MONICA KAYOMBO, Ndola
EARLY this year, Government acquired a US$50 million loan from the African Development Bank to boost the fish industry in Zambia.
As a result of this, the aquaculture development project, which will mark the start of empowerment programmes for fish farmers across the country, is in the offing. Minister of Fisheries and Livestock Michael Katambo said 50 percent of the loan will target 12,000 women and youth fish entrepreneurs. President Lungu said Zambia has a deficit of 85,000 metric tonnes of fish, hence the need to ensure that fish entrepreneurs are adequately supported for them to contribute to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The President’s sentiments were echoed by Mr Katambo who feels Zambia is endowed with vast natural water bodies that can be used to grow the fishing industry. Mr Katambo said President Lungu has actually directed his ministry to ensure that Zambia becomes a major exporter of fish in the next two years. He observed that currently, the country is unable to sell fish on the international market due to low productivity. Mr Katambo said Government is working towards increasing fish production through many initiatives. On the Copperbelt, the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock has engaged in a number of activities to promote aquaculture farming. Aquaculture is defined by the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO), as the rearing of aquatic organism, including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Fish farming is the major form of aquaculture practised in Zambia. While Zambia is drought prone and relatively arid, it is endowed with large expanses of water which present an opportunity for aquaculture boom. Government has already started building the capacity of the aquaculture sector in all the 10 provinces. Copperbelt Fisheries and Livestock provincial principal fisheries officer Zyangani Chirambo, says the common species used in aquaculture development include the three-spotted bream, oreochromis andersonii, green-headed bream, oreochromis macrochir and the red-breasted bream and tilapia. Other species include the common carp, Nile tilapia and freshwater crayfish. Ms Chirambo says each district of Zambia has one or more extension officers carrying out such activities as site selection, pond construction, fingerling distribution and stocking, fish pond management and fish marketing. It is worth to note that most fish farmers lack technical skills in fish husbandry and pond construction. They also lack capital to improve and increase their investment in aquaculture. Equally, the department is constrained by limited funding and low staffing levels from providing effective extension support. Ms Chirambo says the Department of Fisheries has two broad programmes under which different activities are funded namely, aquaculture management and development and capture fisheries management. All aquaculture activities being conducted are funded through the aquaculture management and development budget line. The department, which is required to promote the sector, has an aquaculture division headed by a deputy director, who is assisted by two chiefs in-charge of research, extension and management services. The main function for the aquaculture extension unit is to promote the development of aquatic life through the provision of extension and development services that will ensure that knowledge and information generated from research and the industry get to the right end-users. There are 19 aquaculture stations scattered all over the country to facilitate the transfer of information and encourage people to take up fish farming. The main function of the aquaculture research unit is to develop new and improved techniques suitable for the country in aquaculture. As the industry grows, many challenges may arise and it is anticipated that research would help design and develop appropriate packages, in response to the challenges. The Aquaculture Research unit is also mandated to initiate trials on government farms and private farms for the benefit of the sector. The department owns the National Aquaculture Research and Development Centre (NARDC) in Kitwe. This is the national facility for studies in propagation of fish fingerlings, investigations in feed formulations and studies in pond limnology. There are several research programmes being run, one of them being the improvement of oreochromis andersonii in Zambia and the lemon project or utilisation of lemon in fish feed. Other research work focuses on fish nutrition and in this view, the centre has formulated a cost-effective fish feed. The research facility has seven satellite centres where research is conducted at places such as Misamfu in Kasama where studies in fish nutrition, genetics and breeding farming systems are done. Apart from research and extension strategies, the division is promoting aquaculture production by carrying out training programmes and promoting public-private partnership (PPP) at all levels of development and management. Other government initiatives to promote aquaculture are the Smallholders Agribusiness Promotion Programme (SAPP) which focuses on development of the aquaculture value chain from production to consumption looking at processes such as fish production, input supply, processing, marketing and trade. The Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry through the Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission is working with the Department of Fisheries to promote the fish value chain through provision of affordable credit to fish farmers. A major development in the history of the aquaculture was the establishment of NARDC between 1994 and 1998. In 2004, the National Aquaculture Strategy (NAQs) was formulated. The NAQs was to provide guidance on how the sector was to be managed in order to foster growth. This is because both research and historical data showed that the aquaculture sector was not growing as expected. Some constraints were identified such as being inadequate extension services, lack of comprehensive training packages and materials, lack of quality fish feed and fingerlings, high cost of fish feed, lack of credit and poor marketing support among others. In 2007, the Fisheries Act was amended. The amended Act called for development of regulations for aquaculture. Therefore, inclusion of aquaculture development in the amended Fisheries Act as well as the development of aquaculture regulations is an improvement. Another improvement has been the birth of organisations such as the Aquaculture Development Associations of Zambia (ADAZ), which represents the interests of various stakeholders across the aquaculture value chain. These include fish farmers at all levels, fish feed and seed producers , processors, marketers, service providers, research and learning institutions, local and international partners and government agencies. “Overall, the number of small-scale fish farmers on the Copperbelt Province has increased from 200 in 2006 to 1447 in 2015. Our 2016 records indicate that 1280 small-scale farmers are active and produced about 120 tons of fish,’’ Ms Chirambo said. Nationally, production from aquaculture has increased from 5, 000 tonnes to between 22, 000 and 25, 000 tones. The development of standards for fingerlings and brood stock by the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) in 2016 is another milestone that will improve fish quality from the hatchery to the farm. All the staff in the 10 provinces are conducting training for fish farmers depending on specific needs and availability of resources. These trainings are conducted on farms or at agreed upon venues which all farmers are comfortable with. For instance, on the Copperbelt, the Government has a training centre for aquaculture at Mwekera in Kitwe. In January 2016, 286 fish farmers were trained in aquaculture as a business. The fish farmers were drawn from Chililabombwe, Chingola, Kitwe and Ndola. In December 2016, eight farmers were trained in fingerling production and hatchery management at Mwekera with financial support from SAPP. The farmers were drawn from Kitwe, Chingola, Chingola, Mufulira and Masaiti. With all these efforts that Government is making, the aquaculture sector is headed for a boom, if everything works according to plan.