Aquaculture for all

Dynamic Kenyan duo secure game-changing investments

Feed ingredients Husbandry Sustainability +11 more

Two of Kenya's most progressive women-led aquaculture companies – Rio Fish and Great Lakes Feeds – have each received KES 56,000,000 ($384,000) grants this year, in a bid to advance the economic empowerment of women in Kenya’s growing blue economy.

by Founder, Samaky Hub
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Angela Odero, CEO and co-founder of Rio Fish

Rio Fish is putting an end to the exploitative sex-for-fish trade in Kenya by establishing robust market linkages that afford women traders convenient and affordable access to reliable fish supplies

The grants were awarded by the Investing in Women in the Blue Economy in Kenya (IIW-BEK) programme, which is funded by by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and run by the African Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF), which is on a mission to empower women and address gender disparities within Kenya's blue economy. With a keen focus on promoting women's economic participation, this initiative targets 110 women-owned enterprises across various sectors within the blue economy, fostering job creation and entrepreneurial success.

“The programme seeks to create 1,490 direct jobs, benefit 1,560 women entrepreneurs, their employees, suppliers, and producers in sectors related to the blue economy. We focus on key areas including fisheries, aquaculture, renewable energy, waste management and biodiversity protection. The programme aims to provide funding, technical support and business development opportunities to women entrepreneurs, thus enabling equal access to opportunities,” said Victoria Sabula, CEO of AECF.

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Rio Fish Limited

Under the visionary leadership of Angela Odero, CEO and co-founder of Rio Fish Limited, the company has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to women's empowerment and sustainability in aquaculture. Odero's journey began with a profound realisation of the exploitation faced by women involved in the fish supply chain around Lake Victoria. This realisation fuelled her determination to create a more equitable and sustainable aquaculture ecosystem.

Rio Fish is devoted to putting an end to the exploitative sex-for-fish trade in Kenya, where women traders endure sexual exploitation by predatory fishermen. Their mission revolves around establishing robust market linkages to afford women traders convenient and affordable access to a reliable fish supply, thus empowering them to reclaim their dignity.

Going beyond fish farming, Rio Fish strategically operates aggregation centres, procuring fish directly from smallholder farmers who, in turn, benefit from the company's cold chain facility, effectively averting post-harvest losses. Additionally, the company produces value-added fish products and provides a mobile application that facilitates farmers' access to affordable inputs.

Upon receiving the AECF grant, Odero expressed her elation and the transformative potential of the funding, stating: "The grant not only inspired Rio Fish but also sent a powerful message to the industry: it's time to invest in women's empowerment and gender equality."

With the granted funds Odero plans to “provide seed capital and training to women and young women, aggregate fish produced by smallholder farmers, and offer comprehensive training in fish husbandry, financial management and business operations.”

Odero envisions a future where Rio Fish stands as a beacon of change within the aquaculture sector. The AECF programme's support will allow the enterprise to expand its reach, deepen its impact and execute its mission of empowering women and transforming communities.

Mathildah Amollo (third from left), CEO of Great Lakes Feeds, receiving her grant cheque on stage at the launch of the IIW-BEK programme in August 2023

Amollo plans to use the award to invest in various pieces of equipment, such as a dryer, cooling conveyor and feed packaging equipment, to increase the feed mill’s efficiency © AECF

Visionary leadership at Great Lakes Feeds

Mathildah Amollo, the driving force behind Great Lakes Feeds, is another remarkable woman making waves in Kenya's aquaculture industry. Her journey into aquaculture began during her time as a finance manager at the Sarova Hotel. She was deeply moved by the plight of women in her rural community who faced exploitation by fishermen due to dwindling fish stocks. This motivated her to leave her job at the age of 40 and return home to empower these women. She started by encouraging them to venture into cage farming but encountered several hurdles.

“Together, we faced challenges like the lack of affordable, quality fish feeds and fingerlings. To address this, I decided to produce fingerlings and fish feeds using locally available resources like soya, cotton cake, sunflower and cassava. By keeping production costs low, we were able to sell fish feeds at half the price of imported ones, making them more accessible to women in our community. This affordability attracted many women to join our initiative,” Amollo explains.

