Agriculture is the main economic activity that greatly contributes to the development of Uganda. Hence, its growth is of strategic importance to the country. Despite the improved annual growth rate (3.4% on average) registered over the period 2015-2020, the agriculture sector still falls short of achieving the target (6.0% per annum) set in the Vision 2040 and NDPII (NDP III, 2020). Fish has been identified as one of the 10 priority agricultural commodities to foster a sustainable agro-industrialization agenda in Uganda because of its contribution to national GDP (3%), agricultural GDP (12%) employment (1.2 million people), and foreign exchange revenues (USD 171.36 m in 2014). Despite the enormous potential for fish production, with approximately 44,000 km2 (20%) of Uganda’s total surface area covered by freshwaters (lakes, rivers and swamps), the fisheries resources are currently under-exploited due to over-reliance on capture fisheries and limited investment in aquaculture. However, capture fisheries are in decline due to pollution, overfishing and weak enforcement of regulations. The government considers aquaculture as a vital sector that can provide jobs, improve food and nutrition security, as well as livelihoods of the people. This could in turn produce critical volumes of fish to fill the growing gap in the national fish supply as wild fish catches continue to decline. The government is targeting production from aquaculture and fisheries to hit 1.7million tones by the year 2030.
However, as a commercial industry, aquaculture remains underdeveloped despite the significant potential for development into a viable commercial sector. The main constraints include: poor quality feeds and lack of hatchery feeds, insufficient production and low qualities of fry, weak capacity and skill levels of staff to manage hatcheries, lack of necessary equipment, very little formal organisation of fish farmers into producer groups, lack of a documented and implemented set of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for catfish and tilapia, and environmental threats such as climate change. Harnessing the geographic dividends of Uganda expansive water bodies for aquaculture requires human capital development.
Mak selected to offer training services under the PESCA project
To boost capacity in the aquaculture industry, the Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) has partnered with Makerere University Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences to offer training services under the Promoting Environmentally Sustainable Commercial Aquaculture (PESCA) project.
The five-year project supported by the European Union aims to support the development of a competitive, job-intensive, environmentally-sustainable and climate-resilient aquaculture value chain in Uganda.
Specific objectives; (i) to improve the quality of fish seed used by smallholders and commercial fish farmers through improved broodstock; (2) increase the output, access, supply and use of quality fish seed amongst smallholder and commercial fish farmers; (3) to improve the quality, cost-effectiveness and management of formulated feeds based on locally produced improved crop varieties and non-conventional animal protein sources; (4) to identify and map at least 5 High Potential Aquaculture Zones (HPAZs) in the different Agro-Ecological Zones (AEZs); (5) to test and optimise different production systems for transformation of smallholder farmers to commercial farmers in at least 3 AEZs of Uganda; (6) to establish an aquaculture training hub for out-growers and extension workers at NARO – Aquaculture Research & Development Centre Kajjansi.
Training services to be offered
Under the programme, the Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries will, among other things, facilitate internships and job placements for undergraduate students, supervise the performances of students, and assist them in preparation of their internship reports. The Department will also carry out customized modular short-term trainings –defining the course content and training methods as well as assigning instructors for the short courses. It will also set the criteria and select MSc students to be given research funds, define the financial support to be offered to the selected students, determine research areas in which the MSc students will carry out their research, assess the research proposals of the selected students, supervise research and performance of the students and guide the students in preparation of their research reports.
On 28th February, staff from the Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries led by Dr Jackson Efitre met with the PESCA project team at Kajjansi Aquaculture Research Development Centre to discuss and harmonize the training programme. The meeting was attended by among others, Dr Namulawa Victoria Tibenda, Aquaculture Research Scientist based at the Kajjansi Aquaculture Research Development Centre; Dr Gertrude Atukunda, the Principal Investigator, PESCA project; Dr. Winnie Nkalubo, Director of Research for the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI); and Mr Paul Omanyi from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.