By LINDA WAZILI
Aquaculture also known as Aqua-farming, refers to the breeding, rearing and
harvesting of all water organisms including aquatic plants.
However, aquaculture in Zambia is restricted to fish because it is currently on high demand on the Zambian market.
A fish farmer Cosmas Musonda Bwalya from Northern Province said he has no regrets after engaging in fish farming.
Mr Bwalya, who has been a fish farmer for almost 10 years, reveals how fish farming has immensely benefited his family and other people.
He disclosed that he started with an initial capital of K1, 500 for his fish farming enterprise.
He said some of the benefits include increase in fish production which has led to higher profits and income, as well as employment creation and poverty alleviation.
Bwalya said he has a total of eight ponds, among the ponds; one pond has been reserved for consumption while the other seven ponds are strictly for commercial purposes.
“I get about 14,000 fish every six-month from the seven ponds,” said Bwalya.
Mr Bwalya advised his fellow fish farmers and all those interested in fish farming, to take fish farming as a business in order to make high profits and improve their livelihoods.
With the decline in fish production Kasaka Fisheries Training institution is currently operating under the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL), Department of Fisheries in order promote fisheries integration into the mainstream economy of our country through training, organisational and institutional capacity development, high quality advisory and consultancy services.
Kasaka Fisheries Training Institute, Training Officer Libanga Ochola said people should engage in aquaculture because of the readily available market for fish.
Mr Ochola said, currently the fish production is approximately 70,000 tonnes which is being outstripped by the consumption needs.
He said the demand is currently at approximately 100,000 tonnes which creates a fish deficit of about 30,000.
He added that the demand should act as a driving force for people to engage in fish farming in order to improve their livelihoods and develop the aquaculture sector in Zambia.
Ochola said that in order to develop aquaculture in Zambia, the institution has embarked on training people in skills and technologies that give competencies of how to manage our fisheries and also promote aquaculture.
He said the students trained at the institution act as extension officers to the famers and the community, in order to provide information and advice on aquaculture.
He added that the adoption levels of aquaculture, have been low due to it being relatively new resulting in farmers being slow in its adoption.
Ochola said the institution was happy with the recruitment of all the Kasaka Training Institution graduates by MAL under the Department of Fisheries in order to help monitor all areas where fish farming is undertaken.
He said the institution also provides short courses to farmers or communities interested in fish farming, to gain knowledge on how to manage a fish farm and provide food security.
One would wonder what it takes to be engaged in aquaculture, it is important to note that aquaculture is more than just digging a pond and providing fingerlings.
Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Chief Aquaculture Officer Mulenga Musonda says before engaging in fish farming the first step is site selection or deciding where you will build your fish pond.
Musonda added that there are three basic characteristics to consider in site selection and these are the water source, the soil and the slope of the land which is closely related to the soil.
He further said the next step is the construction of the pond itself which involves the cutting and filling of the soil.
He said, according to research done by MAL pond construction firstly involves getting water to the site this means creating a water furrow system which includes the supply furrow and drainage furrow.
The second step is clearing the site which is the removing of all the grass, trees, stumps and roots.
And thirdly is demarcating the pond with dikes and stakes, this is a very important stage in the pond construction.
The fourth stage involves building the dikes, this also includes planting grass on the dikes to prevent the soil on the dikes to erode away.
The fifth step is building the compost crib using wooden stakes and lastly filling the pond with water for the first time.
Mr Musonda said that there are various types of fish ponds that can be built depending on the material being used in the construction which includes the ethane, concrete, plastic, contour, rosary or barrage and metal ponds.
He said the size of the pond is determined by the kind of feeding system that one decides to have.
He however said that MAL has recommended a pond size of not less than 500 metres squared for subsistence farmers and for small holder farmers at least not less than 2,500 metre squared which can be split into two ponds for easier pond management.
“The number of fish stocked in the pond is dependent on the size of the pond, however if you have developed pond management skills you can have a small pond but with high production” said Musonda.
He noted that there are feeding schedules created to guide the fish farmer at each staged, thus fish needs to be sampled every month to determine what kind of feeding schedule is suitable.
Musonda pointed out that the various conditions which affect the production of fish are the water quality, level of oxygen and level of acidity.
He advised farmers to engage in fish farming because it is the most ideal for business seeing that it is one of the fast growing in the agricultural sector worldwide.
He further said in order to develop Zambia’s aquaculture, various stakeholders came together and formed the National Aquaculture Development plan.
Musonda said the plan has been embraced by all stakeholders and strategic elements have been established, these include aquaculture should practice high potential zones where the farmer has comparative advantage and be taken as a business.
He further said that fish farming blocks where government is providing services to stimulate the growth of aquaculture have been established.
Musonda added that the government is also clustering farmers in the various potential zones where they are being trained and accorded with basic support services such as making of access roads and providing loans for the farmers.
He also said fish farming has been extended to the lakes where fish cages are being established which has stimulated the aquaculture road map to development.
He added that he was glad with the introduction of the new fish feature at demonstration plots because it provided a model to expose many people to aquaculture.
He appealed to the various institutions to come on board and help develop aquaculture in Zambia.
Musonda said presently MAL is working with various institutions to embrace the aquaculture intervention in order to promote aquaculture as a business.
The development of aquaculture in Zambia can greatly add to the food security and the development of the country’s economy because of its market demand. Thus, it is our duty as farmers, stakeholders and citizens to promote the growth of aquaculture in Zambia by engaging in various aquatic farming.-NAIS