22 January 2013

Rwanda: Govt Steps Up Efforts to Boost Fish Farming

A senior official of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (Fao) has urged fish farmers to enhance their activities, saying the practice offers unmatched business opportunities for farmers to improve their socio-economic status.

Blessing Mafumo, the regional aquaculture advisor for Fao's SmartFish Programme, was speaking to the The New Times on the sidelines of a one-week training for fish farmers drawn from across the country.

The seminar, which opened yesterday in Huye district, is running under the theme, "The Best Management Practices on Conducting Freshwater Aquaculture as a Business." It is jointly organised by Fao and Rwanda Agriculture Board (Rab).

Lucrative venture

Mafumo encouraged individual farmers and cooperatives to venture into fish farming "because it is a lucrative activity."

"Fish prices on the market are continuously going up," he said. "This is a viable business. Rwanda imports a lot of fish from neighbouring countries. We are saying you can produce your own fish for the over 10 million Rwandans."

The Zimbabwean aquaculture expert said by adopting best practices in the field, one is guaranteed profits. He reckoned people fear to venture into the field because they lack role models and experienced individuals to learn from.

"There are not many success stories [in fish farming] in Rwanda. Aquaculture is still at its infancy," he said, as he appealed to government to encourage the people to invest in fish farming.

Mafumo also said it is high time fisheries stakeholders changed the paradigm of aquaculture from subsistence to commercial farming.

Gregoire Dusabemungu, the Rab head of fish farming and fisheries, said professionalising the field will ensure that farmers reap big from their activities.

Dusabemungu said adopting the best practices and modern techniques are the sure ways to boost production in the field.

"Generally, fish farmers are just practicing for the matter of survival. That has to change. We are doing our best to make sure farmers adopt new attitudes and practice fish farming as a business," Dusabemungu said.

"Choosing the right place, setting up the right infrastructures, using quality seeds and feeding fish well, among others, are essential to guarantee better production."

He encouraged farmers to work with banks and other financial institutions to uplift their activities and promised continued capacity building support

RAB officials said the event is in line with the government's desire to transform aquaculture from non-viable subsistence to economically sustainable enterprises, which if done well, will lead to improved food security in the country.

Among the best advantages for local fish farmers include available and abundant water resources, good bio-physical environment, sober macroeconomic policies and other support infrastructure, which can provide a firm basis for improved fish production.

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