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Small-scale for-profit hatcheries as catalysts for aquaculture development in Eastern Uganda and as models for successful South-South co-operation - Wilson Mwanja[13], Simon Olok[14], Boniface Mulonda Kalende[15], Cecile Brugere[16] and John Moehl[17]


BACKGROUND

Uganda has embarked on an ambitious programme to support aquaculture development for income generation, including exports, and increased domestic fish supply. These efforts are confronted by the often-encountered regional challenges of unreliable seed supply, inadequate feed supply, lack of access to capital (credit), often ineffective information flow (extension) and underdeveloped markets. To assist in addressing the first dilemma, the Government of Uganda requested assistance from FAO through a Technical Co-operation Programme (TCP). This request was answered by the implementation of the TCP project Assistance to Fish Farmers in Eastern Uganda (TCP/UGA/0167 and TCP/UGA/3001) and the subsequent elaboration of the project’s motto: Rural aquaculture development through improved access to quality fish seed- promoting farmer-friendly approaches and techniques to aquaculture through improved seed production, distribution and marketing. The project was active from 2002 through 2004.

The project focused its effort on three zones designated by the name of the closest principal administrative district: Iganga, Kamuli and Tororo. These zones were, however, selected based on an objective set of technical criteria combined with an estimate of the level of concentration of fish culture activity (critical mass), and not on administrative boundaries. A zone was considered to have a working radius of approximately 50 km and encompasses a significantly large number of fish farmers to constitute an economic demand to support a private seed production enterprise in each zone. Among the practicing fish farmers, there were to be at least five "model" farmers in each zone with a minimum productive water surface of 500 m2 who would be willing to participate in training and adopt improved management practices.

In each zone, the project selected another farmer to specialize in seed production based on the individual’s motivation and available resources (a chief prerequisite being that the person operated a fish farm with at least five ponds and/or a total water surface area of at least 1 500 m2). The project then elaborated a hypothesis for seed production and distribution whereby a hatchery should produce for sale at least 1 600 tilapia fingerlings and 1 100 Clarias fingerlings every six weeks. This level of production would provide an attractive level of profit for the hatchery operator and permit the stocking of four grow-out ponds per cycle for farmers practicing tilapia/catfish polyculture.

Project staff with Iganga Hatchery Operator

J. Moehl, FAO

Project staff assisting farmers operating the Kamuli hatchery

J. Moehl, FAO

These seed providers were initially seen as being nurseries; tilapia and catfish fry purchased from a large-scale hatchery and raised to fingerling size by each of the nursery operators. With the adoption of improved technologies, the project aimed at achieving an 85 percent survival rate for tilapia and 40 percent for catfish. To assist in these efforts, the project provided technical assistance through the Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC) programme. These important inputs were provided by Mr Bau Pham from Vietnam and Mr Arkom Chimooti from Thailand.

RESULTS

In addition to formal and informal training sessions as well as a study tour to Thailand, the three nursery operators received technical assistance throughout seven production cycles (a cycle being 30-40 days). Over this period, survival increased from 2 to 47 percent and 54 to 90 percent for catfish and tilapia, respectively. The three facilities sold a total of 242 034 fingerlings over this period; 48 percent of which were catfish. Average seed sales per facility for the three most recent cycles when production had stabilized (Fig. 1) were 10 600 and 8 400 for catfish and tilapia fingerlings per cycle, respectively. Analyses of all three facilities concluded that seed production was profitable, with positive net returns after opportunity costs for tilapia and catfish production reported for all three farms for the last production cycle.

Techniques practiced by operators included nursing of fry purchased from other hatcheries as well as natural, semi-controlled and fullycontrolled spawning and nursing. While no special techniques were employed for tilapia reproduction, catfish spawning was generally accomplished through hyphophysation using catfish pituitary. Using semi-controlled condition, catfish brooders spawned in ponds and fertilized eggs were transferred to either to specially prepared ponds or to concrete tanks. Under controlled conditions, males and females were stripped, eggs fertilized and incubated in tanks.

Off-farm purchase of fry and nursing were found to be the most profitable if transport costs of fry are not too expensive. Nursingonly procedures allow operators to react more quickly and precisely to market demand, as they can vary the quantities of fry they purchase. Spawning and nursing ("full cycle") seed production require more resources, but does make the operator independent of external fry suppliers.

Figure 1. Total seed production for each of the seven cycles

LESSONS LEARNT AND FUTURE PERSPECTIVE

The availability of good quality seed when and where needed was catalytic to aquaculture development and likely to be sustainable as long as the seed providers are making suitable profits. In the overview, the project has been successful enough for the Government of Uganda to initiate similar activities in six new zones. Private, for-profit, seed supply certainly can be an important source of revenue for the operator and provide a critical service for fish farmers in the neighboring zone. There is, however, a critical mass of active fish farmers and/or fishponds which must be present to establish and maintain the market. The areas circumscribing the three project zones assembled between 50 and 100 fish farmers; the economic threshold to reach "critical mass" requires further analysis.

Torroto operator with catfish broodstock

J. Moehl, FAO

Operators have been viewed as potential extensionists. Not only do they have a vested interest in promoting productive aquaculture in their areas, but the involvement of private service providers is very much in line with prevailing government policies. However, the practicalities of these arrangements warrant further evaluation.

Arkom Chimooti working with Iganga hatchery operators

J. Moehl, FAO

Transport is an import issue in the process; both of fry to operators and of fingerlings to growers. Transport costs can be very high. On the supply side to operators, these costs can be minimized if fry from large hatcheries are sent via public transport (successful trails of this transport mechanism have already been done).

While it was initially considered that the operators would transport fingerlings to growers as part of their extension support, this has proven to be the exception. Most often growers purchase their fingerlings directly form the operator and transport the fish themselves. This offers an opportunity for added mortality if the seed is not well cared for during transport and stocking. Distribution methods should be monitored and appropriate trainings provided as necessary.

The operators participating in the project are innovators. As such, they need guidance and motivation to diligently continue seed production and not let their attention be distracted by other newer, and possibly more exciting ventures. This will likely require some level of extension support over a number of years.

The necessary initial burst of technical support provided by the two TCDC experts was most productive and can be seen as a model for other similar interventions. These experts were able to satisfactorily transfer practical and doable technologies to their Ugandan colleagues; farmers, extensionists and administrators all gaining from the South/South experience.

Sunfish hatchery in Kajjansi which provided much of the fry fro the three project operators

J. Moehl, FAO

Sunfish hatchery in Kajjansi which provided much of the fry fro the three project operators

J. Moehl, FAO


[13] Wilson Mwanja
Ministry of Agriculture
Animal Industry & Fisheries
PO Box 4, Entebbe e - mail: wwmwanja@hotmail.com
[14] Simon Olok
Ministry of Agriculture
Animal Industry & Fisheries
PO Box 4, Entebbe e - mail: simoolok@hotmail.com
[15] Boniface Mulonda Kalende
FAO Regional Office for Africa
P.O. Box 1628, Accra, Ghana e - mail: Mulonda.Kalende@fao.org
[16] Cecile Brugere
Fishery Development Planning Service
FAO Fisheries Department e - mail: Cecile.Brugere@fao.org
[17] John Moehl
FAO Regional Office for Africa
P.O. Box 1628, Accra, Ghana e - mail: John.Moehl@fao.org

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