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Tilapia Project Shows Way Ahead For Zambia

31 December 2010

ZAMBIA - A successful tilapia enterprise has been praised as an example of how the country's aquaculture industry could be developed to a higher level.

Zambia' fish farming industry has a lot of potential for growth, and subsequently improve the socio-economy of many Zambians, according to the Times of Zambia. Although the demand for fish is higher than the supply, aquaculture can be an integral part of the country's economy. However, fewer commercial farmers are working hard to develop aquaculture to meet the fish deficit.

One such is Tilapia Enterprise that serves as a model to many countrywide.

Recently, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) bought 100,000 fingerlings to benefit small-scale farmers on the Copperbelt and Mkushi district.

Small-scale fish farmer, Joseph Kampampa, who owns three fishponds in Mufulira, is among the several small-scale farmers who are keen to develop aquaculture. Recently, he bought 3, 000 fingerlings, which have since matured into ready fish for the market.

"My fish are ready for sale. I am just getting ready to market the fish in Mufulira," says Mr Kampamba who is a civil servant.

There is no doubt that fish farming in Zambia has plenty of room for growth.

The fisheries department, under the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries and FAO are working hard at moving aquaculture forward. It is for this reason that the FAO funded the buying of fingerlings, through the department of fisheries to benefit small-scale farmers.

"We want to build a fish farming business that will be a model for small-scale farmers to follow and be involved in because creating wealth is the goal," said director at Tilapia, Nathan Enright.

The capital investment for the aquaculture project exceeds US$700,000, and several small-scale farmers would benefit greatly.

Tilapia Enterprise, which started with one pond about four years ago, has developed to 28 fish-ponds spread over a 14-hectare piece of land in the Baluba area of Luanshya.

Several small-scale farmers have and would benefit from the fingerling bred at the hatchery.

The long-term goal of the project is for the farmers to keep growing their own ponds as well as out grower ponds with small-scale farmers. The firm also conducts training for small-scale farmers besides selling their fingerlings to them.

"We understand the complexity that comes with fish farming. Every stage is critical, this is why we are so keen to train those we deal with," said Sylvester Kondora, head of the hatchery department. He is a fish-farming expert who understands the intricacies that come with aquaculture.

The hatchery is obviously where it all begins. The eggs are hatched in incubator jars and then kept as fingerlings until they are ready to stock or sell. Fingerlings could be kept at whatever size the customer requires but they are normally 3.5g. They are then stocked in grow-out ponds, which are on a 14-hectare piece of land. The fingerlings are fed, as they require feed for a total of six months after which the entire pond can be harvested. The fish is then frozen for sale to different markets on the Copperbelt and other places.

"We breed and grow a type of fish known as tilapia (bream). It's a very fast growing fish that is ideal for fish farming," Mr Kondora said.

Tilapia Enterprises currently has enough ponds to harvest a steady 15 tonnes a month, reports Times of Zambia.

Once in a while, officials from the fisheries department, FAO, farmers and other people passionate about fish farming visit the project for case studies.

According to Mr Kondora, the way small-scale fish farmers could benefit from the project is to first acquire good quality fingerlings at affordable prices.

He said: "We guarantee all male fish since male tilapia grow much faster than female."

The project has a lot of information about fish farming that they share with farmers. They also plan to help with marketing of fish for the farmers who are struggling to sell their fish.

Small-scale fish farmer, Patrick Mpabalwani, from Mubungula area in Ndola's Chichele Ward says fish farming has lots of potential. He says the country was endowed with vast water resources that could sustain the development of aquaculture.

"A lot of small-scale farmers need training to be successful fish farmers. Aquaculture is one way of lifting people out of poverty," said Mr Mpabalwani who intends to have several ponds besides the one he has. He encourages Zambians to venture into fish farming saying it has potential to create employment for the unemployed.

The small-scale farmer training programmes of would-be fish farmers are vital to guarantee success in aquaculture.

"As a country, we need to look at possibilities of being productive in areas like fish farming. If we are productive enough, we can’t worry about food and paying bills," he said.

As for the multi-billion-Kwacha aquaculture project, they have no intentions of exporting fish saying there is no need to do so when the demand for fish in Zambia exceeds supply.

"If we have to export, may be to the Democratic Republic of Congo in the near future. Our market is on the line of rail," explained Mr Enright.

Local market shortfall of fish is currently at 35,000 tonnes per annum. Zambia is importing tilapia from China and Zimbabwe, and local fishermen provide the same quantity as well.

According to the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) interested investors will serve the local market and also have access to a huge regional market, especially in the Central African Republic, Angola and Gabon.

There is also a huge demand for fish by the European Union and other international markets including US, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Africa and the Middle East. Nile perch and tilapia found on Lake Victoria have proved to be the most commercially viable.

Times of Zambia reports that the ZDA is promoting tilapia fish farming to meet the 35,000 tones per annum short fall on the local market. Potential investors will also have access to export to markets in Angola, Gabon and the Central African Republic.

The Government, through the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, wants to develop fish farming to the level that production surpasses that from water bodies. Such goals have been achieved in Egypt and China where production from fish farms now surpasses that from marine fisheries.

To ensure that development of fish farming in Zambia is accelerated, the Government developed the Aquaculture Strategy and Aquaculture Development Plan. The Plan is being piloted in four provinces namely Central, Southern, Lusaka and Copperbelt. The five-year plan is estimated to cost about US$70 million to implement.

Mr Enright is happy with the Government's commitment to promote aquaculture.

Fishing in ponds is advantageous over natural water bodies as natural water bodies tends to deplete the fish species and there is restocking of fish. In short, there are limitations to depend on natural water bodies compared to fish ponds. There are no fish bans for those who own fish-ponds unlike on natural water bodies.

Tilapia Enterprise's aquaculture project is an evident model for fish farming in Zambia. It is one of the few progressive commercial aquaculture initiatives in the country, concludes the Times of Zambia report.

TheFishSite News Desk



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