Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Sustainable and green just by changing profession

by Edgars Skvariks 

Photo by Edgars Skvariks

In a country where farmers are dealing with traditions and cultivate mostly maize, it is difficult to launch new techniques and outlook for industry. Therefore, project implementers often choose to start with one of the region's farmers who have been offered to change his profession. If the project succeeds it may be of help to other farmers. And these techniques, in turn, can contribute to regional economic growth.

In Uranga district, Kenya, Millennium Villages Project (MVP) has supported the development of region fisheries. Mountainous terrain has created a number of natural pools, each generally 760 square metres wide.

Luke Ayieta Kuundu previously grew maize, but it was not sufficiently profitable to feed his family. He did not have stock, therefore all of the harvested products were sold at unfavorable prices, and soon his family was left to starve. In 2007 he began to manage his own fish farming company and now admits that it has been a successful decision.

Photo by Edgars Skvariks
In the nearby region farmers have created 60 such pools, each of which costs about 180 EUR. Half of the cost covers MVP, but the farmer has to dig pools and to provide co-financing. Expanding production and fish production levels, MVP hopes to support 1550 farmers and their fisheries, which would produce 282 tons of tilapia and 441 tons of catfish by 2015.

"The hardest part is getting the necessary food for the fish. We have to be creative, it is the only way how we can successfully develop our business," says Luke, showing me a bag filled of beef and chicken manure, with which he feeds planktons, thus providing a living food chain. The owner just has to refill the bag, put it in the water and the plankton is fed.
On a relatively small piece of land, Luke has three large pools and two of them are interconnected. In order to catch catfish, pool waters have to be drained. To avoid losing the water, which is full of necessary nutrients, Luke has made a system that recollects it again.

When fish are grown and weigh 5-10 grams, they are moved to another, bigger pool. Just one catfish is able to produce at least 10 000 eggs, and only 8 000 will fit for the breeding program. Each of these eggs costs an average of five Kenyan shillings, or 0.05 EUR at market. It would seem that it is a relatively small amount, but what must be remembered is that fish are capable of producing new eggs every two months. "By selling small fish, we can earn 2.5 shillings. If we wait for four months and let the fish grow, the price reaches 60-90 shillings for fish," says Luke. In this way he is able to be sustainable and independent from bank loans and co-sponsors.

Photo by Edgars Skvariks.
In just four years Luke has expanded his business, hired three people, bought neighboring land and planted papaya. "The largest and most beautiful ones we sell on the market. What we can’t sell gets on our dishes," said Luke.

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