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How I made a fortune from fish farming

In 2010, when the government introduced fish farming as part of the economic stimulus package, David Makui embraced it by investing Sh100,000.

He ordered fish to stock the two fish ponds the government dug for him in Gatitika village, Kirinyaga County.

“This was a new sensation and the trainers sent by the government to help us set up businesses in the sector had told us that within a year, the poorest of us would be millionaires,” Makui recalls.

He then placed an order with one of the trainers who, two days later, brought him two large fish in a bucket of water.

“He told me it was a male and a female and that after mating the female would lay eggs, hatch and multiply. A day later he also brought me some creatures that looked like small fish and told me they were called fingerlings,” he said.

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Three days later he saw the two fish he had been told were fingerlings floating dead in the pond.

“It turned out that my supplier had bought two fish from some fishermen along a local river. They were barely alive when he put them in my pond. Within three weeks, the noise coming from the second pond was terrible. The fingerlings turned out to be tadpoles,” says Makui.

Undeterred, Makui decided to learn about fish farming, a journey that took him to a private farm in Githunguri, where he was taught the basics of pond management, protection from wading birds, fish breeds and sourcing, and husbandry.

“For two weeks, I would wake up from a local lodge and travel to the private farm to be empowered with knowledge. I paid Sh30,000 for the course and went back home,” he said.

He decided to develop his new fish ponds, a journey that took him until 2015 to raise the Sh200,000 he needed and another Sh80,000 for stocking.

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“I secured a loan of Sh300,000 and this time I got it right. I specialised in tilapia and mudfish breeds and by 2019, I had broken even,” he said.

He says he made a net profit of Sh500,000 from selling fish and fingerlings and training other farmers.

“What I did not know is that fish is a very popular food in the society and customers would line up in my compound to buy one to five catches for their own nutritional needs,” he says, adding that he had to employ two fishermen with baits to serve the customers.

He says fish farming became popular in the village and spread to neighbouring Nyeri County, where producer groups were formed.

“The Kirinyaga County government, donors and the business community took note of our enterprise. By 2020, the region was full of fish restaurants and the county government had contacted several donors to fund our groups,” he says.

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Although slugs and village thieves are a challenge in the sector, Makui has reaped huge profits from the venture.

“In the last three years, I have bought three acres of land for Sh1.8 million, bought a second hand car for Sh700,000, built a rental house for Sh2.3 million and live like a millionaire with my family of three boys,” he says.

For the past three years, he has been selling about 500 kilos of fish a week at Sh300 each from his eight fish ponds.

The biggest challenge, he says, is venturing into bigger markets.

“We are getting feedback that the sugar content of our fish is high. We have been told that customers are used to fish from lakes that have natural salts… The fish we grow using mechanised feeds and in artificial lakes that are fish ponds need to be made salty,” he said.