The Kenya Fish Marketing Authority (KFMA), a budding state agency established in 2016, has intensified efforts to enhance production and consumption of fish and fisheries products in Kenya. Despite the many nutritional benefits of eating fish, the delicacy is still shunned by some consumers. In addition to being rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins such as D and B2, fish is also a great source of calcium and phosphorus, iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium.
Speaking at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, the KFMA Board Chair, Hon. Martin Ogindo, said that among the strategic targets for the Authority is to expand the contribution of the fish industry to the national economy from the current Kshs. 30 billion to Kshs. 150 billion in the next three years.
This, he explained, would be achieved through abatement of postharvest loss, introduction of new value-added fish products, tightening quality assurance of fish products, and tapping on the research and technical expertise for informed evidence-based decision and policy making.
“People have started liking fish. Even in places where fish was not traditionally consumed, the commodity is becoming quite popular,” Ogindo said.
Hon. Ogindo, who was accompanied to JKUAT by the KFMA CEO, Eng. Samuel Onyango, added that they would be keen to learn about the avenues for transfer of the University’s technologies in the blue economy space, where fishery resources are a major component.
The Principal, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (COANRE), Prof. Daniel Sila, informed the visiting team that JKUAT had honed targeted capabilities in sustainable exploitation of blue economy resources. These strengths encompass various innovations in aquaculture, human capital development, and extensive networks.
Some of the forays of JKUAT in the space include working with stakeholders to boost the economic value of silver cyprinid fish, locally known as omena through promotion of consumption and reduction in postharvest loses.
Prof. Nelson Ojijo from the Department of Food Science & Technology who is the Principal Investigator in the collaborative research project on omena value chain upgrading, said that omena forms the bulk of fish landings from Lake Victoria and supports over two million livelihoods. The omena value chain upgrading project is a sub-component of the regional project dubbed “Strengthening Agricultural Knowledge & Innovation Ecosystem for Inclusive Rural Transformation & Livelihoods in Eastern Africa (AIRTEA)” funded by the EU and coordinated by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA).
Through the project, JKUAT and partners (Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, JKUAT Enterprises Ltd, and Beach Management Units at Dunga, Kisumu County, and Marenga, Busia County) have deployed hybrid (solar and biomass) greenhouse fish drying units at Dunga Beach in Kisumu County and Marenga Omena Beach in Busia County, which are the two project sites. The hybrid unit can dry omena in just three hours leading to significant reduction in postharvest loses.
“Fish is a highly perishable product and fisherfolk can lose up to 50% of landed catch depending on the weather and storage conditions,” Prof. Ojijo noted adding that only 30% of the harvested omena is used for food as the rest is either wasted or utilised to produce animal feeds.
The KFMA officials noted that a partnership with JKUAT would enable the Authority to realize its objectives, which include reducing post-harvest loses from the current average of 30% to below 10%.
Eng. Samuel Onyango noted that fish production in Kenya stood at 163,702 tons in 2021. He added that the sector is currently facing a number of challenges including low adoption of technology, uneven distribution of gains, lack of value-addition technologies and poor state of beach access roads
The per capita fish consumption in Kenya is relatively low and currently stands at 4.5 kg/person/year compared to Africa’s average of 10 kg/person/year. The global average consumption is 20 kg/person/year. The value-added omena-based products currently being developed by Prof. Ojijo and his team under the EU-funded project will go a long way in promoting fish consumption throughout the country.
Kenya currently has 445 documented fish landing points presenting a huge potential for integrated product visioning and value addition.
The meeting between the JKUAT and KFMA teams identified key areas for potential collaborative efforts between the two institutions.