. He sells a 300g Tilapia at Sh100 per piece, and a six to eight-month old Catfish at Sh300 per kilo.
“I must keep between 1,000 and 5000 fingerlings at any given time. Initially, I was a fingerling farmer, but I realized that the fingerling market is not big here, mainly because at the time there weren’t many fishfarmers. So I diversified to a table-fish farmer in addition to selling the occasional fingerlings. It’s been an upward growth since making this decision,” said a smiling Shadrack.
On the side of the fish farm, is a healthy plot of maize crop which has been irrigated with waste water from the ponds.
Shadrack’s farm is an excellent demonstration of how value chains (aquaculture and crop farming) can be managed together, and how young people are the epicenter of zero hunger and food security.