Turkwel dam has become one of the major producers of fish after the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) and the County Government began implementing several new aquaculture practices to boost farmed fish production to increase food and nutrition security as well as livelihood opportunities.
Fish production in the area has turned out to be a best venture on food security hence locals changed their diet.
Many villages in North and Central Pokot Sub Counties, West Pokot County are badly hit by child stunting due to high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition.
Limited access to food crops is a major factor leading to nutritional deficiency.
KVDA Chairperson Mark Chesergon who spoke on Sunday while on fish management mission at the dam in Riting area said that six months ago they restocked 150,000 fingerlings and fish production was increasing.
“The fish are now healthier than the ones they got before. Earlier; fish did not fetch good money on the market. A fish used to go at Shs. 50 but now is Sh 100,” he said.
He said that the authority restocks and conserves fish and monitors the progress in the Dam as one of the sustainable activities.
“We want to train and empower the Beach Management unit (BMU) committee and fishermen. We want to know the production of fish since we last restocked,” he said.
He pointed out that they want to train fishermen to understand the rules on fishing and handling fish as a way of promoting fish.
“They should understand the type of equipment and type nets and processing all the way to the market,” he said.
The Chairman noted that the authority is dedicated to changing this narrative and encouraging more people to adopt fish farming and consuming fish and fish products.
“The project aims at promoting income, food and nutrition security,” he said.
North Rift Fisheries Coordinator Ann Mokoro said that in 2020, the total production was 108 tonnes and reduced to 28 tonnes 2021.
She noted that the fish that were stocked in the lake in November 2021 and December 2021 were 100,000 and 50,000 respectively.
“The natural population of fish in the lake is always in the ratio of 1:2 meaning that 100 males and 50 females restocked in the lake,” she said.
She lauded KVDA Monitoring and restocking for a long time.
“They realized that the stocks were going down and fishermen started complaining over lack of fish and they stopped fishing,” she said.
Ms Mokoro noted that they will train fishermen on value addition to increase the prices and get markets outside the County.
“The prices are very low. A fish of 300 grams is sold at Sh 200 in Kapenguria which is sold at Shs 500. There is a need for restocking to reduce breeding,” she said.
Ms Mokoro said tilapia and catfish are the ones reared with the major source being from Turkwel dam and most of the ponds are community owned.
Dinah Loporinya, a 41 year old fish trader at Riting area said fish has helped her get income and as food for her children.
She said that the venture has made women in the area to come in groups where they engage in merry go rounds.
“Initially we were not eating fish and we used to refer to it as a snake. We came to realize that fish is food and medicine. KVDA and The County Government gave us fish and the venture has helped us and our economy. Our youth have learned fishing,” she said.
Among the villages benefiting from the project are Kodung’ole, Chepkachil, Kaletiang and Riting.
A fisherman at the dam, Peter Okoth who started the job in 1994 said that he is the one who encouraged residents to start eating fish.