Kasese district local government through the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) program is promoting commercial fish farming to counter the ever declining fish stocks in Uganda's waters.
Maj. Barnabas Mughongo, the officer in charge of OWC in Kasese district, said recently during the distribution of fish fingers to some farmers that fish stocks in lakes George and Edward were terribly depleted.
Mughongo said that the government is now focusing on commercial fish farming to help boost fish production.
“We have already noticed the decline of fish in most lakes in Uganda while the demand for fish is increasing. We are partnering with farmers to start commercial fish production so that they can supply fish and get money to support their livelihoods,” said Mughongo.
Mughongo attributed the decline in fish stocks to indiscriminate fishing and increased cost of production and that the fishing industry employs an estimated six million people whose livelihood is at stake.
He said that fish farming is the way forward because it is going to be very difficult to replenish the declining fish stocks on the lakes.
“We are going to domesticate new fish species like the Labeo Victorianus which many people locally know as Ningu and distribute to the farmers because our mission in operation wealth creation is ensuring that farmers receive quality farm supplies and in time,” said Mughongo.
Mughongo said that the number of fish farmers has increased to more than 550 from 30 last year.
He said that they have also helped the farmers to prepare fish ponds and given fish fries in addition to being equipped with skills.
Fish farmers receive fish fingers in Kasese recently. (Credit: Wilson Asiimwe)
“We are helping the farmers to prepare fish ponds and also trained and equipped them with skills of handling fish and we are also giving them fish fries under the operation wealth creation program,” said Mughongo.
He said that the increment in the price of maize brand which is the recommended fish feed is affecting many farmers in the district.
He said that the business now has mostly commercial farmers who can afford the cost of recommended fish feed with the capacity to change breeds.
“We are also giving out fish feeds to farmers who cannot afford the cost of maize brand which is the recommended fish feed and also offering technical expertise to the farmers,” said Mughongo.
He said that as a result of the introduction of fish farming in the district pressure on the natural water bodies like lakes Edward and George for fish has reduced.
“Government is trying to improve the fish stocks in the lakes within the district through regulated fishing activities and the introduction of fish farming has helped to reduce pressure on the lakes for fish,” said Mughongo.
At Kayanja fish landing site on Lake Edward which has been the major source of fish most fishermen have abandoned fishing because of the swindling fish stock.
“The fish stock in the lake have completely reduced we go and spend the whole night in the lake and in the morning we come back with little fish or nothing at all and as a result most of us have given up,” said Bwambale Jockas a resident of Kayanja fish landing site in Nyakiyumbu Sub County Kasese district.
He says that as a result of the fish scarcity the prices have shoot high with a tilapia going as high as sh10,000 from sh5,000 in the past.
Masika Emily a resident of Kilembe sub-county one of the new fish farmers said that she embraced fish farming about six months ago after attending various trainings at Kasese District headquarters. He said that he was trained on how to prepare his fish pond and prevent predators that may target his immature fish and that he has started harvesting fish for domestic consumption from his ponds.
All the Sub Counties of Kasese received a boost of 38,565 tilapia and 49,084 Claris fish fries with five tons of feed to expand their fish farming business.
While handing over the fish fries to the farmers, Erisaniya Baluku, the district fisheries officer encouraged more farmers in the district to embrace fish farming saying it was cheap with quick returns. He explained that government was focusing on improving fish farming to boost fish production for export.
Erisaniya said the country’s earnings from fish exports have dropped because of the depleted fish stocks resulting from illegal fishing practices and that government is now encouraging fish farming.