Aquaculture development in Kenya follows a pattern similar to many countries in the African continent. It has been characterized by low levels of pond production that have stagnated over the past decade.
Fish farming was introduced by the colonialists for the purpose of sport fishing at the beginning of the 1900s and it evolved to static water pond culture of tilapine fish in the 1920s, later supplemented by common carp and catfish. Trout was subsequently introduced as a riverine sport fish. In order to be able to produce seed for the
warm water and cold water species for stocking of rivers, dams and ponds, colonialists set up two fish farms in 1948, the Sagana Fish Farm (for warm water species) and the Kiganjo Trout Farm (for cold water species). Mariculture was introduced in the late 1970s with the establishment of Ngomeini Prawn Farm as a pilot project. Although fish farming in rural Kenya has a relatively long history dating back to the 1920s, it was only made popular in the 1960s through the 'Eat More Fish' campaign. However, no spectacular progress was achieved in this sub-sector since its introduction to recently.
Following the campaigns of the post-independence era outlined above (Kenya achieved independence in December 1963, and was established as a republic in December 1964) the number of fish farmers increased considerably to over 20 000, but production only rose from 900 tonnes in 1980, to 1,080 tonnes in 1985 and to 1,012 tonnes in 2003. Since then it has maintained this level and until 2010.
In the financial year 2009/2010, the Government of Kenya embarked on an Economic Stimulus Program aimed at jumpstarting the national economy. This was following the 2007/2008 post election violence that rocked the already flourishing economic stability of the country. In this regard the Ministry of Fisheries Development launched a Fish Farming Enterprise Productivity Program (FFEPP) geared mainly towards expanding and intensifying fish farming in the country. An initiative that has so far seen the government inject over Kshs 6 billion (US$ 75 million) to construct 48,000 fish ponds in the mapped constituencies. This was followed by stocking of the ponds with fingerlings most of which have been harvested, marketed and ponds restocked. The stimulus program has enabled the fisheries industry pond area grow from 722 hectares to 20,000 hectares since inception with production increasing from 4,220 tonnes in 2009 to over 19,000 tonnes in 2011. This has resulted in Kenya being recognized as the fastest aquaculture growing country in Africa. The FFEPP has led to job creation, poverty alleviation, food security and fisheries industry growth in a span of 3 years. Some of the areas that have attracted farmer's interest as well as tremendous growth are hatchery management for seed production and feed supply to hatcheries and grow-out farms.
However this has not gone on without challenges. One of the outstanding challenges is market linkages between producers of fish seed, feed suppliers, fish farmers, fish processors, and the national and regional markets as well as other input and service providers in the sector. Kenyan farmed fish is reported to be enjoying the East African market though with poor networking not much is documented.