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Christine Blehle

Associate Professional Officer, ALCOM


An objective of integration is to complement and not compete with other farming components. Farmers have to choose very carefully how to distribute available inputs among different farming components to reach maximum food security and income. The comparison of different farming components, as to required inputs (space, fertiliser, manure, feed, labour, etc.) and expected outputs, is essential to gain maximum yields from a farm. In the aquaculture component of the SPFS, we emphasize the integration of fish ponds to improve individual irrigation schemes for vegetable gardens and maize fields and to add a new farm product for consumption and marketing.

Experiences of previous and current aquaculture projects implemented in Zambia were identified in a study on aquaculture activities in Zambia and considered in the execution of the aquaculture component of the SPFS. This study was strongly appreciated because it provided a forum for staff members of the Department of Fisheries to express their experiences, and adequately introduced the aquaculture component in July 1997.

When the aquaculture component commenced, close links between the Departments of Fisheries (DoF) and


Irrigation (DoI) and the SPFS were established. Together we prepared a work plan for pond construction, stocking, management, data collection and analysis, and for training of farmers and staff of DoF and DoI to ensure the integration of the component into the agricultural restructuring programme [Agriculture Sector Investment Programme (ASIP)] of the Ministry of Agriculture in Zambia. Together with the farmers, the government staff and a consultant from the FAO Sub-regional Office in Harare, 12 preliminary pilot sites were selected in Central (3), Lusaka (4) and Southern Province (5). Activities in Southern Province are integrated into and implemented by the Small Water Bodies Programme of ALCOM (Aquaculture for Local Community Development Programme), Lusaka and Central Provinces are covered under the SPFS and are discussed below.

Field Activities

Integration of Aquaculture and Irrigation

Ponds may function as additional water holding facilities allowing improved irrigation management and consequently increasing vegetable yields. It was found that where the water resource and transport mechanisms


(e.g. treadle pumps) are shared amongst several farmers, each of them has only limited access to both, which may lead to under-irrigation especially during the nursery phase, when daily watering is necessary. If a farmer has a pond he/she can fill it whenever he/she has access to the water resource and transport technology and can irrigate with nutrient rich water from the pond (by bucket or siphon irrigation using the pond's outlet) during the following days. It should be kept in mind that the capacity of currently available treadle pumps has been found to be inadequate for the initial filling of a pond. The pond should instead be filled by gravity water flow from a diversion channel from a stream, spring or dam, or be constructed in a water logged area.

The following integration techniques were identified for the selected sites:

The pond is above the gardens on a slope (Figure 1). The pond can be filled with water from a diversion channel and/or furrow from a stream or dam and can function as an extra water holding facility during times when natural resources diminish. Gardens can be irrigated regularly with nutrient rich water from the pond by siphoning, using the ponds outlet (where available) or treadle pumps. The ponds can be drained for harvesting.

The pond is below the gardens on a slope with high water tables (Figure 2). The pond receives nutrient rich run off from the garden (caution: pond inlet has to be closed if there is some danger of pesticides or insecticides being drained from the gardens to the ponds!). The gardens can be irrigated from the pond

using a treadle pump. Ponds like this may resemble an enlarged shallow well and have the same function besides producing fish. Here only partial drainage for harvesting is possible due to the high water table. Since the pond is fed by nutrient poor ground water, management should emphasize feeding and manuring.

The pond is in a flat dambo (waterlogged) area (Figure 3). Dambos are too wet for gardening but suitable for groundwater filled ponds. Elevated wide dikes of the pond are dryer and provide previously non-available space for gardening. In this case, labour requirements for pond construction are relatively high (in comparison to pond construction on a slope) and strong dikes have to be built to prevent the flooding of the pond during the rainy season. Management has to be adapted to the fact that these ponds are undrainable.

Table 1 provides a summary of where different techniques are implemented.

Training of Extension Staff, Camp Officers and Farmers

Twenty two extension staff of the DoF and DoI0 have been trained in integration of aquaculture and irrigation in three provinces during September 1997. Farmer's group meetings were conducted to introduce integrated aquaculture and to identify interested individuals at all sites. Farmers receive continuous technical advise from the SPFS and from extension officers of DoF and DoI. Camp Officers of the Department of Agriculture receive continuos training `on the job' to allow the transfer of know-how to the farmers. During the training sessions we discuss with the farmers different components of

Figure 1

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Figure 2

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Figure 3

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aquaculture and how and which data should be collected to allow a socio-economic impact analysis of integrated aquaculture after each harvesting season.

Currently we are using training material from FAO, ALCOM and as prepared for integrated aquaculture by the consultant of FAO, Sub-regional Office, Harare. Where appropriate, materials are reviewed, adapted and translated into local languages.

Field Visits

Close follow up of activities in the field through fortnightly visits allows us to accompany and advise farmers during their first experiences with a new activity. To emphasise integration our field teams consist of a staff member of each the DoF and DoI, the agricultural Camp Officer and the Fisheries Adviser of the SPFS.

We visited 64 gardens of individual farmers and evaluated the potential for fish farming together with the farmers. Most pond sites are located on gentle slopes and are suggested to be above the gardens (64%) in comparison to below (12%) and in the centre (24%) of the gardens. Water is mostly available from springs or streams (64%) or waterlogged areas (29%). Seven per cent of visited locations are in areas with shallow underground water. During individual visits, it was found that most farmers hesitate to use previous gardening plots for fish farming. Mostly plots unsuitable for gardening are considered for fish farming.

