Uganda Exports Fish for Restocking lakes in Rwanda
Rwandan Government is in the process of replenishing inland lakes as well as fish ponds with three million fingerlings as it attempts to reduce the importation of fish and boost the country's food security.
The initiative is anticipated to ease fish prices on the retail market. A kilo of fish costs Rwf4,500 in supermarkets around Kigali while farm gate prices hover between Rwf1,500 to Rwf1,800.
The project, which is due to be complete by July this year, is the second in a period of one year following the importation of 4,500 fingerlings (small or young fish) from Uganda. The shipments from Uganda were restocked in 15 inland lakes across the country.
Although the initial project suffered a setback as virtually half of the imported fingerlings died because they could not cope with their new environment, government is confident that it will be able to produce 150,000 tonnes of fish by 2017, nearly 12 times higher than last year's production. Rwanda's annual fish demand stands at 25,000 tonnes.
"The first brood stocks (parent stock) already were big and nearly 2,500 survived," explained Dr Wilson Rutaganira, the Project Coordinator of PAIGELAC, a French acronym for a project responsible for developing fishing farming in the country. The project is under the Ministry of Agriculture.
He added that the ones that survived have grown to the third generation and reproduced up to 200,000 fingerlings, 300,000 short of the target required to restock the lakes, fish ponds and cage culture.
According to Roger Shaw, a fish farmer at Bugesera based Lake Side fish farm, fish farming in the country is mainly challenged by scarcity of feeds leading to low quality fish.
Moreover, it is expensive to import the feeds. It costs $1,500 per tonne to ship it (feed) from Israel or Europe, he said.
James Rutebuka, Chairman of Dusabane Cooperative in Nasho, Kirehe District also underscored the challenge of feeds, saying that they use rice and maize as an alternative.
The cooperative is made up of 290 members with a capacity to produces 400 kilogrammes of fish per day that is transported to Gisenyi and Kigali.
"We have professionalised our fisheries, we have trained people to protect the ponds and lakes and oversee the methods used to fish and curb those who over-fish the lakes using small nets," Rutebuka explained.
In response to the challenges, government imported 160,000 tonnes of feeds from Israel that would be distributed to farmers through cooperatives.
Rutaganira said government will provide half of the required feeds adding that farmers will have to buy the remaining half. Each kilogramme of fish feeds will cost $2 (Rwf1, 208).
Alternatively, feeds manufactured locally will cost Rwf400 per kilogramme.
"These will be relatively cheaper but not as good as the ones imported because they sink in the lake while the others float for fish to feed," he said.
Other challenges cited include developing cooperatives into prospective investors, lack of competent technicians to impart hands on skills to farmers, poor fishery statistical data collection system and attracting the private sector to take up aquaculture.
BY GERTRUDE MAJYAMBERE: The New Times Newspaper Rwanda
21 APRIL 2012