Dar es Salaam — When a decision to invest Sh6 million in fish farming was reached, Jamvi shareholders had huge return expectations.
With foreign partners promising to inject some $400,000 (Sh923 million) into their operations in a financial aid, all the shareholders could look up to was a promising future.
However, the plan now remains only a dream after the advent of the global Covid-19 pandemic saw the project being halted until 2022 and foreign development partners disappearing into thin air.
The company was established four years ago through an idea that won Sh6 million from Sahara Ventures.
It sought to boost fish production to support government initiatives to bolster food security in Tanzania.
Jamvi founder Shadrack Kamenya said through their 1,785-square-metre tilapia fishpond, they entered an agreement with a client who agreed to buy their catch once ready for harvesting.
They had agreed on the price but unfortunately, the contract had to be terminated due to closure of skies as countries across the world battled the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said their first fish production was in March 2020. During the first production they expected to harvest 3.5 tonnes of tilapia fish and sell the produce at wholesale price that would see them earning Sh28 million.
"The client that we had entered into an agreement with had already secured a market - in form of boarding schools - where he would supply the tilapia fish but the agreement was turned down because the government directed schools to be closed," he said.
That was between March and April last year.
Mr Kamenya said the client was supposed to collect tilapia fish on March 23, 2020 but the schools were already closed.
Mr Kamenya said the situation forced them to start selling the catch to individuals at retail price thus taking too long to finish.
"As a result, we ended up digging deeper into our pockets to ensure that we continued to supply our fish in ponds with food and their other requirements as we kept scouting for customers," he said. The group also had to contend with sourcing money for transport to go look for people who would buy their fish.
"As we were struggling to sustain our business we suffered another blow from foreign sponsors who had earlier expressed their willingness to support us with $400,000," he said.
The donors from Canada and the United Kingdom had pledged to offer them with $250,000 in grants and $150,000 in loans but with coronavirus ravaging the world, that was not to be.
Looking back, Mr Kamenya can only regret that they had put all their eggs in one basket by depending on only schools as market for their fish produce.
"We should have diversified our market instead of relying on one. We should have identified hotels, fish shops and individuals earlier in advance to sustain the business," he said.
According to him, the seven shareholders have since gone into other operations, exuding confidence that next year (2022), they will start afresh.
The Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries puts Tanzania's fish production in the range of 325,000 to 380,000 tonnes per annum while the demand stands at over 700,000. Tanzania is rich in fisheries resources from marine, freshwater, rivers and wetland species but the sector faces a shortage of fish supply.
To improve nutrition, Feed the Future promotes the consumption of high-quality nutritious foods and improved food processing techniques such as fortifying flour with micronutrients like iron, vitamin A, zinc, and folic acid.