OPINION: Kakamega Fish Processing Plant, Why Oparanya is Changing Kakamega

By Gabriel Oguda

Here is the thing.

You saw Kakamega County Governor Wycliffe Oparanya launch a fish processing factory in Kakamega yesterday.

Kakamega County has 12 Constituencies – Khwisero, Ikolomani, Matungu, Shinyalu, Butere, Lurambi, Mumias East, Mumias West, Navakholo, Malava, Lugari and Likuyani.

The 2019 Census puts the Kakamega County population at 1.87 million. For perspective, Kisumu had 1.2 million, Siaya 994,000, Homa Bay 1.1 million, and Migori 1.1 million. The four Luo Nyanza Counties have a combined total of 4.4 million people, as at 2019.

Kakamega is a landlocked County. It has no water body of meaningful notice. The only rivers that cut through the County on their way to Lake Victoria are Yala and Nzoia. There are streams too; Isiukhu, Firatsi, Sasala and Lusumu.

Hands up if you’ve ever heard of those streams in your life. You can now put your hands down.

In contrast, Kisumu, Migori, Homa Bay and Siaya are where the fresh water fishing is at. They have Lake Victoria at their beck and call, their fishermen depend on fish for their daily bread.

Children in the four Luo Nyanza counties come hardwired with the fishing gene – they know the different types of fishing nets like the back of their hands, their eyes come installed with underwater fish detection ability, and can negotiate with Nile crocodiles for access to fishing grounds whenever there is a conflict between man and beast. If the Social Studies exams this year had the question of which of the following Counties should the Government install a fish processing plant, even the candidates in Kakamega County won’t even choose Kakamega.

But Kakamega is where the fish processing plant has now been installed. And I will tell you why.

Kenya has a National Development Blueprint called Vision 2030. All of you have heard about it it’s the plan that guides the development pathway Kenya needs to be a middle income country. That blueprint has pillars to guide its implementation plan.

I am reminding you about it for free because the Bible instructs me to do so, and as a card-carrying Christian I have to do the Lord’s work for me to inherit the mansion I was promised in heaven.

In that blue print, there are projects the national government promised to undertake all over the country, and for Kakamega County the national government promised to build them a fish processing plant among other things.

You can wail and complain about that decision on why the Luo Nyanza counties were bypassed, but you need to know the following.

One. The Vision 2030 blueprint was developed during the Grand Coalition government of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. The Ministry with the initial mandate to house the project was the State Ministry of Planning, National Development and Vision 2030 whose Minister was Butere MP, Wycliffe Ambetsa Oparanya – drawn from the Raila wing of the grand coalition.

Before you complain that Oparanya grabbed the fish processing slot from four Luo Nyanza Counties to his Kakamega backyard, let me be quick to remind you that the Minister in charge of Fisheries Development at that same time was Funyula MP Paul Otuoma – also drawn from the Raila wing of the grand coalition. Funyula is in Busia County, and also one of the constituencies in Kenya on the Lake Victoria front.

The choice of Kakamega County for a fish processing plant was not informed by politics, but purely by scientific data.

According to an assessment report for Vision 2030 conducted by state research firm KIPPRA, fish farming in Kenya is practiced in 38 counties and data from the State Department of Fisheries (2014) shows that Kiambu (6.2%), Kakamega (5.7%), Murang’a (4.7%) and Meru (4.7%) counties are the main fish producers.

Kindly read that again before we proceed. Only Kiambu County beats Kakamega in producing fish in Kenya.

And it isn’t by fluke.

According to the Kakamega County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) 2018-2022, the County Government of Kakamega had conducted their own internal assessment and found that there are 7,845 fish farmers operating 8,336 fish ponds covering an area of 2,536,300 metre square; fish production in Kakamega County was at 1,627,500 Kgs valued at Kshs. 450,000,000. The main culture species are Nile Tilapia and Catfish, with the main production unit being earthen fish ponds. In addition the report notes that Kakamega county has six private hatcheries which supply quality male tilapia fingerlings and also catfish fingerlings.

Question: How many of your County Governments have that fish farming data to that minute level?

It shows you two obvious things.

One. Development isn’t guesswork. Neither is it by chance. Development requires leadership. Focused leadership. Without that, you’re going to watch the Lake with all its magnificence while others wanajipanga nayo my friend.

Two. You aren’t going anywhere without data. Data is the new oil. If you aren’t going to map out your numbers to a t, then, my friend, you’re going to open up new university campuses all over the country expecting the government to send you students there and money to follow, only for the government to stop everyone getting a C+ in KCSE and you’re left begging private sponsored students to come fill the slots or you go broke. And now you’re busy closing campuses and collapsing faculties. Without data for planning, you’re all painful for me.

And Oparanya is serious with that fish processing plant, by the way. For those asking where he will get the fish to process there, that guy has a plan to ensure the fish processing factory doesn’t lack raw material.

According to the Kakamega County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) 208-2022, the County Government of Kakamega already gave out fund to 828 fish farmers to enable them buy fish farm inputs (Fingerlings, DAP, lime and fish feeds); 36 earthen fishponds constructed (3 per sub-county); Fishing gears (20 seine nets) purchased, purchased a fish collection, fridge and a strategic investor already identified to operationalize the Fish Processing Factory.

It means two things:

One. That the County Government of Kakamega can run their own fish processing factory without relying on supplies from the Lake Counties of Homa Bay, Migori, Kisumu and Siaya.

And two. If the Lake County Governments want to use the fish processing factory in Kakamega, they will have to beg Governor Oparanya to allow them store, process and package their fish there for export, and this means Kakamega County will have the upper hand in negotiating a fare rate for these counties to use their processing facilities, which translates to extra revenue for the County of Kakamega.

I would’ve said Oparanya for President, but you people will accuse me of eating his money. So Let me just keep quiet and watch Luo Nyanza Governors compete for the podium on how to say “Cham Yath” and the “Keys to the next Governor of Homa Bay is in my underwear.”

That Oparanya guy is the future of leadership in this county.

You can kill me now.

Gabriel Oguda is a renowned writer and conversation setter with interest in matters of interest to Governance and Leadership.

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