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1.1 Purpose of Survey

A survey of fish farmers with ponds was carried out in Luapula Province, Zambia, with field work during June-August 1988. Similar surveys had earlier been carried out in Northern Province and North-Western Province (see F1: GCP/INT/436/SWE.4 and F1:GCP/INT/436/SWE.5). The survey was designed: (1) to describe the current situation of fish farmers and to find out how it can be improved; (ii) to identify the farmers who are likely to successfully raise fish in ponds; (iii) to describe how the farmer does that; and (iv) to identify the constraints which farmers face when raising fish in ponds.

1.2 The Luapula Province

1.2.1 Location, Population and Agriculture

Luapula Province is bordered on the west, north and south, by Zaire and to the east by the Northern Province. It covers a territory of 50 567 km2 and had a population of 420 996 in 1980. The province is divided into five districts: Kawambwa, Mansa, Mwense, Samfya and Nchelenge (see map, page xii). The first four were visited by the survey team.

The population density is 8.3 per km2 (1980). Of this population, 87% live in rural areas, where the main occupation is fishing and subsistence farming. Fishing is the main economic activity in the province, from which over 50% of the population earn their livelihood.

Farmers spread their risks amongst several crops and animals as well as non-farm activities. Only a minor part of the incomes is in the form of cash. Farming differs somewhat from district to district. Cassava is the main food crop in the province and is to some extent also a cash crop. Chitemene (slash and burn) is practised in most areas except in Luapula basin, south of Nchelenge, where a hoe and plough culture dominates. Besides cassava, sorghum, millet, maize and rice are commonly grown. Poor transport and marketing systems hamper the development of agriculture which nevertheless constitutes the main development potential for the province. The production of maize and rice in Mwense district has steadily increased between 1980 and 1984, and an overall increase has occurred in cash crop production.

In Mwense and Samfya districts, the soils are fertile and water is abundant. The main economic activity is fishing but there is potential for development of agriculture. The soils are fertile and water is abundant.

Agriculture activities carried out in the provinces, beside those mentioned above, are: (i) mixed beans, sunflower, groundnuts, tea, coffee, cotton and fruit trees (mango, orange and lemon); (ii) livestock, including beef cattle, diary cattle, goats, sheep and pigs; (ii) poultry, including broilers, layers, eggs, ducks and pullets.

Other activities and sources of income for subsistence farmers are: fishing, piece work, charcoal-burning, beer-brewing, pit-sawing, bee-keeping and the collection of mushrooms and caterpillars.

There are some semi-commercial farmers in the five districts. Apart from subsistence production they grow special crops such as maize, rice, and beans for the market, using purchased inputs.

There are very few commercial farms.

Migration for jobs occurs from all districts in the province. Most people migrate to the Copperbelt Province.

1.2.2 Fisheries

In Luapula Province the main economic activity is fishing, from which over 50% of the population earn their livelihood. The main fisheries are found in Lake Mweru and Lake Bangweulu and associated swamps. In 1985 the total recorded catch was 23 290 metric tons. The fisheries are artisanal in character. Its development has been hampered by the poor infrastructure. Many roads have recently been improved, but most of the main roads are poorly maintained gravel roads. Petroleum products and electricity do not regularly reach remote parts. Large quantities of fish are wasted as traditional processing and storage techniques are poor. It has not been possible to manage the fishing areas properly; some are overfished while others are underutilized. Improving the main roads will facilitate the management and marketing of fish. However, it will probably reduce the amount of fish available for people in rural areas, away from the main roads.

Most of the present fish catch is sold to Zaire and the Copperbelt, only one third is consumed within Luapula.

1.2.3 Fish farming

Luapula Province is characterized by a gentle undulating topography with plenty of valleys, plains and swamps. Both underground and surface water are abundant. The conditions for fish farming are good in major parts of the province. Population density is low, land is abundant and there is little competition amongst the different types of land use (fish farming as opposed to agriculture, irrigation, grazing, settlement, etc.). Fishing is common and people are used to eating fish. The scarcity of cheap fresh or dried fish now experienced in many parts of the province could possibly spur many to take up fish farming.

There are two government fish farms in Luapula Province: Fiyongoli next to Mansa, and Mwenda fish farm in the Mwense District. The Fiyongoli station has 3.4 ha of pond area and produces two species of tilapias, namely Oreochromis macrochir and Tilapia rendalli. The production is low because both money and inputs are scarce. If properly managed, the Fiyongoli fish farm could produce around 170 000 fingerlings per year. It is also supposed to produce broodstock and table fish, conduct training, and organize field days and model demonstration ponds (Fourth National Development Plan). The Mwenda fish farm was built in 1972. It has a pond area of 1.05 ha and should concentrate on seed production. Poor drains and ditches have led to water shortage and there was almost no production in 1988.

In 1988, the post of “Provincial Aquaculturist” was vacant.

The Department of Fisheries in the province is headed by the Provincial Fisheries Development Officer. One Fish Culturist and three Fish Scouts were concerned with aquaculture. Two of the fish scouts were based at the fish farm in Mansa and one in Mwense. Altogether there are 54 fish scouts in the province of whom 51 work with fisheries. As transport facilities are almost non - existent, fish farmers are rarely visited.

