Impact Area

Inclusive Aquaculture in Kenya

The African food fellowship aims to bring together different professionals
working in the Kenyan aquaculture space with the capacity to push for enabling reforms at
both the county and national levels, and also support to advocate for
a more inclusive and sustainable aquaculture sector.

Current state of aquaculture in Kenya

Kenya’s promising aquaculture industry is exposed to a set of wide-ranging structural impediments in policy, market systems development, financing and environmental conservation. While, the Kenyan population demanding for fish is increasing rapidly, because rising disposable incomes and increased awareness of the nutritional benefits, overfishing is putting pressure of catch fisheries. Gaps in meeting the domestic demand are increasingly met through importing products from neighboring countries and from China. The latter is supplying 87 percent of the product and vying for total market control, that is traders pay half the local price for frozen tilapia from China, which is cheaper than that imported from Uganda. Dwindling fish reserves are put pressure on the fishing community, causing conflicts with cage farming, in addition to other social problems. Most infamous is the practice of sex for caught fish (Jaboya). This is believed to increase HIV rates, which are among the highest along Lake Victoria’s shore. Inconsistent policies, inefficient market systems for smallholder farmers (particularly women and youth) and limited financing options affect sector development.

Aquaculture can mitigate the damage that fish scarcity causes to the environment and society, however, Kenya’s aquaculture sector and resources potential remains largely untapped. The approach is perceived as a threat and remains insufficiently embraced by fishing communities. Aquaculture contributes only 10 percent of the fish sold, and local trade is largely informal. Many Kenyan women are excluded from the value chain owing to its machismo, limited land and resources. Implementation of developed policies and regulations lags behind. The best practices for cage farming are known and robust. Fish farming demands discipline, data recording and managerial competency, all of which rely on education and careful implementation. Whether fish farming is congruent with fishing culture also needs confronting, as do the behavioural changes required for integrating aquaculture into fishing communities. The country has a vast network of resources that can be used to develop a commercial aquaculture sector, one which could produce critical volumes to fill the growing national demand for fish. FAO points out the significant potential for aquaculture to simultaneously create investment opportunities, empower women, contribute to healthier diets, protect biodiversity and build climate resilience. While contemplating the benefits of expanding Kenya’s aquaculture, we should organise it in a way that serves everyone.

Is there hope?

Kenya considers aquaculture a critical growth sector. The country’s Vision 2030, together with other legal policy and institutional frameworks recognize aquaculture as a source of food security, poverty reduction, and employment creation. Government, industry, research and civil society stakeholders recently renewed their commitment to develop and economically and environmentally sustainable aquaculture sector that is inclusive for the well-being of all Kenyans. Government support, private sector investment and existing (in)formal networks of stakeholders offer food systems leaders the right space and resources to realise this ambition. Aquaculture offers promising prospects for industry development in providing high quality and affordable fish feed, equipment, hatcheries, local processing, urban fish outlets, (cold) storage and transportation. The value chain has huge potential to create employment and empower communities especially among youth and women.

The African Food Fellowship is supporting a network of changemakers active in the Kenyan aquaculture space that is already involved and committed to harness the potential of aquaculture in the country. Fellows graduating from the 2021 African Food Fellowship cohort are active in shaping policy agendas and setting investment priorities for action in the Kenyan aquaculture sector. Here are some of their reflections on their Fellowship journey:

"An opportunity was provided through the African Food Fellowship to share my opinion in a Kenyan daily newspaper about the impacts of importing frozen tilapia from China. I have since received several calls to suggest how we can be able to utilize our local resources to be independent in fish production. With this publicity, I have secured numerous connections and networks with media, private investors and scholars. We are now in the process of making a robust study on the socio-economic impacts of imported frozen tilapia in the Kenyan aquaculture value chain space" Aquaculture Fellow, Kenya Cohort 2021.

"Before I joined the fellowship, I used to think of aquaculture in terms of how to clearly define the value chain and the challenges of developing it in Kenya. I now understand that there are other external factors that interact with the aquaculture sector either positively or negatively including the environment, government policies etc. My thinking has expanded beyond the this value chain to other areas that may affect or be affected by aquaculture practices either negatively or positively. Thus, when I am making decisions, I will be aware of the wider picture and prepare for uncertainties." Aquaculture Fellow, Kenya Cohort 2021.

Are you ready to emerge as one of the architects of Kenya’s aquaculture future? Apply for to participate in the African Food Fellowship.

Sources of information

  • Kenyan Marine and Fisheries Research Institute(KMFRI): (accessed 1 March 2021)
  • UNEP Nairobi Convention: (accessed 1 March 2021)
  • Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS): (accessed 1 March 2021)
  • Rampa, F., and Dekeyser, K. 2020. AgrInvest-Food Systems Project – Political economy analysis of the Kenyan food systems. Key political economy factors and promising value chains to improve food system sustainability. Rome, FAO.
  • Obwanga, B., & Lewo, M.R., 2017. From aid to responsible trade: driving competitive aquaculture sector development in Kenya; Quick scan of robustness, reliability and resilience of the aquaculture sector. Wageningen, Wageningen University & Research, Report 2017-092 3R Kenya. 68 pp.; 5 fig.; 3 tab.; 64 ref.
  • UN Comtrade Database: (accessed 1 March 2021)
  • Peter van der Heijden, Senior Adviser Aquaculture & Fisheries Management, Wageningen University & Research
  • Ted Schrader, Senior Adviser Rural Economic Development, Wageningen University & Research
  • Dave Okech, Chairperson, Association of Fish Cage Farmers in Kenya
  • Angela Odero, Director, Rio Holdings Ltd.