Since he was a child, Albert Kaguli had harboured the dream of becoming a farmer. At 35, he has finally actualised his desires — and in a big way.
Mr Kaguli, who is from Hamisi, Vihiga County, has 45 fish ponds on a five-acre farm where he is rearing fish for export. He leases the farm from a coffee factory that stopped operations three decades ago and had left the land fallow.
He initially tried his hand at horticulture for two years, but gave up after poor climate conditions left him with losses.
Demand for white meat
He got into fish farming after realising there was high — and growing — demand for white meat, both locally and internationally.
Of the 45 fish ponds he has built, 39 are fully stocked with 75,000 catfish.
He has so far invested Sh10 million in the project, which is cash he got from his savings and marketing and property development jobs.
“The local and international markets have many hungry mouths to feed on white meat. I hired experts who advised me on where to set up the fish ponds before I started the project,’’ Kaguli said.
His farm is 8km from Lake Victoria, and he began constructing the ponds in 2012. He completed the project in August last year.
“I hired about 40 to 50 casual workers to construct the ponds, and retained five workers on a permanent basis.
“I decided on rearing catfish because they put on weight fast, mature in six months and have a ready market,” he says.
Kaguli plans to harvest the fish twice a year, and anticipates earnings of more than Sh70 million annually, which he says would more than make up for his investment.
If he does not increase his fish from 75,000 the second time around, then this means he will sell each of his 150,000 catfish at just under Sh470.
He says he has already made contact with buyers in international markets, including China, Germany, Italy and Vietnam, who are ready to buy his fish.
“The Vihiga County Government is also giving us support and we have 60 small-scale farmers that we will supply with fish even as we export.’’
Further, the Chamber of Commerce officials visited his farm last year and promised to support him with the standardisation process.
To further grow his business, Kaguli plans to install larger coolers for storing harvested fish, and get into value addition.
“Value addition is important, and this farm will handle everything, from harvesting and packaging to transportation. Construction of a processing plant is also underway.
“We shall sell our products as frozen fish to the market, and a cold room will be set up to ensure the fish is well preserved,’’ he says.
Kaguli spends Sh5,000 to Sh10,000 per day on feed, which he says is a major challenge. His fish are fed at 10am and 4pm every day.
“Feeding catfish is tough; they eat a lot and in a day can consume 50 kilos of fish meal. I alternate this with fresh water fish feed that I get locally. The catfish start with water prunes, and then move on to fish meal when they get older.”
To keep a handle on the costs, he plans to start poultry farming because “the droppings will serve as food for the fish. I also intend to plant a special variety of grass that is used to supplement the feed the fish is given”.
To ensure his ponds don’t run dry, he has hired a water tanker that supplies water on a daily basis to the farm.
Predators are also a major challenge because they feed on his fingerlings at night. He has employed three watchmen to curb the losses caused by human predators.
Kaguli says since fish farming is not seasonal, it is the best option for his region.
“Most residents have now ventured into fish farming. It is called a challenging sector, but I am optimistic that this will be a major farming activity in a few years’ time.’’
He says preparation for any eventuality will be his secret to success.
“This is a big responsibility that must be planned and calculated. I also cannot by-pass my county and local markets — they will be considered first.”
His advice to young entrepreneurs?
“Engage in an economic activity that is unique and not crowded.”
And his plans for the future?
“In five years’ time, I see this farm being featured on the Nairobi Stock Exchange. With two harvests annually, there will be no difference between my farm and a company like, say, NSE-listed Sasini. Farming is the only venture that one can use to make an impact on the country’s economy.”