It is not a rare thing to see a boat in lake regions but seeing a boat in Nyandarua, a region with very few water bodies and Laikipia County which is classified generally as an arid and semi-arid area is a sight to behold.
A resident, Edward Mathenge, defied the odds of the normal ways of life here which is generally farming and livestock keeping and he decided to try fishing and not just fishing but fishing using a boat.
Mathenge says that he is experienced in boat making and he is the only person that owns a boat in Laikipia West Sub County.
“I work with the fisheries department of the two counties as a freelancer and trainer to farmers that want to venture into fish farming.
“I make my living through renting out my boat to fishermen out here, rescuers or for recreational purposes. I also make fish ponds, setting of dam liners and anything that involves a water management, water pan or dam,” says Mathenge.
He says he started water management as a young man in Nyeri district in 2005 before he decided to make his own boat, a self-taught skill, as a result of inconveniences he would encounter when the fish they reared were ready but they had no way to access the deepest points of the dams.
Mathenge says that he got trained by the ministry of livestock and fisheries in Nyeri in the year 2005.
He says he was the group leader of Njeng’u youth self-help group. The group pioneered the zero grazing of fish in the country also known as cage fishing.
The group also used to do tree planting, fish farming, water harvesting and water management.
He got a chance, as a group leader, to be trained on how to prepare water pans and fish ponds, fish rearing and harvesting. “I left Nyeri for Laikipia and Nyandarua in 2007. I visited the fisheries office and they confirmed from the Nyeri office that actually I had the requisite training to practice water management and fish farming and I was given the relevant certification that allows me to train fish farmers and help them in building water pans and fish ponds,” says Mathenge.
He says that he started making the water pans before the government did and he says that he is happy because the government had adopted and implemented an idea he had.
He says that boat making and fish farming is a good venture that can employ a lot of unemployed youths.
He says he had the passion to help and empower the community that he lives in and that is why he decided to transfer his trade.
He says he decided to become a freelance fish farmer and a part time boat maker. This, he says, enables him to work with several farmers in different counties while at the same time tend to his fish farm in Nyahururu, Laikipia County.
He tells KNA that several county governments call him from time to time to train farmers on how to make fish ponds and rear fish and that is how he earns a living.
He says that he has a raised fish pond because he has limited space in his home.
When need arises his swimming and diving skills come in handy as he uses his boat in disaster management and rescue especially in cases of drowning.
He says his boat earns him a living but is not sustainable because Laikipia is generally a dry area and Nyandarua does not have many water bodies.
“I have a garage at Nyahururu manufacturing unit (jua kali) and I train some people on boat making. I help farmers in water harvesting and making water pans.
“I also use it for recreation purposes. I have life jackets for my clients who want to be rowed for recreation,” said Mathenge.
He wishes the government would recognize and give him and his kind enough exposure for the work that they are doing.
He wishes to have many young people venture into fish farming, fish cage making and boat making so as to supplement their incomes.