By Aloysious Kasoma
Fish farming considered a gold mine that will lift household incomes and boost exports
Sylvester Adia, a resident of Kajjansi off Entebbe Road, defied unemployment by venturing into commercial fish farming at his home. He has no regrets
Armed with Shs50, 000, he bought 2,500 young fish from fishermen on Lake Victoria after digging a fish pond where they multiplied. That was ten years ago. Today, he proudly talks about his Kimoyo Fish Farm, which boasts of a hatchery and 10 aquariums each of which harbors between 3,000 to 6,000 Tilapia fish and Cat fish.
“I started with 50,000 and I bought 25,000 fish from the fishermen in Lutembe on the shores of Lake Victoria,” he recalls.
“No one was willing to give me a loan then because the loan officers expected me to pay back the loan in 2 or 3 years, which I could not afford,” said Adia the proprietor of the Kimoyo Fish Farm.
Between 2001 and 2003, he used to collect Shs10 million every month. Currently, he earns from his hatchery and sells a kilogram of Tilapia at Shs 2,500 and Shs10, 000 for Cat fish per kilogramme. Instead of being an employee, Adia chose to be an employer – his farm currently employs three workers.
In recent years, fish has become one of the top non-traditional exports that fetch Uganda millions of dollars in foreign exchange. While most fish comes from lakes, fish farming is still a virgin area though it requires relatively less investment but offers high earnings.
Paul Ssebinyansi, the chairman of Walimi Fish Cooperative Society, said starting aquaculture could require as little as Shs 1 million if one has a piece of land but it also requires clearance from National Environment Management (NEMA) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. This according to Ssebinyansi, aquaculture can be successful in an urban area.
“You must follow guidelines from NEMA and the Ministry and have land that accesses water. It can be practiced anywhere even in urban centres if oxygen is available and there is water exchange,” he said, adding that with government intervention, the industry is set to grow even further.
There is a vast market locally and internationally for Tilapia and with the introduction of new policies and revision of the old ones, the market will go beyond Kenya, Rwanda, DR Congo, Asia and the European Community, according to Ssebinyansi.
Indeed, having realized the potential of fish farming, the government appears to be stepping in to ensure more productivity.
Paul Omanyi, the senior fisheries officer at the Ministry, said the government has developed a five year development plan for the fishing sub-sector.
It aims at boosting fish exports to Asia, the region and European Union in the next five years. As part of the plan, facilities such as the Kajjansi Rehabilitation Centre have been set up under a bilateral agreement with the Government of China.
The priority in the development plan (2011 – 2016), according to Lovelock Wadanya, the assistant commissioner in the Department of Fisheries, is training farmers in aquaculture to lift productivity to 3,000 tons in addition to the potential 9,000 tons annually
Uganda exported 15,500 tonnes of fish in 2011, thus earning the country about Shs 212 billion, out of which the bigger percentage was from the Nile perch species. The EU accounts for 75 per cent of the fish exports from Uganda sold through Amsterdam and Brussels to other European destinations.
Under the plan, public private partnerships in aquaculture will be a key focus as well as directly digging dams and valley tanks for potential famers, which will be in form of grants.
Aquaculture is now widely practiced on small scale basis in the areas around Lake Victoria, Lake Katwe, Kajjansi, River Nile and wetlands among others.
Andrew Kyalibono, a supervisor at the Source of the Nile Fish Farm Ltd at Njeru in Mukono District, said fish farming can fetch one a healthy return of between Shs 32 million and Shs 48 million annually.
He said one only needs a start-up capital of Shs 2.5 million, basic knowledge and commitment plus a piece of land that has access to natural water. Just seven months is enough for a Tilapia fish that weighs between 0.7 grams and 1 kg to mature. This will sell for between Shs 4, 000 and Shs 6, 000.