UNIVERSITIES and other private players must seriously look into research and formulate cost-effective fish feed so that Zimbabweans can profitably embark on fish farming for their livelihoods and other nutritional benefits, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has said.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony of 40 women and youths who were presented with certificates in fish farming in Harare yesterday, the First Lady said Zimbabwe had potential to reap immense benefits from fish farming, although there was need to look at the cost of feed.
Amai Mnangagwa has a passion for women and youth empowerment, hence her tireless efforts to set up income-generating projects for these groups across the country.
She is also the country's environment and health ambassador.
A plentiful catch of healthy fish was harvested at yesterday's occasion, showing that the project launched by the First Lady six months ago, is bound to succeed if pursued properly.
"I really understand what it means to be a mother, especially during difficult times like we are experiencing under this Covid-19 pandemic," she said.
"A lot of livelihoods have been lost and our living standards as women are heavily inclined towards small businesses such as vending, hence the most affected.
"I, therefore, encourage you all to venture into this lucrative fish farming business. I am, however, made aware of the prohibitive cost of fish feed and hereby plead with universities and other private entities to seriously look into research and formulating cost-effective fish feed so that Zimbabweans can profitably embark on fish farming for livelihoods and nutritional reasons."
Amai Mnangagwa's projects are non-partisan and she said she would never allow anyone to be left behind.
"Kana muchindiona kudai ndiri mai vemunhu wese, handisarudze vana uye handisarudze kuti unobvepi kana kuti dzinza rako or chechi yaunopinda," she said. "Ndiri mai venyika yese yeZimbabwe and all these projects I am setting up countrywide are meant to benefit everyone.
"All women are special regardless of colour, race, religion, political affiliation, social or marital status. Let me reiterate that we need one another, especially now, more than any other time."
The First Lady said she had developed interest and passion in fish farming as she appreciated the monetary and health benefits that can easily be accrued from the venture.
She said she learnt a lot about fish farming.
The First Lady has since initiated fish farming projects at Angel of Hope Foundation activities and in her backyard, maximising on the available space and water.
She said she strongly believed in the empowerment of women as the real and sustainable solution to the national development drive.
"I believe that once we empower women, like we are going to witness today, the empowered women will go on to empower other women and the empowerment train continues non-stop until all women are empowered regardless of their social standing in society," said the First Lady.
"Let us use our influence for those in positions of authority to ignite the empowerment fire which will consume the entire nation."
In 2018 and 2019, the First Lady worked with ZimParks, empowering schools with fish ponds and fruit trees, as an empowerment programme for schools to be self-sustaining through income-generation from fish farming.
She was thankful to ZimParks for training future fish farmers.
"This fish farming project should serve as a training model for future programmes for youth and women and I wish to embark on these projects countrywide," said the First Lady.
"Driven by love for my fellow women, love for our children and love for our nation, I quickly thought of developing a model project and test-run it with a small group of women in order for many to see that it can be achievable.
"I squeezed resources from my little personal savings to see this project come to fruition. Fish is a high-protein, low-fat food that provides a range of health benefits. White-fleshed fish, in particular, is lower in fat than any other sources of animal protein, and oily fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, or the 'good' fats.
"Since the human body cannot produce significant amounts of these essential nutrients, fish are an important part of the diet which provides these essential nutrients."
Fish are low in the "bad" fats, commonly found in red meat, called omega-6 fatty acids.
Amai Mnangagwa handed over the fish pond to the women and youths to train more women in fish farming.
"In the Bible story of the good Samaritan, we learn that he saw someone in need and felt love and compassion to help," she said. "In like manner, I am calling upon all of us women to be driven by genuine love to embrace each other regardless of whatever distinction that may exist.
"Without any discrimination, let us show love to one another, support each other, empower each other, carry one another's burden and finally stand in solidarity with each other.
"As for me, my love is for all, I know no boundary, I do not discriminate, hence wherever women are gathered, I am also there. Driven by this love, you have seen me everywhere, be it church denominations, various women groups, academia, women lawyers, female journalists and many more gatherings. Feel free to call me, for I belong everywhere."
ZimParks director-general Mr Fulton Mangwanya praised the First Lady for the project and congratulated those who graduated.
He said his organisation had embarked on a nationwide training programme and awareness campaign to encourage fish farming.
Over the past two years, ZimParks has trained 2 000 people, including youths and women, in fish farming.
Said Mr Mangwanya: "This programme has seen interest in fish farming more than doubling as we received more requests for training and fish farming permits. Zimbabwe has about 10 700 dams, surprisingly these vast water sources are not currently producing enough to feed the nation with a reliable sustainable protein source.
"As the custodians of fish and wildlife in Zimbabwe, ZimParks has been making deliberate efforts to restock dams with fish and embark upon awareness campaigns and capacity-building to ensure that fish resources are managed well. These efforts, though important, have been threatened by overfishing and poaching."
So far this year, ZimParks has arrested over 1 500 fish poachers, while 17 lives have been lost at different dams as people attempted to earn a living from fishing illegally.
ZimParks will strive to ensure that communities are trained in fish farming techniques and facilitate fish farming permits, as well as provide technical support.
Mr Mangwanya paid tribute to the First Lady's empowerment programmes and described her as a spring that gave life to people, livestock and vegetation.
Zanu PF secretary for Finance Cde Patrick Chinamasa implored the First Lady to use her voice and create awareness against deforestation and stream bank cultivation, which threatens many rivers.
"We want you to raise awareness because our dams are being destroyed by people who are cultivating gardens near the rivers," he said.
"Our forests are now depleted through deforestation. This is the awareness I ask that you make as your voice reaches far and wide, unlike our voices which do not get anywhere.
"Amai, we want to thank you for the projects you are setting up countrywide for the benefit of everyone. Today, we are here to witness this project which you started six months ago. I wish to say the whole of Zimbabwe and those of us here present, we thank you and emulate the works you are doing day after day."
Zanu PF secretary for Women Affairs Cde Mabel Chinomona said the First Lady had been going around the country empowering citizens, a sign that she is a loving mother with everyone at heart.
"You have shown us that these things are possible," she said.
"You have shown us that we can do fish projects in our backyards. There are many things we see you doing, like the speech you delivered today in particular, encourages us to love everyone.
"And this is what you are doing. We are seeing you hugging the elderly countrywide. This shows that you are not just preaching about love, but you are leading by example.
"I want to thank you heartily because I saw people being given certificates. You have done us proud by also handing over this fish pond to women and youths."
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Deputy Minister, Tinoda Machakaire, praised the First Lady.
"This initiative by the First Lady is a very good programme and we have seen her doing similar projects throughout the country benefiting mostly women and youths," he said.
"We want to encourage those that are at home to engage in similar projects because this will also make our country move forward. Considering that many people are locked at home because of Covid-19, we should utilise this time and start the project even in our backyards. As youths we have been equipped with a skill with which we can generate income."
One of the beneficiaries of the six months training programme, Mr Richard Chikomo, said the graduation and huge harvest have proven that it can be done.
He said they took turns to monitor the project and putting into practice what they learnt.
"Going forward, we will implement what we learnt at our different places of residence," said Mr Chikomo.
"Fish farming is important towards food production. We want to thank our First Lady for empowering us as youths."