Rio Fish, founded by Dave Okech, is a social enterprise providing sustainable livelihoods and increasing food security through strengthening market systems around aquaculture in Lake Victoria. Fish farming, or aquaculture, is the practice of raising fish in enclosures to be sold commercially as food. The community around Lake Victoria has long relied on fish from the lake and Rio Fish works to bridge the gap between supply and demand in Kenya in the context of population growth and dwindling supplies of wild-caught fish. Through practicing aquaculture, Rio Fish is providing a consistent supply of nutrient-rich fish as well as stable livelihoods for fish farmers. Rio Fish also links women fish farmers with economic opportunities as women have been most affected by the reduced supplies of wild caught fish.
Aquaculture has been recognized as a valuable strategy for employment generation, regional development, and food security in Kenya. Populations of wild caught fish continue to decline, dwindling the national fish supply and increasing demand for fish. In this context, the Government of Kenya has prioritized the development of aquaculture to take advantage of aquatic resources in support of fish production.
Kenya is a regional and continental leader in the growth of aquaculture as the fourth largest producer of aquaculture in Africa. The Kenyan government’s promotion of aquaculture aligns with policy focus on the Blue Economy to promote the sustainable use and management of marine resources. From major inland water resources to an extensive coastline, Kenya is well positioned to expand the aquaculture industry to provide fish for the majority of the population. Fish supplies from aquaculture are a consistent source of high-nutrient food contributing to greater food security throughout Kenya and the East African region.
Within this policy climate and Kenya’s regional leadership on aquaculture, Rio Fish is a fast growing social enterprise working to further develop aquaculture market systems in Kisumu and around Kenya. Rio Fish operates fish farms on Lake Victoria, advocates for the environmental protection of the area, and is generating livelihood opportunities for communities around the lake.
Practice Environmentally Friendly Aquaculture: Rio Fish ensures that aquaculture practices do not disrupt the natural ecosystem of Lake Victoria. Feed to the encaged fish is monitored according to environmental standards to ensure water quality in protecting the environment.
Protect Marine Resources: Rio Fish has advocated to protect the environment around Lake Victoria through building strong relationships with local government. Rio Fish’s negotiations with local government agencies led to the banning of car washing businesses around Lake Victoria to stop the drainage of waste into the lake. Rio Fish is currently negotiating with government agencies to reduce flows of industrial waste into Lake Victoria.
Strengthen Market Systems for Employment Generation: Aquaculture is an economic and employment generation strategy of the Lake Region Economic Bloc comprised of the five Kenyan counties around Lake Victoria. Rio Fish works to build and strengthen aquaculture market systems and connects fish farmers with consumers through the mobile AquaRech app.
Shifting Norms to Protect the Environment: Car washing businesses would drain their waste into Lake Victoria, damaging the natural ecosystem and fish populations. In this case, norms change was brought about by policy change as it is now unacceptable for local businesses to drain their waste into Lake Victoria.
Practicing Environmentally Friendly Aquaculture: Rio Fish has worked to ensure that all aquaculture equipment, feed, and feeding practices do not harm the natural ecosystem of Lake Victoria. As Rio Fish scales its operations, new equipment and operating procedures have been needed to continue this high quality of environmental practice.
Centralize Market Operations: Rio Fish is currently constructing a market in Kisumu at a central aggregation point. This new market will reach over 1 million consumers in Kisumu and provides a valuable model that can be scaled throughout the Lake Victoria region.
Use Technology to Enhance Operations and Build Community: Rio Fish connects with consumers through the mobile app AquaRech and also links production of fish to women fish farmers through mobile technology. Through AquaRech, fish farmers are able to better manage their farms and gain market access for their product. Technology monitors the growth of fish over time and tilapia production is enhanced through aquaculture technology.
Link Women with Economic Opportunity: Women were most affected by the dwindling supplies of fish in Lake Victoria. Rio Fish works with women fish farmers to strengthen livelihoods and also connect female consumers to fish traders through the mobile app AquaRech.
Form Strategic Partnerships with Government Agencies: Rio Fish has successfully negotiated with local and national government agencies in Kenya to advocate for better protection of the environment. These partnerships are strengthened by strong relationship building and the fostering of trust through public-private dialogue.
Rio Fish envisions a future where every citizen in Kenya has access to fish through the Rio Fish Farm. Rio Fish is currently developing a model in Kisumu to scale around Kenya and is dedicated to providing a consistent supply of high-quality, nutrient-rich fish for the Kenyan population to support sustainable livelihoods and increase food security in the region.