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How small-scale farmers are helping Kenya’s tilapia business

Overcoming the fragmented nature of Kenyan land ownership – which is caused by the nature of the inheritance system – has traditionally been one of the most challenging obstacles for anyone looking to build an industrial-scale enterprise in the country. However, Victory Farms – the country's largest tilapia producer, with an 18,000 tonne target this year – are currently trialling a unique system for their egg production. One that is producing promising results.

"The biggest limit to our growth is fingerling production – our model is based on an extensive pond system for broodstock and egg collection, so to grow we need huge tracts of land," explains Steve Moran, who co-founded the company, having previously helped to establish Tropo Farms as the pre-eminent tilapia producer in West Africa.

"We find partners from within the community – we have a waiting list longer than your arm – and lease a plot of land from them. On each plot we put in a small broodstock pond – typically 20 x 60 m, with about 1,000 broodstock. Having built the pond we manage it as a Victory asset, while the landowner collects a monthly royalty, based on the volume of eggs we collect from that pond. That royalty alone averages out to about 2.5 times the minimum wage – pure passive income from a piece of land that's been historically almost idle," Moran explains.

"Rather than normal aquaponics systems involving high value crops, which typically struggle to make any money, you now have tilapia produced in ponds, and effluent water from those ponds producing local vegetables for local consumption – tomatoes, onions, greens," he adds. he vegetable side of the business is being run by one of Victory's sister organisations – Stable Foods – which runs the irrigation systems, either via a profit-sharing agreement or by renting the irrigation to the farmers.


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