The government will this month start implementing a €15 million five-year project to boost fish farming production.
Solange Uwituze, Deputy Director General in charge of Animal Resources Research and Technology Transfer at Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB), said that the project was funded by Belgium.
She told The New Times that an inception meeting for preparing a team to start the project will be held later this month and that it will help in improving and increasing fish feeds and boost fish farming.
"Feeds made from soybeans and maize for tilapia are still expensive. We want to work with investors to increase fish feed production," she said.
Currently she said only two factories producing fish feeds that are suitable for tilapia in the country are available.
One is in Huye district and the other is in the special economic zone.
"We also want to use black soldier flies to produce fish feed rich in proteins. This technology was producing fish for pigs and poultry. We conducted research and found that it can also be used for fish feed. They can replace soybean and provide 75 per cent of the needed proteins to make fish feed," she said.
She added that besides improving fish feed, there are plans to train more Rwandans on fish farming techniques that are affordable.
More investments are needed in fish farming, she said, considering that 90 per cent of national fish production is fish capture.
Fish production in Rwanda slightly increased from 41,664 tonnes in 2021 to 43,560 tonnes in 2022, according to a report by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources.
It shows that 4,000 tonnes of fish were produced from fish farming.
"We are training 96 cooperatives across the country on tilapia fish farming in over 3,000 ponds. Rwanda in partnership with Belgium will soon implement a €15 million project, starting this month, that will in the period of five years help to improve fish production through different ways," she said.
Fish production from fish ponds has increased from 461 tonnes in 2020 to 490. 8 tonnes in 2021.
With support and new investment, the production is expected to increase from 1, 543.6 tonnes expected in 2022 to 2,000 tonnes by 2023.
Until 2010, fish farming in ponds was the only common farming system that was adopted in Rwanda but today other intensive systems are being promoted such as fish farming in cages, tanks, and dams according to RAB.
Current capture production from lakes and rivers is not sufficient to satisfy both internal and external demands.
"There is a need for additional fish production from fish farming. Pond fish farming can contribute to fish production, job creation, eradicating malnutrition, and increased fish consumption," Uwituze said.
At least 12 hatcheries available in the country are able to produce 40 million fingerlings annually.
Address illegal fishing
Uwituze said that Sardine fish known as Isambaza still face threats from illegal fishing.
This affects sardine production in some fishers' units in Lake Kivu.
According to a 2022 report, 6,790 illegal fishing nets known as Kaningini, 759 poaching boats, 3,937 supernets, 462 Ibikuruzo seine-nets, and 196 poachers were reported to be affecting sardine production in Lake Kivu
Bashir Mbarushimana, a fish monger from Rubavu district said: "Illegal fishing and increasing number of fishers in Lake Kivu is triggering a decrease in Isambaza production."
Investing in fish production is expected to reduce the trade deficit.
According to the report by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, fish imports increased from 22,473 tonnes worth Rwf22 billion in 2017 to 35,772 tonnes worth Rwf32.5 billion in 2020.
The most popular fish species in Rwanda is Nile Tilapia, which represents 90 per cent of the stock consumed, according to the report.