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Govt earmarks sh12b to skill youth in fish farming

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Two aquaculture parks each at a cost of sh6b will be complete by June next year

The government has earmarked sh12b to skill youth and women in fish farming.

Part of the money will also go into setting up aquaculture parks along the fisheries value chain to boost fish production and provide employment opportunities to Ugandans especially the youth and women.

The acting director of fisheries resources at the agriculture ministry, Joyce Ikwaput Nyeko told a national dialogue in the run-up to the World Fisheries Day 2021 at Hotel Africana in Kampala that the two aquaculture parks each at a cost of sh6b will be complete by June next year.

“Government through a five-year strategic plan is committed to supporting the sector to further growth across the entire value chain,” Ikwaput said.

Organised by Caritas Uganda, the development arm of the Catholic Church in Uganda, the dialogue aimed at providing an avenue for stakeholders from diverse backgrounds to reflect together on the opportunities that the fisheries sector offers for the transformation of the lives of Ugandans.

The aqua-parks according to Ikwaput, will be a complete value chain. The facilities in the aqua parks will include hatcheries for the production of young fish, ponds, tanks, training facilities, cages, big feed stores, mini-feed manufacturing facilities, Ice making facilities, slabs for cleaning, and running water.

“We want an area where you can have the production systems brought together starting with the production of the seed itself, production of feeds, table food, marketing facilities such as the cold rooms where to bulky and preserve the fish, smoking facilities, training facilities,” Ikwaput said.

The parks she said were being designed at Taragoli along the River Nile in Apac district and Mwema Bay on Lake Victoria in Kalangala district.

“We are hopeful by June next year we should be having them up running and we have also identified a number of areas already which are suitable for more aqua-parks including one in the Mpologoma area,” she said.

However the establishment of more parks, Ikwaput said will depend on the availability of resources amidst the financial interruptions caused by COVID-19.

It is no secret that the fisheries sector has since emerged among the lead sources of revenue to the government of Uganda.

For instance, the fisheries sector remains the second highest foreign exchange earner for Uganda contributing 12% of the national economy.

Last financial year, finance minister, Matia Kasaija reported a 43% surge in fish production between 2017 and 2019 from 391000 to 561,000 metric tons.

By January 2020, Ugandan’s earnings had tremendously increased from $41m in 2004 to $123m.

However recently, the state minister for fisheries, Hellen Adoa expressed concern that the expanding weed coverage on the lakes, rivers, and wetlands was a threat to the growing fishing sector given the fact that the weeds affect fish breeding and pollute the water bodies.

For instance, about 34,420 hectares of the total size of both Lake Victoria and Kyoga were under the siege of either floating Islands or water hyacinth.

Ikwaput disclosed that before the establishment of any aquaculture park, thorough feasibility studies are done to among others establish the water quality, the soil quality, and the value for money.

“We are also looking at social, cultural, and environmental impact so that by the time we construct the ponds, we know what is going to be put there is economically, environmentally, and commercially sustainable,” Ikwaput said.

Relatedly government plans to support farmers to excavate commercially viable fish ponds.

Ikwaput said the ministry has started the procurement of heavy earth moving equipment to help farmers in the excavation of the fish ponds. The equipment she said will be located at regional centres.

According to Ikwaput, most farmers are having small ponds of 200square meters which are not commercially valuable.

“We want farmers to move to 1000 square meters ponds so that they can have something which is commercially valuable.

Once these centres are established farmers can be able to apply to be given that equipment at a small fee for fuel in order to be able to excavate their ponds,” she said.

Dr. Keneth Tanaba from Makerere University urged the government to ensure that the youth and the women are supported to benefit from the opportunities available in the fisheries value chain.

He admitted that the industry is growing with many investors coming on board presenting many opportunities to young people.

Tanaba however advised; “We need skilled people to manage the sector to avoid destroying the environment.”

Doris Adong and Isaac Edeja, fish farmers from Arua and Gulu respectively while rallying many more young people to embrace opportunities along the fisheries value chain, drummed for government support saying it requires capital to start yet many young people can’t afford it. 

Msgr Dr. Francis Ndamira, the national director of Caritas Uganda, indicated that deliberations during the dialogue were well structured in the 2021 World Fisheries Day theme; “Enhancing the role of women and youth in sustainable Aquaculture.”

National celebrations will be held in Gulu City on November 22, 2021, and they will be co-hosted by Gulu City Council Authority and Caritas Uganda.

“We believe Caritas was selected because of its contribution in the last three years towards the development of aquaculture as an alternative livelihood for the poor and vulnerable persons,” he said.

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