The exact number of fish farmers in not known. A list of fish farmers produced by the Department of Fisheries contains 311 names. It includes past, present and future (intending) fish farmers. Furthermore, upon inspection some of the farmers on the list could not be traced. They were then classified as “non-existent”.

Table 1.1: Number of fish farmers in Luapula Province

District Fish FarmersPonds DOF EstimateSurvey Estimates
  No of Fish Farms
 DOF RecordsPractising FarmersEx-farmersIntending Farmers
Kawambwa103200  98  5 
Mansa112280  6018  8
Mwense  49120  151118
Samfya  47  50  191018

Sources: The Survey and the Department of Fisheries

According to the survey there are 280 farmers in Luapula who have fish ponds. Of these, 88 have no fish in their ponds and are either intending or former fish farmers. The two groups are approximately equal.

The main reason for the large number of unstocked ponds seems to be the lack of government transport for distribution of fingerlings. As most fish farmers are not near each other, they are normally unable to transfer fingerlings between their ponds. It is also against regulations to use seine nets. Thus the natural source of fingerlings cannot be legally utilized by farmers.

1.2.4 Fish farming in the Districts

Kawambwa District

The district has good soils and lies in the highest rainbelt. The major crop is cassava. The widespread swamps provide fishing possibilities and it has been estimated that half the active population is involved in fishing; possibly as many as one in five actually fish. The catch, if left within the district, would satisfy the fish needs of the population.

According to Department of Fisheries lists there were 103 fish farmers with 200 ponds in the district in 1988. Around 90 of these farmers are found around Chibote. They started fish farming recently and at the time of the survey had not yet harvested their ponds. They had constructed their ponds with only little help in the form of cement to prepare concrete inlet and outlet structures. Most of the farmers had dug their own ponds: a few had helped each other. In one village nine farmers had helped each other to dig a pond each. In this manner a pond could be constructed in one day. In general the ponds were 120 m2 (20m × 6m). This recent fish farming activity in the district was initiated by a priest at the Catholic Mission. Aware of the lack of protein and fish farming possibilities in the area, he got the farmers together and brought a Fish Culturist from Mansa. The farmers were trained in fish farming for one week and on another occasion for two weeks.

The impact of this work has been considerable. In one year around 90 fish farmers constructed one or more fish ponds, most of them are constructing additional ponds and many are about to start their first pond. The majority of the fish farmers were rather young, around 25 years old; the survey team also met boys under the age of 15 who had started constructing individual ponds.

Fish was brought to the farmers by the Department of Fisheries, although on many occasions as few as 12 fish per pond. At the time of the survey these had reproduced and the majority of ponds contained plenty of fish. Fingerlings were at the time sold and transferred to new fish ponds and fish farmers.

In the district there are also some fish farmers who took up fish farming 5–10 years ago. Of these the majority had abandoned fish farming or evinced little interest. Most of them were found around the village of Chama. It is located close to fishing areas. This could be a reason for the abandoned fish ponds.

Mansa District

Most fish ponds in the vicinity of the government fish farm are stocked and the fish farmers have some knowledge about fish farming. South of Mansa, pond construction and knowledge of fish farming was poor.

According to the Department of Fisheries there were 112 farmers with 280 fish ponds in Mansa District in 1988. Around Mansa many fish ponds were dry as a consequence of the drought during 1987/88. Most fish farmers planned to restock them as soon as the rains arrived.

The valleys around Mansa are the only areas in the province where competition between fish farming and agriculture can be expected. Here vegetable farming uses the same land that fish farming would need.

In Mansa District, acidic soils dominate, hampering the development of agriculture. This should also affect production in fish ponds.

70% of the population earn their livelihood from farming and 20% from fishing.

Mwense District

Fisheries is the dominant economic activity in the district. There is a big potential for agriculture development, especially on the plateau, and market production has steadily increased in the last few years.

Fish farmers were found mainly in the areas around the Government Fish Farm in Mwenda and not in the vicinities of major fishing areas. The majority of the fish farmers had unstocked ponds, mainly because of lack of fingerlings. Pond construction and knowledge about fish farming were generally poor. There were 49 fish farmers with 120 ponds in the records. It has been estimated that 15 were practising farmers, 11 were ex-farmers and 18 were potential fish farmers. The “potential” fish farmers had already constructed ponds, in some cases many years ago, but had not yet stocked them.

Samfya District

Fishing is the main economic activity but is not well developed and has decreased in some areas. The infrastructure is lacking, particularly in the swamps. Agriculture potential is high; so also that of fish farming, which today is poorly developed. The Department had identified 47 fish farmers with a total of 50 ponds. The ponds are extremely small and poorly constructed. Knowledge about fish farming is almost non-existent. Very few fish farmers have ever been visited by Department of Fisheries staff. The Department has no aquaculture staff in the district.

Nchelenqe District

The socio-economic status of the district is dominated by fishing activities. Agriculture is important too. Cassava, the main crop, is also a cash crop.

No fish farmers are found in Nchelenge District.

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