Skilling for Sustainable Aquaculture: Mak, ARDC-Kajjansi Train over 80 Fish Farmers in West Nile & Gulu District

Global position of Aquaculture

Aquaculture, the production of aquatic animals and plants, is the fastest growing food-producing sector globally. Between 2001 and 2018, aquaculture production increased at an average annual rate of 5.3%. World aquaculture production reached nearly 115 million tonnes (live weight) in 2018, with a farmgate value of approximately 264 billion USD, with fish being the main cultured group, valuing about 139.7 billion US dollars. The contribution of world aquaculture to global fish production reached 46% in 2018, a highly significant increase from just 26% in 2000 (FAO, 2020). According to a report by Allied Market Research, titled, “Aquaculture Market by Environment and Fish Type: Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast 2021-2027”, the global aquaculture market size was valued at USD285,359.7 million in 2019 and is projected to reach USD378,005.5 million by 2027.

Status of the Aquaculture Sector in Uganda

Fish is regarded 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 (5.3 million people), nutrition (about 50% of animal protein), and foreign exchange revenues of about USD$147.75m, as of September 2020. 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 investments in aquaculture. As of 2018, production from capture fisheries and aquaculture stood at 447,059 tonnes and 120,000 tonnes, respectively. This leaves a deficit of 302,941tonnes (capture fisheries) and 888,000 tonnes (aquaculture) of fish needed to achieve the Government’s target of increasing capture fisheries and aquaculture to 1.7 million tonnes annually by 2030. Current aquaculture production meets only 21.2 % of the fish consumption gap.  More aggressive efforts are required to efficiently increase sustainable fish production.

Skilling farmers for improved aquaculture production in Uganda

Makerere University staff from the Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences (ZEFS) in collaboration with officials from the Aquaculture Research and Development Centre, Kajjansi (ARDC) are conducting countrywide short-term trainings in different aspects of aquaculture. The trainings are part of the activities in the contract awarded to Makerere University under the European Union-funded project: Promoting Environmentally Sustainable Commercial Aquaculture (PESCA) to provide training services. The overall objective of the assignment is to support training that will improve knowledge, skills, and practices that enhance aquaculture production and productivity in Uganda. This is expected to be achieved through the following specific objectives: i) Support the placement of undergraduate students to work (internships) with fish farmers or other suitable aquaculture value chain actors; ii) Conduct inclusive customized short-term training with gender considerations (women, men, youth, people with disabilities) including farmers, Producer Organizations (POs), feed and seed producers, service providers, and other aquaculture stakeholders; and iii) Support MSc research and training.

Short-term trainings in West Nile and Gulu District

Between 31st July-6th August 2023, Makerere University staff and their counterparts from the ARDC- Kajjansi trained over 80 fish farmers from West Nile and Gulu District in different aspects of aquaculture. The farmers were equipped with theoretical and practical skills on establishing a commercially viable aquaculture enterprise, fish seed production and hatchery management, fish feed formulation and production, fish feeding and feed management, aquaculture production systems, value addition to farmed fish, fish diseases and health management, aquaculture business planning, and extension services. The trainings were conducted at the CARITAS Aquaculture Community School in Arivu, Arua, and CARITAS, Gulu Archdiocese.

The training modules

  1. Establishment of a commercially viable aquaculture enterprise

According to FAO, each person should consume 25kgs of fish per year. With the increasing population currently estimated at 45 million, and the decline in capture fisheries, there is need for alternatives to increase fish supply. Training the farmers on ways of establishing a commercially viable aquaculture enterprise, Dr Glady Bwanika from the Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences, Makerere University highlighted the increasing demand for fish in regions markets. “Tanzania, UAE, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo all have unmet tilapia demand, with a deficit of 300,000 metric tonnes for Kinshasa alone,” she noted, emphasizing the need for regular trainings for enhanced aquaculture production across the country. In her presentation, Dr Bwanika briefed the farmers on rules and regulations governing the establishment and operation of an aquaculture enterprise, reiterating the need to conduct a market analysis before venturing into the business. She also emphasized the importance of conducting a site suitability study before setting up ponds, as well as the need for business planning, performance tracking, and record keeping.

