Rwandan students, who graduated from different universities in Israel and Rwanda in the field of aquaculture and fish production have secured a one-year deal from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources to help government increase national ponds’ fish production from between 4,000 and 10,000 Kilogrammes to about 3,000,000 Kilogrammes (three million Kilogrammes).
The 85 alumni formed a cooperative dubbed “Rwanda Animal Resources Improvement Cooperative” after graduating as a way of job creation.
Jean-Bosco Bizimana, one of the alumni, who is the coordinator of the project dubbed “Promoting Fish Farming in Ponds and Managing Properly Rwandan Lakes”, told The New Times that male fingerlings of fish species called “Tilapia Nilotica” will be introduced into 1,099 ponds across the country after removing all other fish that were in these ponds because they were not providing good production.
“We have secured a deal from Rwanda Agriculture Board to manage the ponds for one year and train fish farmers. After this period, each cooperative of fish farmers in ponds will have both financial and skills capacity and thus employ some of the university graduates in aquaculture,” he said.
The fingerlings are locally reproduced (bred) following the recent ban on imports of fingerlings due to Tilapia lake virus (TiLV) disease that was identified in various countries.
About 4 million fingerlings of Tilapia Nilotica locally bred in laboratory machines are going to be introduced into the ponds located in 26 districts, he said.
The alumni, by using the skills acquired from Israel and local universities, are expected to promote fish farming in ponds and increase fish production.
“The new fingerlings will provide good yields since they can adapt to local climate as they were locally bred something that will increase fish production from ponds from between 4,000 Kg and 10,000 Kg to three million Kilogrammes,” he said.
Four fingerlings are planted in one square metre.
One fingerling is expected to provide over 500 grams once harvested after six months and thus boost national fish production; he said adding that they are currently working with 96 cooperatives who farm fish in ponds.
Despite the COVID-19 period, he said technicians, who are part of the alumni, have been deployed to each cooperative across the country to guide them on how to prepare the ponds for new fingerlings.
“Preparation is carried out by cleaning the ponds; draining them, setting up entrances and exits of the ponds, putting in lime, water, manure and others that serve as natural food for fish. We will also use other fish feeds,” Bizimana explained.
He said before introducing the fingerlings into the ponds, they have to test the quality of water.
He added that later they will also introduce fingerlings of Oreochromis Niloticus or Nile tilapia in other words.
The Fishing sector has been facing different challenges such as lack of enough investment in cage farming and fish farming in ponds.
Solange Uwituze, the Deputy Director-General of Animal Research and Technology Transfer at the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) recently urged youth to establish fish ponds, make use of idle fish ponds as well as embrace cage fish farming for job creation in the fishing sector.
Fish production in Rwanda was at 31,465 tonnes last year, while demand is estimated to reach 112,000 tonnes by 2024.
The country’s fish produce falls short of its demand as it has been importing more than 15,000 tonnes per year.
Producing 112,000 tonnes by 2024 per year could help Rwanda attain the average sub-Sahara per capita consumption of 6.6 kilogrammes per person per annum, and 265,600 metric tonnes to reach the global average of 16.6 kilos.
But Rwanda’s per capita fish consumption is presently at 2.3 kilograms per person per year.