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PD/A CRSP Aquanews-Summer 2002

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Farmers Appreciative of Lessons Learned during On-farm Trials

by Karen Veverica, Auburn University
Following the final meeting of farmers for the on-farm trials in Western Kenya, participant Mr. Morris Robert Omuhaya returned home and wrote letters to project staff members Judith Amadiva and Karen Veverica expressing his appreciation for what he learned during the on-farm trials.

He wrote:

I have improved on my fish farming enterprise through your good advice and lectures. I’ve now stocked my ponds for the next season and I’m going to improve on pond inputs so that I get [even better] profits than [those] I got in the on-farm trials...

My son is going to sit in this year’s O-level exams just because of these fish ponds which have become my only financial resource.

n-farm testing is a logical step in transferring research-based technologies to the farm, as it allows farmers to assess their costs and benefits under local conditions as well as to receive instruction and training in basic pond management skills. It also allows project personnel to work with and train the fisheries extension officers, complementing the experience the extension officers gain through formal training activities.

In a collaboration among Oregon State University, Auburn University, Moi University, and Sagana Fish Farm, on-farm trials were conducted in Central, Eastern, Rift Valley, and Western Provinces, Kenya.

Although the technical advice was useful and important, participants’ attitudes towards business is what made these trials so successful. The only services provided by the CRSP project were transport of fingerlings, visits to offer technical advice, and help with sampling.

Farmers were required to purchase all of their own inputs, including fingerlings. This was a difficult pill to swallow for many farmers. Nonetheless, as a result of having a personal investment at stake, at the end of the trials, many farmers presented their data as expenses and revenues rather than just the weight of fish harvested.

One farmer stated that his father had never earned a single shilling from his aquaculture ponds in more than 10 years. However, because of these trials, in just one harvest the son ended up with 10,000 KSh in his pocket. He went on to explain that over the years, with the many extension projects promoting fish farming and providing farmers with inputs at no cost, everyone always thought of aquaculture more as a hobby than a serious business enterprise.

As a result, neighbors—that is, potential customers—figured the harvested fish should be given away for free as well. Thus, although the farmers did not invest much in the way of real capital, they still did a lot of work and never reaped any financial benefit. The CRSP on-farm trials made it possible for this farmer to convince his neighbors that his aquaculture ponds were now a bonafide business venture.

Ponds at a small-scale aquaculture farm, Kenya.

Photo By: Charles Ngugi

Pond harvest during on-farm trials.

Photo By: Charles Ngugi

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