It is not common for a university graduate to look at farming as a job in its entirety, but to Jean Kahwa, farming was his turning point in life.
By Joshua Kato
My Way: Jean Kahwa
“I want to offer packages that guide fish farmers on all aspects of the business .”
How he started
It is not common for a university graduate to look at farming as a job in its entirety, but to Jean Kahwa, farming was his turning point in life. Kahwa, who has a bachelor’s degree in economics is a celebrated fish farmer in his own right.
He owns 13 fish ponds and is a renown supplier of fingerlings across the country.
Digging the ponds
A fish pond is the main feature in fish farming. Other than ponds, farmers can use cages, hapas and tanks to grow fish.
According to guidelines, while selecting a site for a pond, choose one that will not flood when it rains because the fish will escape.
Make sure the pond always has enough water for the fish and be wary of human activities around it and their impact on fish.
“Fish ponds are not dug like any other water ponds. They are dug following certain guidelines. I hired experts to dig the ponds at first,” says Kahwa.
He has since acquired the expertise to supervise the digging of the ponds himself.
“We made harvests after six months and the yield was good. I had a ready market for the harvest. I simply went to the fish stalls in Luzira market and told them that I had fish for sale,” Kahwa says.
After the initial success, Kahwa immediately constructed five more ponds measuring 20 by 40 metres. This were subsequently followed by several others which in total added up to 13 ponds.
In addition, he constructed several holding tanks inside an enclosure to brood the fingerlings.
“Even after constructing the new ponds, we did not go out to buy fingerlings from other breeders. We got them from our first ponds and stocked the new ones,” he says.
Stocking a fish pond
According to Kahwa, young fish are delicate and therefore, a farmer must be careful from the time they harvest the fingerlings. through to the transportation.
“Harvesting must be swift and quick to avoid causing trauma to the fish,” he says.
He advises that the pond must not be congested and should have enough water. Most importantly the fish should have oxygen survival. To avoid overstocking, the farmer should think about the size of the pond.
For example, the standard measure for tilapia is five fish per square metre. On average, you need at least 4,000 fish in a 20ft by 40 pond. At a cost of sh150 per fingerling, the cost of buying the stock amounts to at least sh600,000.
How we survived
It is not easy to survive in this highly demanding fish production sector.
According to Kahwa, this is largely because many fish farmers start with high expectations.
“Farmers expect quick profits when they start out and when these do not come, they get frustrated,” he says.
Besides, many of them do not seek professional advice while setting up and running their farms.
“About 90% of fish farms collapse during their first year because of such issues. Luckily for us we have survived this phase and moved on,” says Kahwa who attributes it to seeking professional advice.
He adds that this is this kind of advice that he wants to impart to prospective fish farmers countrywide.
Fish can be fed on an array of food varieties, including natural feeds that are formed by factors in the pond and artificial feeds that are dropped in the pond.
It is always imperative that a farmer calculates the amount of feeds he gives the fish vis-à-vis their growth process.
“Some farmers tend to overfeed the fish and yet the fish just need enough,” Kahwa says. Feeding accounts for between 40 and 70% of overall production costs.
Key ingredients include proteins, fat, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins.
Kahwa’s fish business aspect
According to Kahwa, the corporate package includes giving initial advice to the farmer, constructing the ponds, managing the ponds, harvesting and marketing the fish.
“We have realised that many farmers fail because they lack professional guidance and proper management,” he says.
Kahwa thinks with the involvement of the corporate class in the fish farming sector, availability of fish in the country will improve.
The fish types he keeps
Shalom fish farms keep tilapia, mirror-carp and cat-fish. These are the most ‘farmed’ fish in Uganda.
The ponds have also got Tilapia-Kyoga, which, according to Kahwa, grows very fast.
“Tilapia-Kyoga grows fast. We stocked some of it from Lake Kyoga in 2008,” Kahwa says.
All the Tilapia-Kyoga fish reach at least a kilogram within six to eight months.
According to Kahwa, the farm has the capacity to produce at least 50,000 tilapia fingerlings per month and 10,000 catfish, which they sell both in Uganda and in the neighbouring countries.
For every kilo of fish valued at sh5,000, feeds required are 1.5kg over 6-8 months. The feed conversion ratio is 1.5.
Cost of feed is sh1,500 per kilo
Total cost of feed to produce 1 kilo of fish is 1.5 x 1,500 = sh2,250
Overheads and fixed costs = sh1,250
Total cost of producing a kilo of fish is sh2,250 + sh1,250 (overhead costs) = sh3,500
If you are selling a kilo at sh5,000, profit per kilo will then be sh5,000- sh3,500 (overhead costs) = sh1,500 per kilo
Net profit will be sh3,375,000 in six to eight months for 4,000 fingerlings.
To get the above formula to work, Kahwa advises that you must keep proper records of everything that goes on at the farm such as when you stocked the fish, feeds used, fatalities, health.
“In this business, you must not rely on guess work otherwise you will go wrong,” he advises.
Kahwa’s success spurs him to preach about fish farming