Fish farming beyond SA

The state of aquaculture in neighbouring countries – and the lessons to be learnt.

Fish farming beyond SA
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 Farmers’ Weekly appears to be widely read in South Africa’s neighbouring states, if the number of enquiries I receive is anything to go by. Let’s look at the state of aquaculture in these countries, and see if there are lessons to be learnt for us locally. Cold water fish farming (trout) is well-established in South Africa. With the exception of smallscale activity in Malawi’s highland regions, the warm climate in Africa generally prevents this form of aquaculture.

However, these same warmer climes, coupled with an abundance of fresh water, open up ample possibilities for warm water fish farming. In northern Namibia, government agencies are taking tentative steps to promote tilapia farming, and there is considerable scope for pond culture along that country’s major rivers, as well as those of Angola and Zambia. But the techniques of sex-reversal need to be followed, and betteryielding strains used, if fish farming here is to succeed.

Attempts by government to stock rural ponds with mixed-sex fingerlings of unknown ancestry is simply re-inventing the wheel of failure. Mozambique, Zambia and, to a lesser extent, Zimbabwe, are wellwatered. During a recent flight over Mozambique’s northern coastal parts and the Zambezi region, I was amazed at the sheer abundance of fresh water.

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Zambia has access to perennial water in the Zambesi, Luangwa and Kafue floodplains, as well as the swampy regions of the north-east, where largescale pond farming could be especially lucrative. Locals in these areas enjoy their fish, and good prices for fresh tilapia can be earned. Several large pond farms already exist in Zambia, with more planned, as not only is there a ready market, but fresh protein is considered a valuable resource. The country also has at least five mills producing feed pellets. At some farms there, the fish are fed a supplementary pellet ration to raise production from 5t/ha to nearly 10t/ha per annum.

Mozambique has only one large pond farm, but several are in the pipeline. Unlike the case with Zambia, however, there is no feed mill – a sorely needed facility. Mozambique’s farm and those in Zambia are run in tandem with intensive pig or chicken operations, and the waste products are supplied to the fish ponds. zimbabwe and elsewhere South-east Zimbabwe, where several large impoundments supply irrigation water, also has huge aquaculture potential.

At present, though, the only large commercialscale aquaculture in the country is the cage farming venture at Lake Kariba. In Swaziland, adequate water and intensive chicken farms are ideal catalysts for low-input pond culture of tilapia. Investors take note! In Burundi, just north of Lake Tanganyika, tilapia sell for between US$4/ kg and US$6/kg (about R40/ kg and R65/kg). This makes aquaculture viable, even with the costs of setting up the required infrastructure.

A 20ha pond farm, with a projected output of 100t/ year, is under construction outside Bujumbura. Would such pond farms work in South Africa? Yes, in the northern parts of the country. In fact, they could be as successful as in Egypt (a million tons a year), which has a similar climate.

  • Nicholas James is an ichthyologist and hatchery owner.