“You creatures!” yells Lilly Kerubo.
Mrs. Kerubo is a fish farmer in Bonyunyu village in western Kenya’s Nyamira county. The 45-year-old calls to her fish as she walks along the sides of one of the three ponds on her two acres of land.
Bubbles rise to the surface of the water and ripples spread outward as the most excited of the fish occasionally jut their heads out of the water, as if to reach out to her.
Mrs. Kerubo smiles and lifts a trough full of fish feed. She says, “You see how they are happy after hearing my voice? These creatures are excited because I have brought them food.”
She says the ponds are usually so still that you don’t realize there are fish in them, especially when the fish have not been fed.
She feeds her fish twice a day, morning and evening.
But there were times when Mrs. Kerubo fed them only once a day.
She used to spend 35,000 Kenyan shillings (about $340 US) to buy feed every season. She almost gave up rearing fish because feed had become so expensive.
But she decided to make her own fish feed with locally available materials. That is why she can now comfortably afford to give the fish enough feed.
By using food waste such as vegetable peels, she can make her own fish feed at a much lower cost. She also uses dagaa powder—made from small fish—and grain chaff.
She explains: “After threshing finger millet, maize, or even sorghum, most farmers assume that the chaff is no longer useful for them and so they dispose [of] it. But I have tried it [to make feed] and it has perfectly worked for me.”
During harvest time, Mrs. Kerubo asks farmers for their threshing remains. The chaff is regarded as useless, and disposed of immediately after threshing. So they don’t charge her.
Dismas Okora is a Kenyan expert on animal nutrition. He says Mrs. Kerubo’s feed is very rich in protein and energy, both of which fish need for growth.
Mr. Okora explains, “Grain chaff, for example, is rich in minerals like calcium and also a concentration of carbohydrates which animals need for growth. In addition, dagaa is a very good source of protein for the fish.”
Damiel Ratemo is a fish farmer who lives in nearby Bomabacho village. She is excited about the idea of making fish feed rather than purchasing it. She says, “I am very much encouraged by what Mrs. Kerubo has been doing, and I think it is something I need to do for my fish.”
Miss Ratemo adds, “Nowadays, I spend nearly 10,000 Kenyan shillings (about $97 US) to feed the fish for a whole season.”
Miss Ratemo has piled dozens of sacks full of the remains of maize, finger millet, and wheat. She plans to use them to make fish feed.
Mrs. Kerubo is happy with the results of her homemade fish feed. Her harvest has increased. She says, “An average-sized tilapia that would previously weigh around half a kilogram doubled and, on average, they weigh between one and two kilograms.”
Mrs. Kerubo harvests an average of 500 fish from each of her three ponds. In her area, fish is in high demand. She says, “Traders flock to my home to ensure they get the best of my catches, which they sell in neighbouring urban areas.”
Photo: Lilly Kerubo, a fish farmer from Nyamira County feeds her fish