Additionally, we characterised sites considering their physical and geological environment, agricultural activities and markets of agricultural products. We prepared an integration design for each site, according to its characteristics, and performed a market survey on fish and crop prices.

Markets for Crops and Fish Prices at Different Sites

In Lusaka Province most communities are able to sell their products in the urban centres of Lusaka or Kafue. In Central Province markets are predominantly in the villages, along the main road between Mkushi and Serenje, in Mkushi and some in Ndola (see Table 2). The latter however is only accessible for high value crops due to relatively high transport costs.

In both Provinces, a comparison of prices for fresh and dried fish strongly recommends the marketing of fresh fish considering the relatively low price difference between the two products. In Lusaka Province prices ranged from 2000 Kw to 3000 Kw whereas in Central Province from 2750 Kw to 4000 Kw. Hence the urge to invest in a new crop with higher market prices is more pressing at sites in Central Province and explains a more immediate response of farmers in this area. When compared to

tomato, cauliflower, rape and cabbage (between Kw 500 to 2000/kg) fish can be classified as a high value crop in the Central Province. Although it may not have the same significant advantage to other crops in Lusaka Province, its nutritional benefit being a protein resource was emphasized by the farmers. It was also pointed out by two farmers in Lusaka Province that, as they got older, they would like to invest in an activity which long term is less labour intensive than gardening.

Pond Construction

We produced agricultural calendars for each site to identify labour requirements in the gardens. Between October and March farmers are required to work in their fields to prepare and manage the crops during the rainy season, and, during April and May, they market their crops. Demand for labour in the garden is lowest from June to beginning of October. Our project started in July 1997 and, after the initial training phase, construction of the first ponds started in November, by families whose labour resources were adequate for both the gardens and the construction of fish ponds.

Seventeen farmers in Central Province and five farmers in Lusaka Province found soils to be suitable and commenced pond construction in November. By February, sixteen had finished their ponds and had received fingerlings promptly (see Table 3). Additionally, eleven farmers are testing their soils at different plots and will join our programme as soon as suitable sites are found. Another fifteen farmers expressed their interest to join our programme after the rainy season in April when labour requirements of gardening decrease. This will extend our pilot project from the present 16 farmers to a maximum of 52 farmers during the next half year.

Labour requirements and distribution for pond construction.

Currently we have data on distribution of labour contribution of seven farmers from Central Province (see Table 4). In some cases, only men participate in pond construction, whereas in other cases the entire family participates. Within families, boys contribute almost half of the labour (49%), while men contribute a little more than a third and women and girls together 20%. On the basis of data so far collected, pond construction can be classified as `men's work'. Further, the data indicates that pond construction in dambo areas requires significantly more labour (up to three times more) than construction on a slope. This, however, needs further confirmation from additional construction sites in dambos. Labour requirements for construction of ponds on slopes varies from 25 to 87 hours, whereas four of six ponds were constructed in 44 to 57 hours (average 50 hours), suggesting that the former two values may include some errors in data collection.


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Identification of Fingerling Resources

We visited various governmental and private fish farms to identify tilapia fingerling resources for all fish farming sites. We identified six suitable private suppliers who are willing to adopt the governmental price in exchange for technical advice where needed. We emphasized that fingerling suppliers are easily accessible to our farmers, allowing them to fetch fingerlings inde-pendently from our transport. Meanwhile we emphasized the importance of our presence during fingerling distribution to ensure quality control.

Pond Management

Part of pond management is intended to allow farmers to compare between profits of gardening and integrated aquaculture. The importance of data collection during pond construction and management was explained and, together, we elaborated a data collection format. Some labour requirements data are already available (see above) whereas input management and reporting are to be analysed after the first harvest. Most farmers use vegetable leaves for feeding combined with some goat, chicken or, less often, cattle manure. We encourage farmers to increase inputs and apply any non-poisonous green material. Some farmers already identified a commonly occurring bush (English and scientific name to be determined) which is preferred and heavily consumed by tilapias.

Currently, management appears to be women's work. When developing a harvesting scheme, it will be important to allow the equal distribution of fish among those who are involved in pond construction and management to ensure adequate management and maintenance of the pond.

Data Base on Farmers

To facilitate efficient follow-up, we created a data base on activities of individual farmers. It is updated after each field visit and contains information on a farmer's site, water resource, soil, safety, the stage of pond construction, management and data collection.

Future Activities

In April, when the rainy season is likely to terminate and labour requirements in the gardens decrease, we expect an increase in participating farmers at current project sites. We will support them with technical advise in the implementation of integrated aquaculture and emphasize the transfer of know-how from farmers who joined our project last year to new farmers.

Farmers who are currently involved in the project will be able to drain and harvest their ponds in July or August. Until then farmers will continue to collect data of inputs and harvest to allow an evaluation of the impact of the aquaculture component on income and nutrition after the first harvest. Meanwhile different harvesting schemes such as continuous and total harvest will be discussed with the farmers to allow the equal distribution of fish and/or income among involved family members.

Results of different integration techniques should be available this year and should facilitate the extension of the project into other suitable sites and provinces in Zambia.


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Mr. Chdobola and his family watching their pond filling up. The pond is situated in the centre of the garden to improve irrigation.