You must have heard of Kiganjo Troup farm – the cold fresh water species farm that was established in 1948 by the colonial government. It is still there neighbouring the Sagana State Lodge.
Some of its pronounced visitors have included Queen of England but it is now a popular farm that supplies fish fingerlings to farmers. Here, trout is grown in circular metallic and rectangular concrete raceways supplied with adequate fresh water from Sagana River right by the Station.
For years now, trout has remained of the tastiest freshwater fish in Kenya. But do you know that this was not indigenous to Africa and it was introduced in Kenya by the maverick Major Ewart Grogan in 1905.
Major Grogan is famous for the Cape-to-Cairo walk for the love of a woman and many other escapades and is currently known for building Nairobi’s Gertrude Children’s Hospital in honour of his late wife.
Although a notorious settler who had no disregard for Africans, Ewart Grogan is known to have shipped Loch Leven fingerlings in ice-packed chests to Mombasa and then up to Nairobi on the Lunatic Express. From there, porters carried them up into the misty, forested Aberdare and Mount Kenya slopes. Rivers with now legendary names such as Amboni, Gichugi and the two Mathioyas were stocked.
That is how the Fly Fishers Club, with a small club in Mathioya was born. The Kenya Fly Fishers club is actually one of the oldest club of its kind in all of Africa.
Kenya Fly Fishers’ has thrived for nearly a century. After the first world war, veterans — many of them badly maimed — came out to help build Kenya.
By 1928 trout were being protected by law and Kenya’s colonial rulers took fishing so seriously that one lawmaker said, ‘No right-minded individual will underestimate the importance to any country of trout…’
Founded in 1919, the Fly Fishers Club is known for stocking the Northern and Southern Mathioya rivers where members have fished ever since.
It is now recorded that by the 1930s Kenya had more than 3,000 miles of pristine trout waters. The club continues to stock the rivers twice annually and employs dozens of people and uses the top-level skills of several of its agronomist members to advise local tea farmers on alternative crops that boost horticulture exports such as passion fruit and tree tomatoes. The club sponsors local schools and supplies them with science and computer labs and libraries.
Grogan also introduced trout to River Gura in the Aberdares, reputed for being the fastest flowing river in Africa, and the fish took to the cool, clear waters and laid eggs which hatched at 9,500 feet. That was the start of the trout industry in Kenya.
The Game Department took control of the waters in 1926 and by 1939 there were 373 miles of river containing brown trout. Grogan introduced two species of trout: brown and rainbow.
Today, fish farming which was introduced by the colonialists for the purpose of sport fishing at the beginning of the 1900s, has now evolved to static water pond culture of tilapine fish supplemented by common carp and catfish.
Colonialists also 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.
The Ministry of Fisheries Development has now launched a Fish Farming Enterprise Productivity Program (FFEPP) geared mainly towards expanding and intensifying fish farming in the country. This initiative 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 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.
With all these, what started as a sport is becoming an economy.