Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Minting money from fish farming Talking to The East Africa Agribusiness Magazine, Dr Balirwa said that there was a lot of potential in the fish industry which last year earned the country 1160M US dollars from only 20,562 tons of fish exports compared to 450m US dollars which was earned from 210,000 tons of coffee exports. “You can clearly see that if the fish industry increased it’s exports to 200,000 tons it would fetch 725M US dollars which is almost double the earnings from the same tonnage of coffee exports.” Balirwa said that the country may be losing between 60M-80M US dollars in illegal fish trade mainly through smuggling of immature fish from Uganda’s water bodies. “Measures should be put in place to stop the illegal fishing and smuggling to help the industry grow and contribute to the economy in a more sustainable manner,” the renowned scientists stated. NaFIRRI which Dr. Balirwa heads is one of the six Public Agricultural Research Institutes of Uganda established by The National Agricultural Research Act 2005. It is charged with conducting basic and applied research of national and strategic importance in capture fisheries, aquaculture, water environment, socio-economics and marketing and information communication management and emerging issues in the fisheries sector. “The institute’s management recognized that the geographical mandate for fisheries is quite large with up to 20% of the country’s surface covered by open water in form of lakes, rivers and wetlands all conducive for both capture and aquaculture fisheries. The Institute’s Scientific Committee analysed the diversity of stakeholder needs and recommended that scientists should incorporate development of policy briefs in their research activities. This approach will enhance uptake of research products through dissemination of non-jargon products that can guide sustainable utilization of the fisheries that have come to be associated with fish exports, livelihoods and the preferred health benefits,” Balirwa explained. The Director noted with concern that fish production predominantly from capture fisheries has drastically declined and the country cannot meet national, regional and international market demands. New innovations Despite its long history dating to the early 1950s, fish farming in Uganda has not developed beyond small subsistence scales. And yet according to the National Development Plan (NDP) and the Development Strategy and Investment Plan (DSIP), fish farming in the country presents immense opportunities for socio-economic development in terms of livelihood, income and employment. In order to deal with this problem, Dr. Balirwa says that NaFIRRI has come up with an Aquaculture ( fish farming) policy brief “ to demystify” the new innovative practice of cage culture by outlining what the practice requires and how an average Ugandan fish farmer can take up profitable commercial fish farming. In comparison to the traditional earthen pond fish farming, cage fish culture (or call it cage fish farming) is a new practice in Uganda. Unlike pond fish farming, cage fish culture relies on artificial structures (the cages) of various sizes that are suspended in a water body such as a lake, river or reservoir. Through USAID support to NaFIRRI, research from pilot Low Volume High Density (LVHD) cage culture studies demonstrated that the practice was environmentally and commercially viable in many water bodies of Uganda. In the policy briefs, recommendations have been made to introduce the use of small (2m X 2m X 2m) to medium –sized ( 5m X 5m X 4.5m) cages that are within the means of an average Ugandan commercial fish farmer. Dr. Stephen Sekiranda, the Program Leader of Innovations and Post Harvest Fisheries at NaFIRRI, noted that cages allow for high density production and are mainly used for ‘fattening’ or raising fish quickly from juveniles to table or market sizes using high quality feeds and that cages can be done in many water bodies in the country. “There are over 160 minor lakes and thousands of communal reservoirs that can be targeted specifically for cage based fish production. We have carried out research which shows that Uganda needs less than 1% of her water surface to produce the amount of fish equivalent in weight to its natural fisheries production potential of 800,000 tons annually. The demand for fish in Uganda and worldwide is increasing due to increasing human population and health concerns. Fish is preferred over beef because of its high quality protein with essential amino acids and fatty acids which lower cholesterol levels in blood and reduce incidences of high blood pressure and heart diseases. According to FAO, the per capita fish consumption should be 15kg but in Uganda, it is 8 kg. According to FAO, 50% of the global wild fish stocks were fully exploited and 25% were over-exploited by the end of the 20th century and yet the human population was increasing and had reached the 6 billion mark. In Uganda, capture fisheries production (fish got from our water bodies) has been declining to the extent that per capital fish consumption is currently only 8kg which is much below that recommended by FAO. With an estimated population of 33 million people, the local demand for fish to meet the FAO requirements is about 500,000tonnes annually. Figures don’t lie: the High Potential for Fish farming According to research carried out by NaFIRRI, Uganda’s raw fish production for international trade is about 200,000 tons annually and the demand from the regional market is about 200,000 tons annually. This means that Uganda needs to produce about 900,000 tons of fish annually to meet its national, regional and international demands. Fish production from capture fisheries and aquaculture is about 400,000 and 100,000 tons annually ,respectively, leaving a deficit in fish supply of about 500,000 tons annually. Capture fisheries have been declining and this source is not expected to produce more fish. If Uganda has to avoid importation of fish, Dr Sekiranda says the only option for increasing fish production is through aquaculture (fish farming) supported by firm efforts to eradicate illegal fishing regimes. Therefore, Government needs to invest in both aquaculture and capture fisheries development, management and research. By Moses Paul Sserwanga Esq. The writer is an advocate, Media and Communications Consultant

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