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FAO African Solidarity Trust Fund interventions transforming lives in Uganda

Lira District Uganda. Students of Lira Intergrated Vocational School show of their 'catch' from the school fish pond: (Photo: ©FAO)

6 April 2016 - Walter  Odot’s first two attempts at fish farming in 2011 and 2013 failed miserably and consequently killed his enthusiasm to invest time and his meagre resources in any agricultural activity.

Having returned from internally displaced persons (IDP) camp where he lived for close to twelve years during the Lord's Resistance Army insurgency in Northern Uganda, Mr. Odot sought the easy way – gambling and petty jobs in Lira town – his home district.

While the fish farming venture failed due to lack of technical guidance and affordable and good quality feed and fingerlings, Odot and a group of his friends constructed a fish pond, which remained idle until 2015 when the African Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF) of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)  funded a project in Uganda on “Promoting Sensitive Agricultural Diversification to Fight Malnutrition and Enhance Youth Employment in Eastern Africa,” and his group was selected for support in  fish farming.

“Initially, I organized friends I grew up with in the IDP camp. We constructed a pond and put in 2000 fish fingerlings, but they all died because we didn’t know how to manage the pond. The feed was also expensive and the group members could not raise money to buy feed,” says Odot.

With funding from the ASTF, FAO has, since January 2015, been implementing fisheries and aquaculture interventions in the districts of Lira, Gulu, Arua, Adjumani, Kibuku, Soroti, Mbarara and Buliisa.  

Odot and his group of friends – all residents of Ocukuru B village, Adekokwok Sub county in Lira district, seized the opportunity and re-organized themselves into a formal group of 18 members. They were trained by FAO technical personnel on pond construction and management. The Lira District Senior Fisheries Officer, John Peter Ariong, further explains that once the training was done and the old pond repaired, FAO provided the group with 3,000 catfish and 2,000 tilapia fingerlings.

“For the first time, we are optimistic about fish farming because, in a very short time of the implementation of the project, we are already seeing results. Our youth who have been idle for years are now engaged,” he says, adding that some of the youth not directly involved in fish farming are earning from pond construction.

“Most of our challenges in getting quality seed and feed, and proper pond construction and management skills have been addressed. For this, we are very grateful to FAO. We request for more support so that these activities can be scaled up across the district and beyond,” says Ariong.

Odot’s group hopes to start harvesting their fish in March 2016. Members have agreed to share small profit from the sale of the fish and use the rest of the money to expand with two more ponds. The group expects to harvest 2500 kgs of fish that will earn them UGX 20,000,000 (about US $6,000). 

The ASTF project has not only benefited small farmer groups, but also schools such as the Lira Integrated School where fish farming is a taught subject for all students and the fish provides nutrition for the pupils.

The FAO Country Representative, Alhaji Jallow, notes that in a short time of implementation, the ASTF project made notable achievements, including increased productivity of fish farming, improved production of fingerlings and improved hatcheries.

“We want to make fish farming a business in Uganda by supporting farmers make quality, accessible and affordable  seed and feed and ,  connect them to markets for their fish,” says  Alhaji.

School Nutrition

Beatrice Ayuru, Director of Lira Integrated School, says that fish farming at the school not only built capacity of students to farm fish but also improved general student nutrition.

“All our students are served fish twice a week and the results are already manifested in their physical look,” Ayuru asserts, adding that “We were gambling. We lacked knowledge. Our hatchery was as good as non-existent,  but what is coming out of our ponds now is inspiring. Our student’s morale to work on the farm has been boosted because they see returns.”

While the school has been carrying out fish farming for years, Ayuru says that productivity has never been as high as after FAO intervened.

FAO, with funding from ASTF, also supported three modern hatcheries in Lira and Soroti districts, aimed at producing quality, accessible and affordable fish seed  for  farmers. The hatcheries in Lira district boosted seed production, which has been a challenge for a long time.

Fish fingerlings

The Senior Fisheries Officer Lira district says that, as a district, before the ASTF project, they used to produce about 300,000 fingerings a year. Today the district is producing over three million fingerlings in a year, thanks to FAO.

