On a cool morning at the Kisumu National Polytechnic, farm manager Moffat Omollo is busy preparing his fishing nets in readiness for the harvesting exercise. Dressed in a knee-length, grey overcoat and black trousers, Mr. Omollo and his team of five assistants lay the nets on the lawn between the fishponds next to a clear stream that replenishes the water supply in the pools.
Soon, customers will start trickling-in to purchase the most beloved food in the Nyanza region. Mr. Omollo explains the harvesting process thus: “A day before harvesting, we sample the fish to determine the sizes and prices in collaboration with the Stores and Finance departments. The fish take about nine months to mature to table size, an amount that both our internal customers and external businessmen can consume”.
Harvesting starts at 9.00 am with the team spreading a large net into the first pond that holds mostly tilapia and a few catfish. This is the pool from which the team expects their largest yield thus precision is important as they cast the net. The Stores and Finance team await the catch to aid the classification process. The effort is quite labor intensive but after a few minutes, the group hauls in their first harvest.
The Stores and finance team then classifies the fish into various sizes, adds price tags then requests the customers to pay at the Cash office. The cashiers issue receipts to the customers who then present these to the stores clerk for the release of fish. The process continues until all the team sells all the fish, “We cannot resume harvesting until they sell all the fish from the first yield,” explains Mr. Omollo.
The farm has 16 ponds out of which 12 are fully functional with different fish species. Mr. Omollo says that he adds Catfish to the ponds to control the Tilapia population. The Catfish feed on young Tilapia and prevent them from over populating the pools. “When we know the number of fish in the pond then we can feed them adequately,” Mr. Omollo says.
Meanwhile, the team has to get back to harvesting since many customers want Catfish and the first catch only nets one piece. “Catfish are very sly and we cannot trap them using the net. We need to drain the water from the pond, a process we can only do once we remove all the tilapia”, explains Emmanuel, a member of the team. “It is popular in the region because it is nutritious and fleshy. It also fetches good prices,” he adds.
The sales process for the day ends when customers have bought all the harvested fish. “We will harvest again next week. Harvesting and sales take place weekly until the team clears all the mature fish from the ponds”, says Mr. Omollo. “We then transfer some of the fingerlings to the ready ponds and sell some to fish farmers,” he adds.
The farm supplies the Polytechnic kitchen, students who live outside the campus, neighboring restaurants and the public. Mr. Omollo and his team at the KNP farm also grow bananas, mangoes and oranges with the aim of keeping the Kisumu National Polytechnic fraternity healthy.