MATEBELELAND’s fish farmers will benefit from the government’s fisheries program after 12 dams from the region were targeted by the presidential fisheries program, which will involve 50,000 farmers across the country as the country aims to reach as many as 60 million by 2025. to have fingerlings.
The targeted dams so far are located in Insiza, Bulilima, Umguza, Hwange, Binga, Lupane, Bubi and Tsholotsho districts, with indications that other water bodies in the region will also be included.
The region already has a decent fish farming community with just over 20 farmers, according to the former president of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union, Mr Donald Khumalo. Mr. Khumalo also has a fish farming project at his farm in Umguza.
Under the Presidential Fisheries Programme, the government will designate 1,200 dams and bodies of water to receive 50,000 fingerlings each in an effort to increase national fish production from just under 16,000 tonnes per year in the 2021/22 farming season to 20,000 tonnes in the agricultural season of 2022/23, as the Second Republic ramps up its efforts to realize a $8.2 billion agricultural industry economy, contributing 20 percent of GDP by 2025.
The government sets up dam management committees to provide technical support to households participating in the program. These committees will carry out the day-to-day operations on the respective dams and water bodies to ensure maximum utilization. The program is aimed at both domestic and commercial consumption.
Participating households are expected to have sex-reverse fingerlings that will be harvested later. The government is also considering setting up processing plants or businesses in the respective provinces, especially in fish-rich hot spots, with farmers harvesting them and processing them into fillet and other products. The program will deliver on the goals of Vision 2030, including import substitution through improved food and nutrition security, job creation and improved incomes.
“As a region, we were asked to submit dams for consideration under the program and the idea is to include all perennial dams (that do not dry up) in the region under this project,” said Acting Agricultural Rural Development and Advisory Services. Director for Matabeleland North and Bulawayo Provinces, Mr. Dumisani Nyoni.
Mr Khumalo expressed excitement at the government’s initiative to come up with the fisheries program as farmers in the region were being cut short by fake suppliers of fingerlings who supplied poor quality fingerlings.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), aquaculture in Zimbabwe is struggling to reach its full potential despite technical progress. The FAO notes that fish is a very important economic commodity in Zimbabwe as a source of income, livelihood and job creation, but the fisheries and aquaculture sectors have failed to realize their full potential in exploiting the growth opportunities and downstream benefits for the communities . The per capita fish consumption in the country is 2.6kg, well below the average in other South African states where per capita consumption is 6kg.
The fisheries project comes shortly after 2022 was declared the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture by the United Nations General Assembly.
Mr Khumalo said the government program will help farmers.
“We have fish farmers here in Matabeleland, but most of them didn’t harvest as expected, largely because of unscrupulous individuals who supplied undersized fingerlings that didn’t give the expected yields. Fish farmers are therefore extremely excited about the government’s move on the Presidential Fisheries Program as it will lead us to get quality fingers that will help us contribute to the agriculture and food systems transformation strategy that aims for a $8.5 billion agricultural economy by 2025 and ultimately a middle-income economy by 2030,” said Mr Khumalo.
He said he has four ponds on his farm with a fishing capacity of between 3000-4000, but at the moment the ponds have no aquatic life because he was doing some renovations.
“Due to the poor quality of the fingerlings we received, our profit margins were low. Our target market was largely supermarkets in Bulawayo, but with this exciting development we will soon be looking beyond Bulawayo,” said Mr Khumalo.