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2.1 Summary of Findings

2.1.1 During the last two decades, yields of edible fish from rural ponds in Rwanda have been so disappointing that farmers are reluctant to invest labour and time in this form of cultivation. Many ponds have been abandoned or not harvested regularly for a very long time. Nevertheless, there is keen interest among the rural population in the possibility of producing more food by fish farming.

2.1.2 The present state of affairs is due at least in part to the almost complete lack of support by way of technical advice and assistance, supply of inputs such as fingerlings, and general encouragement. It will require much effort of these kinds on the part of the Government to restore the former productivity of the existing ponds, to introduce better techniques and to expand production.

2.1.3 The Mission found no major technical or biological constraints to development of fish farming in rural Rwanda. The climate and the availability of sufficient land and water provide the essential basis for fish culture. The soils, while not inherently fertile, can be made productive. Raw materials (agricultural wastes, agro-industrial by-products) are available which might be utilized for supplementary feeding of fish or for fertilizing ponds, although the feasibility of using these will have to be evaluated in every case.

2.1.4 To re-establish fish culture in the rural milieu will however require substantial effort to strengthen the development infrastructure as regards technical development, training and extension work.

2.1.5 With respect to the national economy, fish farming can be expected to produce significant and positive benefits: it will provide much-needed protein for human consumption; give the small-scale farmer the opportunity to increase his cash income and diversify his products; it would make better use of some types of land than other kinds of farming; it would strengthen and diversify the internal market; it may also create some new employment opportunities.

2.1.6 A development project is proposed which is intended to provide rural families with technical assistance and advice in operating some 2 400 individual ponds of up to 500 m2 each; this is expected to restore production to the former figure of about 180 t/year of fish, with a value of, say, Rw.F. 13.5 million. This estimate assumes, moreover, rather low yields and does not include the results of any expansion of fish farming by direct emulation of the activities undertaken as part of the project, once they are seen by non-participants to be successful. By the end of the project production could be expanding by 10 percent per annum.

2.1.7 Estimates and comparisons of costs and earnings suggest that fish is likely to be more profitable to the farmer than most other agricultural products. A 500 m2 family pond is expected, when properly managed, to yield a gross return of Rw.F. 5 625 per year, with a considerable potential for increase. A rural family, using in the main locally available resources, can thus derive a minimum cash income of Rw.F. 2 250 per year from a 500 m2 pond, while still consuming 45 kg of fish per year (a many-fold increase over the recent average per caput consumption); the only major input apart from family labour and agricultural wastes would be the fingerlings needed for initial stocking of the pond. Development on these lines would not cause changes in the existing social structure or patterns of production and behaviour, and can be integrated into the traditional rural life. Fish culture is technologically within the reach of the farming population; it can be expected to be assimilated by these traditional cultivators at least as readily as any other form of animal husbandry, because it resembles plant crop production more closely in many respects. As already mentioned, there is considerable interest among rural people in taking up fish farming.

2.1.8 The provision of the necessary development infrastructure and support to upgrade and expand fish culture in Rwanda and introduce improved techniques thus appears justified and desirable.

2.2 Recommendations

2.2.1 On the basis of the above findings, the following is recommended:

  1. A development support structure should be established to facilitate the reactivation and expansion of fish culture, as a family venture or a group undertaking, in the rural areas of Rwanda. The major elements of such support should be: training of national staff, extension work and fingerling production.

  2. The development support should be organized through one national centre (for training, research, initial fingerling production, etc.), and a number of prefectural centres (as bases for extension work and fingerling production and distribution). Training facilities at the national centre should be extended and the fish ponds and other culture facilities at all centres should be modified in detail. See (v) below.

  3. Technical development should be undertaken to the extent necessary in order to adapt established fish culture practices to local conditions. Special emphasis should be on the rational use of locally-available materials such as feeds and fertilizers, in order to reach a high degree of self-reliance in fish farming.

  4. The performance of rural fish culture on the farm level should be monitored in order to establish feed-back mechanisms between fish farmers and the development support structure, and to facilitate periodic evaluation of the overall impact of the development effort.

  5. To these ends international technical assistance should be obtained through the medium of a four-year development project. At least nine agronomists should be recruited and trained to take charge of the fish breeding centres and the training programmes. During the four years of the project, a total of 60 extension workers (moniteurs piscicoles) should be recruited and trained.

  6. Motivational support should be provided to farmers to induce them to take up or intensify fish culture; the consumption of fish should be encouraged; fish farming should be included in the curricula of schools, youth training centres, etc.

  7. The development support activities and the direct assistance to farmers should be so devised and conducted as to be consistent with the objective of making fish farming an integral element of rural production; the aspirations of the rural people should be taken into account, as well as the means available to them for successful development and innovation.

2.2.2 Details of the proposed programme of development can be found in Chapter 6 below and in the associated annexes and tables. A farm-level financial analysis is provided in Chapter 7; Chapter 8 considers macro-economic implications of the proposed programme; Chapter 9 discusses socio-economic considerations.

2.2.3 The above programme and recommendations refer to small-scale pond culture by individual farmers and cooperatives. A beginning would be made with simple culture of a single species, followed by the more efficient and productive polyculture as and when appropriate systems have been validated by experimental trials; pond fertilization and supplementary feeding would be introduced in the same way. Combined culture of fish with pigs, ducks and chickens might also be introduced.

Culture of fish in rice paddies and culture in cages would be the subjects of medium-term experiment but the usefulness or otherwise of such systems in Rwandan conditions would not have become apparent before the end of the four-year project.

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