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Mukono ZARDI to revive fish farming in urban centers to fight malnutrition

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Information from the Directorate of Fisheries Resources indicates, that Uganda earned $195million from fish and its products alone before the pandemic.

Fish is one of the highly nutritious food that should be consumed by all age groups (the World Health Organization recommends 25kg per person per year).

According to fish experts, it contains proteins and essential oils needed for boosting body immunity. It is also considered white meat, safe for those that cannot eat red meat.

Apart from boosting body immunity, fish is a source of foreign income because it is exported to mainly international and regional markets in DR Congo

Information from the Directorate of Fisheries Resources indicates, that Uganda earned $195million from fish and its products alone before the pandemic. Fish in Uganda is mainly sourced from wild catch in lakes rivers and swamps as well as from farmed sources. The two main farmed species are Nile tilapia (Engenge) and The North African Catfish (Mmale)

Because of the above issues, it has become too expensive for ordinary people to afford, with a kilo going for between sh10,000 to 15,000 in times of scarcity and in times of plenty, prices drop slightly, according to Juma Kagwa a fish trader.

The high cost of fish is attributed to increased population and overfishing the water sources in the past, due to the high demand from within the country and beyond, and also between humans and livestock especially poultry.

That meant no fish was left to grow and reproduce until the government intervened a few years ago with the help of the army to regulate fishing activities.  To date, fish stocks appear to have recovered and increased export volumes.

Although there is an increase in fish from water bodies within the country, the price is still high for some people.  According to the directorate of fisheries Resources in the ministry of agriculture, fish production from the lakes and rivers currently stands at 560,000 metric tons and 120,000 metric tons from farmed fish annually.

That is why many have ventured into fish farming both on a small and large scale. Some for-home consumption, others for commercial purposes. However, for all ventures to succeed, one must work with experts to fully understand how fish farming can successfully be carried out.

How to start fish farming

Andrew Izaara, an aquaculture (fish farming) scientist from the Mukono Zonal Agriculture Research and Development Institute (MUZARDI), said that for successful fish farming to happen, one must have a clear plan.

The plan includes available resources to enable the farmer to her invest in the right infrastructure and inputs such as; ponds, cages, tanks, fingerlings or seed, feeds, labor, and essential farm tools and equipment.

Izaara adds that the right infrastructure must be able to support the fish for the entire growing cycle without the fish escaping or dying. Infrastructure must enable the proper exchange of freshwater, supply of oxygen, and efficient removal of wastewater and fish waste products and excess feed.

“Failure to observe proper husbandry in fish farming easily leads to a build of “dirt” from fish wastes and excess feeds that sink at the bottom of the growing unit.  

As these wastes rot, they consume all the oxygen that is also needed by the fish to survive. If this goes on unresolved, it can result in poor feeding, poor growth rate and in extreme situations, death of the fish” explains Izaara.

Apart from a clean water system, feeds too should be considered for one to attain the targeted weight at harvest. Besides, farmers should also watch out for wild fish and other predators, they find their way where the fish is being grown, predators may feed on the farmers fish while wild fish may compete for feed and space with the farmed fish, compromising the fish’s growth plan leading to stunted growth, Izaara added.

He adds that failure to follow some of the above guiding principles in fish farming is the reason why many people find fish farming expensive a hard venture to explore.

Izaara made the observation while taking farmers through fish farming lessons during a field day to the Kamenyamigo Satellite research station under NARO in Masaka district.

He explained that fish farming is one of the activities that the research station, wants to promote not only in the countryside but also in urban settings for families to have more nutritious foods.

He also called on farmers' prospective farmers interested in fish farming to approach researchers at NARO countrywide for guidance on where to get quality feeds, seed or fingerlings, construction of proper systems for fish farming among others.

The field activity was aimed at introducing farmers in the region to various technologies that NARO through its research stations is working on to address food security, pests, and diseases, quality seed in addition to technologies that can improve farm incomes.

At the station, farmers were introduced to Hass avocado, the new agriculture export crop, the fertilizer being developed from the atmosphere, latest practices in coffee and banana farming among others.

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