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Aqua Shops – a new era for Africa’s fish farming industry?

Fish farming continues to boom in Kenya offering large economic growth; the country’s economy growing 4.9 per cent overall in the first quarter of last year according to the World Bank

After combined effects of post election violence back in 2008 and the global economic crash, Kenya introduced its economic stimulus to recover and stimulate its economy; one of the activities covered by the policy being the provision of aquaculture.

Farm Africa, a charity which helps smallholders increase their harvests; claim that 60 per cent of households in western Kenya depend on fish as a source of food or income. The charity promotes fish production in Western Kenya and has been operating their Aqua Shops project since 2011, establishing a sustainable distribution system of fish in five counties – Kakamega, Kisumu, Vihiga, Busia, and Kisii-of Western Kenya. The charity said the shops ‘are part of a larger model, similar to a franchise, and are managed by local business owners who invest in the establishment of the shops’.

The business owners then provide smallholders with inputs and technical advice and teach fish farmers how to connect their businesses with markets to generate more income.

Persuading county governments to adopt a commercial perspective to aquaculture, its project has grown significantly over the last three years, with the establishment of 38 additional aqua shops.

Farm Africa claim over 7,500 farmers have been reached and helped by the scheme. Compassion in World Farming is another charity dedicated to the promotion of respect for animals. It advocates fair treatment for all species of animal, including fish. Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Adviser for Compassion in World Farming said, ‘a balance of health and welfare is better for both the fish and the farmer’. Stevenson stated that fish farmers on a worldwide scale need to make sure ‘fish and animal welfare is a top priority’ – including the checking of water C02 levels, making sure the shops were not overcrowded and making fish as comfortable as possible. Whilst he said he was not an expert in aquaculture, he stands for farmed animal rights on a broad scale.

Stevenson has recently been a member of the Council of Europe Expert Group for the welfare of farmed Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout, and warned that whilst in transport farmed fish can often come distressed and their welfare can be affected.