This project came in at the right time to solve major constraints in quality seed production, according to David O. Obong, proprietor of 306A fish farm, who  benefitted from a US $15,000 modern mini hatchery provided by the project.  

Production at his farm greatly improved by 500,000 fingerlings per month. While for Obong this means more earnings from sale of fish fingerlings, for many other farmers interested in fish farming, this means they can access quality and affordable fish seed anytime.

“We are very grateful for the support to the district because we had been constrained. It is our wish that the project be extended to cover a wider area and  engage more redundant/unemployed youths.  We need more support to stop our unemployed youths from relying on gambling as a source of livelihood” says Mr. Ariong.

Fish feed

One of the biggest challenges discouraging farmers from venturing into fish farming was the lack of accessible and affordable fish feed because the single source of feed is a Kampala based firm. This would mean a farmer from Lira district travelling over 200 kilometers to buy fish feed.

The project is now addressing this challenge by supplying feed mills to  farmers and enterprises to enable them produce feed. This move will enable farmers access cheap feed within their districts – ending monopoly of fish feed production in Kampala.

ASTF Project helping Lake Albert youth through cage fish farming

Fishing is a major economic activity and a major source of livelihood for communities around Lake Albert in Uganda. Butiaba landing site, along the shores of Lake Albert in Buliisa District, Western Uganda, is not any different. There are youths, male and female, who rely mainly on fish catches from the lake for their livelihoods.  As the population at this landing site continues to grow, there is a growing pressure on this lake, shared by Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sarah Namirimu, Fisheries Officer in charge of Butiaba landing site, says that there has been over fishing on the lake from both sides of the border with little control of illegal fishing.

As a result, fish stocks significantly reduced – so much that the fisher folk spend days and nights fishing on the lake and catch very small fish – Silver Fish, locally known as ‘mukene’, which they sell to factories that produce fish and chicken feed. This left many youth idle and unemployed.

FAO, with funding from the ASTF, engaged the youths in the communities around the lake in cage fish farming in zoned areas on Lake Albert.

According to Jacob Olwo, FAO National Fisheries and Aquaculture Officer, the need for cage farming was also instigated by the fact that the project’s targeted youth did not have land to practice aquaculture.

“Majority of our target groups don’t own land. We also didn’t want to take them away from a place they have called home for years,  so we conducted an assessment to identify spots that support cage farming on the lake,” says Olwo.

The youth were organized in groups of twenty members each and trained on cage fish farming by FAO technical personnel.  FAO also provided ten cages, fish fingerlings and feed to cater for the first phase.

The cage fish farming interventions on Lake Albert are under cost sharing basis with the groups in a four phase process. This means that,  in the first phase, FAO provided 75 percent support while the two groups ( Butiaba Fishers and Farmers Development Association (BUFITA) and Butiaba Young Fishers and Traders Association (BUFIDA)) provide 25percent. In the second phase, FAO and the groups will each contribute 50 percent while,  in the third phase,  FAO will only provide 25percent support. In the final phase FAO will not give any support.

This move is aimed at creating ownership for sustainability after the project ends – an arrangement that the members of the two groups agreed to and are in support of.

Oscar Uvon Mohamed, a member of BUFITA, says that he had abandoned fishing to ply the ‘boda boda’ (motorcycle taxi) trade because there was no more fish in the lake. Now he looks forward to the first harvest of the fish in the cages for his group.

“We plan to sell our fish once matured and we will use the money to acquire more cages.  I am also saving earnings so that in future I can buy my own cages and continue fish farming because the money I earn from ‘boda boda’ is not enough,” says Uvon.

The Fisheries Officer says the FAO support is timely and it intervened by engaging mostly young men and women who have been unemployed.

Under the project, more groups will be supported under the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture plan that seeks to make Butiaba an aquaculture park.

“Our plan is to make Butiaba an aquaculture park by being able to make our own feed because we have all the raw materials required. We also want to make our own hatchery so that we can produce our own seed and restock Lake Albert,” Olwo concludes.





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