Farmer establishes commercial aquaculture in Lake Victoria

MR Lucas Malembo, a farmer, looks forward to turning challenges in fisheries sector into opportunity. Poor fish catches that do not meet country’s demand and widespread illegal fishing have propelled him to contemplate going commercial---to establish fish cage farming in Lake V ictoria.

According to Wikipedia, fish cages are placed in lakes, bayous, ponds, rivers, or oceans to contain and protect fish until they can be harvested.

The method is also called “off-shore cultivation”when the cages are placed in the sea. They can be constructed out of a wide variety of components. Fish are stocked in cages, artificially fed, and harvested when they reach market size.

A few advantages of fish farming with cages are that many types of waters can be used (rivers, lakes, filled quarries, etc.), many types of fish can be raised, and fish farming can co-exist with sport fishing and other water used of a wide variety of components.

Mr Malembo wants to materialise his idea after realizing that most of the fishing methods that the country’s fishermen use are environmental unfriendly and fall short of meeting the demand.

“I am now working on procedures as per the laws and regulations to enable me establish a fish cage farming in the Lake V ictoria,” Mr Malembo tells the ‘Daily News.’

He says cage farming has been largely practiced in Kenya and Uganda and he was inspired after seeing the youth in those countries prospering through aquaculture.

“We are still not exploiting well our water resources. This fish cage technology can be used if lakes, ocean or rivers which we have all of them,” says Mr Malembo who is also an Executive Director of the Malembo Farm.

He has already started following up on acquiring permits from different authorities to establish aquaculture in Lake V ictoria.

So far, he has secured permits from the local authority at Kageye village in Magu District where he wants to implement his project and another permit from the National Environment Management Council (NEMC).

He still seeks certifications from other institutions like the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI), for project take-off.

However, he finds the process so difficulty since it involves acquiring number of permits that are costly.

“For instance, to implement my project it would require me spending about 10m/-in permit fees only… something which may discourage youth who would want to venture into this kind of investment,’ he says.

He therefore advises institutions supporting entrepreneurs and farmers to find a way of empowering the latter to secure the permits. After establishing the fish cage in the Lake V ictoria, Mr Malembo wants also to use it demonstration farm to other fishermen who would interested to start up the same project.

If fishermen opt for fish cage they would be harvesting fish instead of hunting fish, which leads to illegal fishing. There have been several campaigns against illegal fishing which threatens marine resources in the country.

One of popular campaigns in the Lake V ictoria, operation Sangara, saw number of illegal fishing tools seized and fishermen were ordered to opt for lawful means of catching fish.

According to statistics, in 2017 Tanzania recorded a sharp decline of fish stocks in the Indian Ocean, blamed on the use of dynamite fishing and overfishing.

The statistics from the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries indicated that sea pirates were fishing illegally in deep waters using dynamite. It is estimated that fish catches declined to at least 3 60,000 tonnes in 2016 from an average 390,000 tonnes over the past four years. Tanzania’s total demand is 730,000 tonnes of fish per year.

Local companies resorted to importing fish from China, with data showing that 2,000 tonnes of mackerel fish from the Asian country enter Tanzania every month.

Deputy Minister for livestock and fisheries Abdallah Ulega said that the government was seeking to stop the use of dynamite in fishing, which destroys breeding grounds for most fish species.

Fish cage farming could be alternative to rising production of fish in the waters and increases catches than practicing illegal fishing. “Aquaculture means you are assured of harvesting what you have grown…

I call upon the Ministry of fisheries and Livestock to think of organizing the members of private sector to engage in aquaculture and find means of simplifying issuance of permits,” he appeals.

Mr Malembo says if he manages to start the project soon, he expects to grow at least 100,000 fish by end of this year. “If I sell each fish at 10,000/- it means I will earn 1bn/-… and my future plan is to set up a fish processing factory,” he explains.

A report by the East African Community (EAC), and the European Union (EU), task force said Tanzania is yet to commercialise the optimal level.

In Tanzania, aquaculture is primarily a small-scale subsistence activity with small ponds, little formal management and low productivity. The report presented last year to the regional workshop on fish farming noted that in spite of several commercial scale operations, including some cage farms on Lake V ictoria in Kagera and Mara regions, the industry lags far behind the other riparian states.

Unlike Uganda and Kenya, cage culture has not taken off at a commercial scale on the Tanzanian side of the lake.

In Uganda, aquaculture production is estimated to have 25,000 ponds covering 100,000 hectares and about 3 ,000 cages. Investments in commercial cage production systems are dominated by several international firms which invested in Lake V ictoria with tilapia being the main catch.

In Kenya, the government invested over $50.7 million in development of aquaculture from 2009 to 2013, resulting in the construction of over 48,000 ponds.

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