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Commercial Fish Farming in Uganda Print
Image As the world population continues to grow, the need for increased protein intake also grows concomitantly. The fisheries sector in Uganda has over the last decade contributed significantly to the foreign exchange earnings of the country, says Collison Lore.

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's estimates that 40 million tons of aquatic food will be needed to feed the world's population in 2030. Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where fish consumption is falling. Uganda is striving to turn around this general trend.

The fisheries sector offers investors both locally and in the diaspora attractive investment opportunities. The good news is that the number of fisheries experts has increased, there is ample land and water and most significantly Uganda’s fish commands a premium price in the world market.

Uganda's Fishing Industry

Uganda's commercial fishing has come a long way. It commenced in 1941 with the cultivation of newly imported carp. Many programs were carried out over the following decades to increase the number of fish ponds. However, many ponds were abandoned after the programs stalled. Furthermore during the chaotic 1970s and early 80s, there was absolutely no investment in the fisheries sector.

During the late 1980S and 1990s, the Government of Uganda embarked on revamping the sector. These measures have borne fruit with increased investment in the sector and increased foreign exchange earnings by the government. In 2005, a projected 15,000 tons of fish were harvested from about 20,000 ponds. Most fish are sold fresh at the local level. Those destined for other markets are salted, smoked or sun dried.

It has not been smooth sailing however, and over the last few years, fish stocks have been dwindling. National statistics indicate that Uganda produces close to 30,000 metric tones of fish, just a drop in the European Union annual quota requirement of 600 thousand tones. In 2007, earnings from fish exports declined from 117 million dollars to just under 100 million dollars, contrary to earlier predictions of an increase by the government. The decline has been attributed to indiscriminate fishing and increased cost of production. The fishing industry employs an estimated six million people whose livelihood is at stake.

New Policy

There are plans to boost fish outputs in Uganda. The ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries has completed drafting a new policy that seeks to promote fish farming in the country through establishing aquaculture parks.

The policy could go a long way towards reviving the dwindling fish volumes that once made Uganda a strong fish-exporting country. Government will identify specific areas in the country that are suitable for fish farming and acquire the sites for concentrated production.

Opportunities for the African Diaspora

The three most common species of fish raised in Uganda are North African catfish, Nile tilapia and carp. North African catfish is currently the most popular, accounting for 60 percent of Ugandan fish farming.

Breeding fish in ponds remains the most common method of fish farming in Uganda. Most ponds were originally used for subsistence purposes, but because of increased commercialization, ponds have been expanded. Other methods are also being introduced, including cage cultivation.

There are numerous opportunities for investment in fish farming for Ugandans in the diaspora. One area that is attracting interest is cage fish farming. Uganda’s vast water bodies offer great cage fish farming opportunities. The country has a number of water spaces in the form of wetlands and open water systems where aquaculture parks can be developed for both rural, smallholder pond based aquaculture system and commercial and industrial type production system.

Cage Fish Farming

What does cage fish farming involve? Cage Fish farming is practiced all over the world. In Uganda the central region in the country specifically in districts like Mukono and Luwero are home to cage fish farming.

Fishermen on Lake Victoria, Uganda, are being encouraged by the government to start rearing fish in the lake, rather than relying on capture fisheries, which the government states is on the decline. Commercial cage production, which would enable fishermen to grow fish in the lake instead of solely relying on capture catches.

By keeping fish in cages, entire communities in various parts of the country share a body of water, while each farmer can tend to their own individual fish farm. This is clear from the experience of the large scale fish farms in Mukono District.

Fish cage farming is attractive, leading to the establishment of fishing cooperatives that are capable of group marketing. In taking cognizance of the use of locally available material, rigid cages for fish cage farming are made from either a hard plastic mesh or wire webbing. While flexible cages are made by building a frame, then covering it with netting made from nylon or a similar material. The type of frame used depends upon where it will be placed. Flexible cages are only suitable for still waters where there is little threat from predators; these include carnivorous fish in the waters of Uganda.

Today live fish markets are increasingly gaining ground in Uganda, with consumers able to select the fish they want when it is still alive.

Government Incentives

It is important to note that Government of Uganda incentives for commercial scale aquaculture enterprises are accessed only where the investor is fully registered and with approved business and technical production plans.

The structured nature of fish farming in Uganda makes it easy for any investor to enter this lucrative sector. This is because, in the fisheries policy, the Ministry of Water and Environment is responsible for granting a water user's rights. It also establishes guidelines and regulations for access and use of water. The Ministry of Trade is responsible for issuance of trading licenses and also disseminating market information regarding fish and related products. Uganda Investment Authority, states that aquaculture parks to be established under the new policy will be open to all categories of investors, regardless of nationality.

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