  • Seed production and hatchery management

Under this module, the farmers were equipped with skills on conceptualizing and applying the protocols involved in species specific brood-stock management and conditioning, managing and applying hatchery operations and procedures for the propagation of African catfish and Tilapia, applying biosafety and biosecurity procedures in the hatchery, practicing concepts of maintaining the genetic integrity of fish stocks under captivity, and minimizing risks to the natural aquatic environments. The farmers were specifically trained on the legal requirements for setting up a hatchery, African catfish propagation, Nile tilapia seed production and hatchery management, live feed production for hatcheries, brood-stock selection and conditioning, preparation of a hatchery for spawning, considerations on determination of  quantity of brood-stock required for spawning, harvesting and pre-induction conditioning, sexing and criteria for selection of brood-stock, pituitary extraction, induction and pre-stripping conditioning, stripping, extraction of milt, eggs fertilization, management of incubation and hatching, larval rearing, optimum water quality parameters for hatchery, Nile tilapia fingerling production systems, ponds as fingerling production systems, production of sex reversed Nile tilapia, and record keeping in hatchery management. This module was handled by Mr. Ddungu Richard, Dr. Cassius Aruho, Dr. Papius D.M. Tibihika from Kajjansi ARDC, as well as Prof. Muyodi Fredrick and Mr. Sempijja Drake from ZEFS, Makerere University.

  • Aquaculture production Systems

A team of trainers from ZEFS, Makerere University and ARDC-Kajjansi led by Eng. Godfrey Byaruhanga trained the farmers on the different aquaculture production systems. They specifically sensitized the farmers on the criteria for choosing specific aquaculture production systems, selection of appropriate sites for establishing specific systems, design and construction of specific aquaculture production systems, operation and management of specific aquaculture production systems, and repair and maintenance of infrastructure in the different aquaculture systems. Other trainers of this module included; Dr. Gladys Bwanika, Dr. Robinson Odong, Prof. Fredrick Muyodi, Dr. Mujib Nkambo, Mr. Richard Ddungu, and Dr. Juliet Nattabi.

  • Value addition to farmed fish

Dr. Masette Margaret trained the farmers on the criteria for value addition plant site selection and lay out, sanitation and hygiene, fresh fish handling, quality and safety measures, fish processing and preservation methods, by-products processing, marketing, regulations for hygiene and quality standards, as well as packaging and labelling, explaining how value addition contributes to increased demand, production and income from farmed fish. The training component was developed by Dr Masette, Dr. Namulawa Victoria, Dr. Nalwanga Rosemary, and Prof. Muyodi Fredrick.

  • Aquaculture Business Planning and Management, Extension services, fish diseases and health management, fish feed formulation and production

Dr Ronald Semyalo from ZEFS, Makerere University trained the farmers on aquaculture business planning and management, whereas Dr Gertrude Atukunda from ARDC-Kajjansi trained the farmers on extension service provision, highlighting the organisational and operational arrangement of the government extension system, the different extension approaches and how to apply them in their work, the various extension actors and extension activities, and the application of ethical conduct in extension work. Dr Peter Akoll enlightened the farmers on the different diseases that affect fish and ways of managing fish health in aquaculture. Dr Godfrey Kawooya Kubiriza and Dr Denis Okello trained the farmers on fish feed formulation and production.

Appreciation by the trainees

The trainees expressed gratitude to the EU, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, and the training institutions (Mak-ZEFS and ARDC-Kajjansi) for the opportunity presented to them to enhance their skills. They noted that the knowledge acquired during the training had opened their minds to better ways of doing business, a factor that would boost incomes. They appealed for more of such trainings and pledged to pass on the skills to their colleagues who did not get the opportunity to attend the trainings.

Overall, the PESCA training programme is coordinated by Dr Jackson Efitre, from ZEFS, Makerere University, whereas the short-course trainings are coordinated by Dr Rosemary Nalwanga and Dr Juliet Nattabi.

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