Fish farmers say the Inland Lakes Integrated Development and Management Support Project (PAIGELAC), has greatly improved the way they previously engaged in their activities and contributed to food security.
PAIGELAC was a six-year project that the government initiated to restore the ecosystem and stop indiscriminate fishing to increase fish production, improve nutrition, and ensure food security as well as improving incomes of the beneficiaries. It ended on December 31 last year and was funded by the Africa Development Bank to the tune of Rwf6.8 billion.
During a meeting with stakeholders and fish farmers in Kigali, farmers said in addition to empowering them through capacity building to systematically conduct their work, the programme built permanent structures that will continue benefiting them even after it has closed shop.
"Among others, I believe that training us in best ways to rear fish in our pounds is one of the most important issues that this programme has addressed as it has significantly improved our produce, unlike before when some farmers thought being a fish farmer meant owning a pound with fish," said Janet Uwimana, a fish farmer and member of Isuge Cooperative in Musanze district.
She said the programme also enabled fish farmers to work in cooperatives, something she said had enabled them to collectively seek actions against challenges they previously faced.
Alex Ruzindana, a farmer from Kamonyi district, said profits they are now making has enabled them to diversify into other income-generating activities.
"Through our cooperatives, we have bought sewing machines and motorcycles, which we give out to the youth, and they bring in a daily income," Ruzindana said.
Dr. Wilson Rutaganira, PAIGELAC project coordinator, told The Sunday Times that the project covered three areas; institutional capacity building, improvement of production and commercialisation of the fishery products as well as project management.
"We introduced fish farming and built capacity for famers to ensure that they effectively contribute to increasing fish production to at least 25,000 metric tonnes up from 7,000," said Rutaganira.
He explained that among others, the project also contributed to the security measures at the fishing sites by using motorised boats in surveillance carried out in partnership with the National Police Marine department.