Box 2.13 Illustrating the need for reflective practice: co-production of fish cage farming
Authors: Michael Oloko and Patrick Hayombe
2 min read
The rapidly decreasing fish stock and loss of biodiversity in Lake Victoria has made traditional fishing methods unreliable. In particular the Lake close to Kisumu has been hit hard by invasive plants, algae and with climate change adding to the problems. The livelihoods of a large group of people have been severely threatened.
At Miyandhe Beach in Kisumu, Kenya, research on the potential to improve local food security through alternative fishing methods and fish cage farming quickly presented unanticipated challenges. Earlier attempt to introduce fish cage farming by a local fishermen’s co-operative society in one of the beaches to improve the situation was not successful. To find new means of livelihood, local researchers wanted to investigate fish cage farming and alternative fishing methods further, through co-production with the community. In the absence of official guidelines on fish cage farming, the project could only proceed as a research pilot project through the university.
Ten fish cages were introduced in agreement with the Miyandhe Beach Management Unit. Nine cages belonged to the research group and one to the community. Community members participated in all activities; fabricating the cages, testing and undertaking fish cage farming. The community-owned cage provided motivation for them to participate in research work by feeding the fish and watching over all cages. With the first harvest, the community discovered a more reliable source of livelihood and started replicating the cages off nearby beaches. They had quickly learned the technology and developed a network to manufacture and sustain fish caging. Thousands of cages were soon anchored in the lake, drawing further interest from individuals, youth and women’s groups, politicians, and even government officials looking for ways to improve local livelihoods.
With many stakeholders involved, the project could not control the effects. Co-production proved an effective way of developing knowledge that responded well to the critical needs of the local community, but the rapid community uptake presented acute challenges. The research activities needed quickly to be redefined to instead focus on emergent issues such as policies, guidelines, and regulations for the fast-growing fish cage farming, in addition to concerns of, for example, lake pollution, fish mortality rates, and effects of storms, water hyacinth invasion, and underwater currents. At this stage, the research had not progressed enough to make recommendations on how to carry out fish caging sustainably within the lake. Thereto, alternative technologies, such as land-based fishing and closed lake fishing systems, still needed to be considered. These experiences point to the need for specific care and reflexivity in taking up community co-production in this way.
Njiru, J.M., Aura, C.M. and Okechi, J.K. (2019) ‘Cage fish culture in Lake Victoria: a boon or a disaster in waiting?’, Fish Management Ecology 26: 426–34 <https://doi. org/10.1111/fme.12283>