By Solomon Kalema Musisi
While funds allocated annually to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries are seemingly colossal, with an additional sh9.2b to the sh394.4b specifically for enforcement of fishing regulations and standards in the 2013/14 Financial Year budget, the allocation is only “a drop in the sea” and not sufficient to make the work of the ministry, specifically in the fisheries operations visible and tangible.
Globally, illegal fishing activities cause financial losses of $10-23.5b annually and Uganda, as a country, loses close to sh300b every year in illegal fishing activities on Lake Victoria despite the Government’s continued input in preventing the outstanding loss in a product that, according to the Ministry of Finance statistics, represents 60% of government revenue and provides up 50% of animal protein for Ugandan households.
The world’s second largest fresh water lake requires more support through initiatives such as the “Clean Fish, Better Life Campaign” launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2013 by the Country Representative Alhaji Momodu as a mass sensitisation campaign and further cooperation of the Ministry and the Police Department to avert the detrimental effects of the sector vices due to which the fish species face extinction.
Uganda also requires increased input of funds towards quality control and programmes aimed at imparting post harvest handling skills to fishermen and all fish value chain players in the Ugandan market to greatly reduce the post harvest losses due to over packing, use of rusty equipment, transportation in vehicles that carry other items and the sale under fly-infested market conditions.
Further capacity building is required to inform the masses of the risks paused globally and nationally by the climate change and how to protect the Fresh Tilapia, Nile Perch, Small Fish, among other species from extinction through undertaking adaptive measures.
In borrowing from a Chinese Proverb, “A single conversation with a wise man is better than 10 years of study,” Uganda needs more shared initiatives with the leading exporters of fish on the world market in addition to the existing research in the various institutions in and around the country.
Despite hosting 20% of the world’s population against only 7% fresh water resource China, where the proverb originates from, is the leading exporter of fish worldwide and therefore more funding is needed to increase diplomatic interactions and investments with China in addition to the sh12.8b three year pilot cage fish farming project under the Uganda-China Friendship Agriculture Technology Centre in the 90’s.
Monitoring of the swamps, rivers and lakes requires a lot more resources as new sites are opened up daily and fishermen take advantage of the lag to carry out illegal fishing activities in these areas.
The benefits of concentration on full value chain development and value addition for coffee as an agricultural export product under initiatives such as the Uganda Coffee Development Authority, UCDA and the National Union for Coffee and Agribusiness Farm Enterprises, NUCAFE are evident in the increased returns on coffee exports from the country and a similar approach would therefore avail results of such a positive trend in fisheries exports.
I commend the efforts of the State Minister for Fisheries, Ruth Nankabirwa in this regard including the most recent initiative to introduce a system of boat number plates at the beach management units in the Country and an aquaculture park in the country.
To join other developing countries in surpassing the 53% by value and 60% by quantity share they contribute to the global market fisheries exports, Uganda requires a fortified strategy and protective action plan which present the need for increased budgetary allocation to the Fisheries section of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.
The writer is the national chairperson for the founder committee of the Pan African Agricultural Students Society