Sunday, June 16, 2024

Aquaculturists struggle to satisfy local market

Fish farmers in Botswana are grappling with numerous challenges as they strive to meet the growing local demand for fish. Despite the burgeoning market, which heavily relies on imports to fill the gap, local aquaculturists are optimistic about closing the deficit in the coming years.

According to Leteng Segaise, Chairman of the Botswana Fish Farmers Association, local commercial fish farmers produce only 550 tonnes annually, far short of the 5,000 metric tonnes needed to satisfy market demand. Segaise noted that a significant barrier has been the lack of knowledge among Batswana about the potential of fish farming. “Fish farming in the country is still relatively low because most people, particularly Batswana, have been lacking knowledge to understand that fish can be nurtured and actually give returns after some time,” he explained.

He highlighted the availability of fingerlings at places like Mmadinare Hatcheries, which can support those interested in entering the fish farming industry. However, aspiring fish farmers face numerous challenges, including high water bills and the financial burden of drilling boreholes for water supply. Segaise emphasized that fish farming demands a clear understanding of its requirements and the establishment of proper infrastructure.

The Association recently received a boost when invited by the government to provide insights on how the newly launched Thuo Letlotlo initiative could address fish farming concerns. One major issue raised was the need for proper training for fish farmers. Segaise stressed the importance of education in this financially demanding industry, urging aspiring farmers to undertake short courses to enhance their skills.

Minister of Agriculture, Fidelis Molao, reported that there are currently ten operational fish farms in Botswana, ranging from backyard setups to commercial-scale operations. These farms are located in areas such as Kasane, Leshibitse, Gabane, Gaborone (Phase 4), Francistown, Kumakwane, Sebina, Gantsi, and Chadibe near Francistown. Despite this, the performance of these farms has been hampered by challenges such as lack of funding, high input costs, and the absence of locally produced fish feed.

Other obstacles include limited technical expertise, insufficient subsidies, and starter packs. While the Ministry of Agriculture oversees fish farming in Botswana, the mandate for inland fisheries lies with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. The aquaculture function was transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture in 2017, which now promotes fish farming through technical advice, training, and the provision of fingerlings.

Molao mentioned that the Mmadinare hatchery, responsible for producing fingerlings, is currently non-functional due to a lack of brood stock. Despite these setbacks, the government continues to facilitate the establishment of fish farms by providing advice, training, and fingerlings through extension services.

The local fish farming industry, though facing numerous hurdles, is poised for growth with concerted efforts from both the government and the Botswana Fish Farmers Association to provide the necessary support and training to aspiring farmers.

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