It is hoped that the dependency on wild game found in Serengeti National Park for consumption and business is greatly reduced.
The villages are Bonchugu and Robanda which have highest number of poachers in the district. Both villages are adjacent to Grumeti/ Ikorongo game reserves in the western Serengeti. But a section of Robanda village is also within the Ikoma Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) that is potential for photographic tourism.
The project started in late 2010 when SGF provided the villages with 15,000 fish fingerlings that were placed in dams constructed in the villages several years ago. Bonchugu got 10,000 fish fingerlings and Robanda 5000. "The aim is to give our neighbours the villagers an alternative animal protein and we believe they will also sell some of the fish and boost their incomes", SGF Programme Outreach Programme Co-coordinator Mr Richard Ndaskoi said.
The villagers have been trained on fish farming best practices provided by experts from the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFRI). Bonchugu village government chairman Mr Makena Mwikwabe said four groups made up of women and men engage in fish farming in his village.
"Already one group comprising 16 people will soon be able to fish the mature fish," Mr Mwikwabe said. Serengeti is the only district in Mara region which does not access Lake Victoria unlike Rorya, Bunda, Musoma and Tarime districts. Bonchugu village chairman welcomed the project, saying that it will play a crucial role to reduce poaching incidents in the area."
People will sell fish at the village market and those who will continue killing wild animals looking for bush meat when there is fish will be taken to task", the village chief warned. Mr Kenyatta Richard Msoke, one of the beneficiaries of the project from Robanda village described the fish as tastier than game meat.
"This is good project because it will also help us to generate income", Mr Kenyatta told the 'Daily News' recently. He said that the price of fish weighing at 400 grams is 3,500/- in the area. "We will sell fish to the tourist tented camps operating near our village", Mr Kenyatta pointed out.
Robanda village has the highest number of tented camps which attract visitors from all over the world who flock western Serengeti to view the wild life. An official with Shirati TAFRI office, Mr Athanas Mbonde, estimates that there is over one ton of fish ready for harvesting in both villages.
"What the villagers need is fishing gear, the fish in the dams are about 400 grams in weight", Mr Mbonde said shortly after conducting training on fish harvesting for the villagers early this month. But he said the dams used by the villagers for the fish ponds are another challenge facing the sustainability of the project.
"The villagers have no full control of the dams because the same dams are used as the source of water for domestic use and livestock", Mr Mbonde pointed out. He suggested establishment of small ponds that will be used exclusively for fish farming.
"We thank Grumeti for introducing this project in our village and what we need now is proper fishing gear", Mr Msoke said. According to Mr Ndaskoi, SGF look into the possibility of providing the villagers with fishing nets.