12 Matabeleland dams set for fisheries programme
Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Reporter
MATABELELAND fish farmers are set to benefit from the Government’s fisheries programme after 12 dams from the region were targeted for the Presidential Fisheries Programme that will involve 50 000 farmers across the country as the nation seeks to have a massive 60 million fingerlings by 2025.
The targeted dams so far are 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 slightly more than 20 farmers, according to former president of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union, Mr Donald Khumalo. Mr Khumalo also has a fish farming project at his Umguza farm.
Under the Presidential Fisheries Programme, Government will identify 1 200 dams and water bodies that will each receive 50 000 fingerlings in an effort to increase the national fish output from just under 16 000 tonnes per year in the 2021/22 farming season to 20 000 tonnes in the 2022/23 farming season as the Second Republic intensifies its efforts of achieving a US$8,2 billion agriculture industry economy, contributing 20 percent of GDP by 2025.
Government is putting together dam management committees to render technical support to households participating in the programme. These committees will run the day-to-day operations at the respective dams and water bodies to ensure maximum utilisation. The programme is targeting both domestic and commercial consumption.
Participating households are expected to have sex reversed fingerlings that will be harvested later. Government is also looking at setting up processing plants or companies within the respective provinces especially in hotspots where there is a lot of fish production with farmers harvesting and processing them into fillet and other products. The programme will lead to fulfilment of the Vision 2030 objectives that include import substitution through improved food and nutritional security, employment creation and improved incomes.
“As a region we were asked to submit dams for consideration under the programme and the idea is to have all perennial dams (those that do not dry up) in the region to be 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 on the move by the Government to come up with the fisheries programme as farmers in the region were being shortchanged by bogus fingerlings suppliers who were supplying poor quality fingerlings.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), aquaculture in Zimbabwe is struggling to reach its full potential despite the technical progress. FAO notes that fish is a very important economic product in Zimbabwe as a source of income, livelihood and employment creation yet the fisheries and aquaculture sectors have not been able to reach their full potential in terms of utilising the growth opportunities and downstream benefits to the communities. Per capita fish consumption in the country is 2,6 kg, well below the average in other Southern African states whose per capita consumption is 6kg.
The fisheries project comes soon after year 2022 was declared the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture by the United Nations General Assembly.
Mr Khumalo said the Government programme will uplift farmers.
“We have fish farmers here in Matabeleland but most were not harvesting to their expectations largely because of some unscrupulous individuals who were supplying substandard fingerlings that were not giving the expected yields. Fish farmers are therefore extremely excited by the Government’s move on the Presidential Fisheries Programme as it will result in us getting quality fingerlings which will help us contribute towards the Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy that seeks to achieve an US$8,5 billion agriculture economy by 2025 and eventually a middle income economy by 2030,” said Mr Khumalo.
He said he has four ponds at his farm with a fish carrying capacity of between 3000-4000 but at the moment the ponds have no aquatic life as he was undertaking some renovations.
“Because of the poor quality of fingerlings we were getting, our profit margins were low. Our target market has largely been supermarkets in Bulawayo but with this exciting development, we will soon be looking beyond Bulawayo,” said Mr Khumalo.