For a hardworking and smart fisherman, there is no dry day on the farm as Laban Mwanzo can attest. Mwanzo, runs LABED Cash Marine where he rears catfish on 27 ponds on his five acre farm in Malava sub-county, Kakamega County. He is among the fish farmers trained by Kakamega County government on fish farming.
“This is a fulfilling venture. I have learnt a lot on breeding fingerlings and managing a hatchery. I know the best feeds and how to maximise on yields,” he says.
His fingerling hatchery farm is among those certified by the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute.
At the farm, he breeds catfish, Tilapia and ornamental fish. Owing to his prowess, he has secured a multi-million contract to supply fingerlings to farmers across the 12 sub-counties.
He sells a two months old fingerling at Sh2.50 each and three month old at Sh10 a piece.
To start off, Mwanzo spent Sh500,000 to set up the hatchery which comprises several tanks, special troughs, polythene paper that resembles a greenhouse, a network of water pipes and an oxygen cylinder.
He settled on fingerling breeding business after attending a training.
“I developed a passion for fish farming way back in 2009. Back then, I had a small pond where I used to rear ornamental fish as a hobby. With training here and there, I have expanded the business,” Mwanzo says.
The lessons learnt
Along his journey, he has learnt a lot about the fish including the mating habits.
“When they are ready for mating, the females develop red lips when carrying eggs in the mouth while male fish wear a glittering bluish colour that help them lure females to their dens.”
On the farm, each fish pond has adhered to the 1:3 recommended ratio of male to female fish to ensure proper mating. To guarantee 99 per cent hatching, Mwanzo ensures the eggs are incubated in special tanks whose water temperature must be 21 degrees centigrade.
“Once eggs have been extracted from the mouth of the female fish, I put them in an incubator within the hatchery and the mother fish are taken to a nursing pond to heal from stress,” explains Mwanzo.
Under proper management, the eggs will hatch in three days. The fries are then transferred to nursing ponds where they are fed on harmonised feeds for 28 days. The month old fingerlings are then moved into ‘Harbour nets’ erected inside the main ponds.
“Harbour nets” confine the fingerlings and ensure they are well fed, the nets protect them from grown fish, he explains.
The business has enabled him travel far and wide.
“I have been to Israel, Germany, Netherlands and many other destinations across the globe just because of this enterprise.”
Mwanzo has benefited immensely from the travels because he has seen how technology can transform things.
“In places like Israel, fish farmers have machines to regulate temperature, process feeds and do many other things efficiently,” he says.
From the fish money, he has bought a 27 acre-piece of land plus more.
“I also pay school fees for one of my children at the university and two in high school.”
Mwanzo has also employed a farm hand who help him a great deal in managing the ponds.
Though he has broken even, the journey has had its fair share of challenges.
One is the high costs of feeds, unhealthy competition due to cheap fish imported from China, predators and water shortage during dry spells.
As a solution, he proposes the county government fishing farming subsidy program to run in every sub-county as selling and collection points.
Another solution is for the national government to intervene and stop the cheap imports.