Great Lakes Feeds provides a diverse range of products and services, including fish feeds, tilapia fingerlings, and comprehensive training and capacity-building programmes. Amollo divides her training into three sessions. In the initial session, participants explore fundamental aquaculture techniques, including stocking densities, fish health management, and feeding strategies for effective nutrition. The second session delves into addressing water quality and post-harvest management. The concluding session focuses on the business dimensions of aquaculture, guiding farmers through farm business planning and value addition.

Amollo was motivated to start Great Lakes Feeds after witnessing the plight of women in her rural community who faced exploitation by fishermen due to dwindling fish stocks

Amollo has already successfully trained 700 women, with around 400 of them launching their own fish cage farming businesses. Her ambition is to extend this training to an additional 2,000 women, motivating them to become fish cage owners.

She's committed to providing all participants 1,000 fingerlings, plus feed for the fingerlings, for free. Initially, she aims to concentrate on training 2,000 women from Siaya County, with the intention of expanding into other counties in time.

The company currently produces approximately 200,000 fingerlings monthly, but their goal is to reach one million per month through the implementation of a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS). Meanwhile they are capable of manufacturing up to 30 tonnes of fish feed per month, although their average monthly production currently stands at approximately 20 tonnes, according to market demand.

“Our primary challenge is seasonal availability of ingredients, especially with lake shrimps or ‘ochonga’ in Luo. These are only accessible during November, December and after the rainy season. Acquiring them in bulk during this limited window requires significant funds, but securing loans is tough due to my lack of a suitable title deed. This makes it challenging to buy raw materials during peak seasons (December, November, April, and May) when prices are lower compared to other times when they can double,” Amollo reflects.

A strategy for maximising the AECF award

Amollo aims to use the award to invest in various pieces of equipment to increase the feed mill’s efficiency.

“I plan to invest in crucial machinery, including a dryer, cooling conveyor and feed packaging equipment. These acquisitions are vital because they address significant operational challenges. Previously, we lacked these machines, forcing us to rely on sun drying the feeds, which often resulted in extended drying times during rainy periods. The introduction of a dryer would significantly streamline this process, reducing it to a mere 3 hours. Furthermore, the cooling conveyor plays a pivotal role in enhancing the overall efficiency of the drying system. Additionally, our current manual packaging process, prone to occasional inaccuracies and delays, would greatly benefit from a packaging machine, ensuring improved accuracy and operational efficiency,” she explains.

Much like Odero, Amollo envisions a future where Great Lakes Feeds becomes synonymous with transformative change within the aquaculture industry, leveraging the AECF programme's support to uplift communities and empower women.

Odero (third from left) receiving her grant cheque at the launch of the IIW-BEK programme

Odero plans to use the funds to provide seed capital and training to women, and offer comprehensive training in fish husbandry, financial management and business operations © AECF

AECF strives for a transformative impact

The African Enterprise Challenge Fund's IIW-BEK programme provides substantial funding to women-owned enterprises like Rio Fish and Great Lakes Feeds, in a bid to fuel economic growth, job creation and gender inclusivity within the sector.

With the funding in place, both Rio Fish and Great Lakes Feeds are set to embark on a journey of innovation, empowerment and sustainable practices within Kenya's aquaculture sector.

The programme includes a business incubation facility to provide tailored training and technical assistance to micro and small enterprises. Additionally, it aims to connect women entrepreneurs with training institutes, leverage financing, provide technology solutions, and partner with women's rights organisations and media for social and behavioural campaigns, thus offering support beyond financial assistance.

The programme aims to improve the lives of 50,000 poor and vulnerable people (60 percent women), and leveraging private financial institution investments totalling $2.9 million in women-owned MSMEs.

“To date, AECF has supported over 375 businesses in more than 40 value chains and in 26 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It's possible that successful aspects of this program could inform future initiatives in different sectors or regions,” says Cosmas Muchina, programme manager at AECF IIW-BEK.

Visit the organisation's website for more information on AECF activities.

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