In Central region, fish has never been on the menu, boys were told not to bother fishing. Cooking pots had to be aired out because they stank of fish.
But when fish farming was introduced in the Economic Stimulus Programme in 2010, farmers saw a chance to supplement their earnings from tea, coffee and dairy ventures.
But the Sh300 million project has collapsed and the Wamagana Fish Processing plant remains a Sh60 million white elephant.
Farmers who ventured into fish farming with the promise of a ready market had to release their fish and water into rivers. They planted food crops after the government failed to provide the market.
Ben Wamathai from Tetu constituency emptied his pond water and fish into a nearby stream and planted arrowroot. “I’m happy now that the arrowroot is eaten by everyone in the family.” His wife does not eat fish.
Wambugu Nyamu from Othaya constituency was approached by his area assistant chief with the fish proposal. “He told me the government was building fish ponds for farmers and would supply them with free fingerlings and feed,” he says.
“Many people here don’t eat fish and they were hesitant at first as they couldn’t understand why they were to have ponds in their farms because they would take up a chunk of land.”
But Nyamu and a youth group gave it a try after they were promised a fish factory was coming up. “We were promised that before the factory was completed, the fisheries department would come for the fish and market them,” he told the Newsline.co.ke.
But after the fish matured, the fisheries officers disappeared and there was no local market.
The fish feeding programme was discontinued. The group got impatient. They drained their ponds and dumped fish into River Thuti.
A spot check by our correspondent in the Nyeri major supermarkets in search of Nyeri County processed fish yielded none.