INNOECOFOOD Gets Warm Reception by Got Osimbo Community in Siaya County

INNOECOFOOD was set rolling in the selected project areas of Homa Bay and Siaya Counties in Kenya Last week through a series of aquaculture cage visits and an engaging inception workshop. This 3-year European Union funded groundbreaking initiative aims to revolutionize fish farming through the establishment of production/business ECOHUBS and the enhancement of local aquaculture farms, utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

It is not limited to fish production alone. Aquaculture is defined as breeding, raising, and harvesting fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants. Therefore rural farmers, youth and women will be trained to innovatively produce and process nutritious aquaculture catfish and tilapia, blue-green cyanobacteria Spirulina, and insect value chains that will be processed into certified marketable human food products and feeds for the fish.

Rio Fish Limited Visit

The Rio Fish Farm visit in Rasira, Homa Bay County, was welcoming and galvanizing. I witnessed a motivating atmosphere that committed to changing the current aquaculture landscape by empowering women and youths in the surrounding community. FSPN Africa alongside other consortium partners in Kenya, KMFRI, ICIPE, JKUAT, Peche Foods and TECAFILI had a vibrant exchange at Rio Fish Farm led by their Farm Manager, Ninvah Ondieki.

Together we dived into research, idea-sharing and highlights of benchmarks that are poised to drive innovation in aquaculture. The farm has made tremendous milestones in terms of providing quality fish to meet consumers' demands. It also acts as an aggregator for fish in the areas thus serving as a market pathway for small-scale producers.

Nivah outlined that they own over 10 cages with varying sizes and capacities. The largest cages are 10 meters in diameter carrying 30,000 fish, followed by 8 by 5 meters holding 18,000 fish and 5 by 5 meters holding 10,000 fish.

INNOECOFOOD consortium partners, Kenya at Rio Fish Farm at Rasira.

At the moment they are providing stable employment opportunities, particularly for the youth and women who do the feeding, fish net monitoring and maintenance and harvesting while offering a sustainable alternative solution to the declining wild catch industry. Additionally, it assists vulnerable women by enabling them to co-own cages, saving them from ‘jaboya’, exchange sex for fish with the fishermen.

However, they face a myriad of challenges both at production and market level. There are issues of high cost feeds, in which sometimes the quality is colluded which she believes the project will help address to minimize losses.

Market flooding is another concern that waters down the price of fish, where vendors are likely to go for cheap imports. Fish is also likely to deteriorate in quality due to insufficient cold storage facilities.

The risk of convectional monitoring probed the need to use technologies such as AI and IoT to monitor the growth rate, precision in feeding routine and security for the cages.

FSPN Africa Regional Director Kalvince Otieno shares on the urgency of digital tools to boost timely market access.

INNOECFOOD will be installing sensors at the farm for monitoring geared towards derisking associated hazards and costs of feeding. Besides it will help them refine their business model to narrow losses and meet market demands.

ECOHUB in Hathala Village, Ugunja Subcounty.

A successful Inception workshop was held from 14th to 16th May at Camunya Hotel Hotel where stakeholders deliberated on the implementation of the project and official presentation of the project to the beneficiaries.

It was opened by Keynote address Dr Jacob Ochiewo, Director of Socio-economics KMFRI. He underpinned the importance of the project in tackling food and nutrition insecurity, which is still a challenge we are grappling with as a country.

He also acknowledged that the project was practical in solving the community’s real challenges through direct participation and ownership. He further highlighted the commitment of KMFRI in meeting the project goal and the role they play as research in the food systems.

In his final remarks, he urged the partners to play their roles effectively and collaborate where necessary. “We have raised the bar high as a project, let's deliver to meet the expectations of Kenyans. Get necessary support to help the Government plan of achieving the pillar of ending poverty, nutrition and food security.”

Dr. Peter Odote presented the project overview and the expected outcomes.

Project Principal  Investigator Dr Peter Odote, delivered a comprehensive presentation to the meeting collaborators, outlining the goals, innovative strategies, and expected impacts of the INNOECOFOOD project.

He focused on the operations of the ECOHUB, a crucial element of the project designed to run entirely on green energy. will be achieved through advanced systems and technologies such as the Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) for efficient fish farming, a spirulina cultivation system for nutrient-rich algae, and the farming of crickets and black soldier flies (BSF) for high-protein feed ingredients.

The scoping of cage aquaculture activities will be in Usenge Beach Siaya and Rasira, Homa Bay counties, located on Lake Victoria. As opposed to Rio Fish Farm, in Usenge, cages located in Misori areas are co-owned by individuals and Food Security and Poverty Alleviation-Kenya (FOSAPA Kenya), a CBO.

Insects, an Alternative Source of Proteins

Dr. Margaret Kababu, Researcher at ICIPE noted the Black Soldier Fly larvae's potential as a sustainable protein source and bioconversion of organic waste, with research aiming to identify suitable substrates and evaluate BSF biomass nutritional value.

Crickets are also edible insects that the project will be looking at. Upon value addition, the crickets can be incorporated into value-added food products, including cricket porridge, biscuits, and spirulina capsules. They can also be added to fish feeds.

Our Purpose

Our Regional Program Manager, Sharon Chacha, underlined our focus area which is working with the community, particularly with youth and women, to ensure that the INNOECOFOOD project benefits these groups in meaningful ways.

She emphasized the importance of making the project profitable and transforming it into a viable business opportunity for the local population. Engaging youth and women in the project, they can gain valuable skills and economic opportunities.

As the advancement in technology continues to grow, we will be utilizing digital tools to ensure that knowledge is accessed by a wider number of beneficiaries. Similarly, they will be able to access market opportunities digitally to meet the expanding market demands. To attain transformations beyond the project areas, we committed to ensuring that project outcomes reach producers, consumers, and policymakers among other stakeholders.

The goal is to empower these groups to participate actively in the production and processing activities within the ECOHUBs, ultimately fostering inclusive economic growth, and ensuring that the benefits of the INNOECOFOOD project are widely distributed and contribute to the overall prosperity of the community.

INNOECOFOOD Receives Ownership in Got Osimbo.

It was exciting to see the massive reception of the project led by the County Government, Local area leaders, schools, religious fraternities and community members under the umbrella of FOSAPA group.

In his sentiments, Mr. Simon Ochieng, a teacher at Got Osimbo Primary School boldly expressed strong support through extending the project's benefits to parents and the broader community of the school.

Dr. Peter Odote, Project Principal  Investigator from KMFRI hands over The ECOHUB Plan to Got Osimbo Community Members at Ugunja Subcounty.

The County emphasized the importance of impact and sustainability, urging farmers to become champions of the project to ensure its longevity. They promised to assist during the scale-up phase with the right policies and guidelines.

Nevertheless, it received political goodwill from the area MP Hon. Opiyo Wandai who was represented by his PA Mr. Asteria Opiyo. The project was declared launched by Dr. Chris Nyamweya who represented KMFRI CEO, Prof James Njiru.

To sum up, the INNOECOFOOD project represents a bold step towards sustainable aquaculture in Africa. It will boost local economies, create jobs, and improve food security by increasing the availability of nutritious food products. Moreover, it will promote eco-friendly practices to protect local ecosystems and ensure long-term environmental sustainability.

Huge thank you to our Donors and partners for the Immense support.

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