Karoi’s fish farming success story

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life. