Pond provides better future for African women – Fishfarmer Magazine

Pond provides better future for African women30 June, 2014 –

A PARTNERSHIP between high-flying UK business women and African women farmers has built an enormous fish pond that is feeding a community, building a fish farming business and changing lives in a remote corner of rural Kenya.

Fish is a hugely popular part of the diet and an important source of white protein in Western Kenya. But pollution and over-fishing has led to dwindling stocks in Lake Victoria, which traditionally supplied over 90% of the country’s total fish supply.

The Kenyan government is addressing the problem with a programme to build fish ponds across large parts of Western Kenya.

Fish farms make it easier to manage fish stocks and to produce larger and healthier fish that attract greater market prices. 

Farm Africa – the UK-based charity working to tackle hunger in eastern Africa – is underpinning the expansion of fish farming through its Aqua Shops project.

The project has established a series of shops supplying fish farmers with everything they need to start up a business, from essentials like fertiliser and fish feed, through to technical advice, training and links to markets. 

One of the groups to have benefitted from Farm Africa’s aqua shops is the Afula Women’s Farmers’ Group. Its industrious members have recently seen their lives transformed thanks to a challenge undertaken last year by a group of senior women executives from the UK’s food industry.   The challenge, dubbed ‘Dig for Good’, was led by Judith Batchelar – Director of Sainsbury’s Brand.  In May last year the UK women worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the Afula women to build a huge fish pond that the Kenyan women would own and manage.

Since then the Afula group has been working hard to turn their new pond into a thriving and expanding fish farming business.

And twelve months after it was built and stocked with tilapia fish, it is clear that all the hard work and planning of both the UK and Afula women has paid off.

The pond has just been harvested – with spectacular results. A whopping 238 kilograms of healthy tilapia, together with some catfish, was netted by the Afula women from their pond.

The fish was harvested to great local excitement and the women farmers have sold their catch for the considerable sum of 66,822 Kenyan Shillings – a small fortune by local standards.

Rather than divide the money between themselves for personal use, the Afula women have made a bold collective statement of confidence in the future of their new fish farming business.

They have decided to plough all the money made from this back into the business by stocking three more ponds over the coming months.

This represents a remarkable trebling in the scale of their fish farming activities in just one year and, as a result, they no longer need to worry about whether they will be able to put food on their families’ tables and can instead begin to make long-term plans for their futures.

The UK team comprised senior executives from right across the spectrum of the UK food industry, including the journalist and Chair of the London Food Board, Rosie Boycott.

When they decided to swap their boardrooms and smart phones for shovels and a muddy field in Kenya they had two ambitious objectives in mind. First, they wanted to help the Afula women build a fish pond that would become not just a sustainable source of nutritious food for years to come; but also a viable long-term business and source of income that would help the women to provide their families with enough to eat, pay medical costs or send their children to school.   Secondly, they were determined to support many more farmers by raising as much money as they could in sponsorship for Food for Good.

A Farm Africa fundraising campaign, Food for Good, is bringing together some of the biggest companies and figures in the UK food and hospitality sectors to raise money through a series of challenges like Dig for Good. The campaign has so far raised £750,000 since it started in 2011.   The successful harvest of the Afula pond has thrilled the UK women who worked shoulder to shoulder with them last year to dig up hundreds of tons of extremely heavy mud.

The work was back-breaking, with all the women having to work under a blazing African sun for up to ten hours a day so the pond could be built in the astonishingly quick time of just three days.

Reflecting on Dig for Good’s incredible legacy, project leader and Director of Sainsbury’s Brand, Judith Batchelar, said:   ‘When we went out to Kenya I think we were all a little daunted and worried about whether we would be able to dig the pond in just the short time we had.

‘But as soon as we saw the energy and enthusiasm of our Afula friends it was clear that we’d complete the pond.

‘So I’m thrilled that the legacy of the UK and African women working together has been the construction of a quality fish pond that has delivered such spectacular results after just twelve months.

‘But what makes me really proud is to see the women making such a confident statement in the viability of their fish farming by reinvesting and expanding their business. Long may it continue.’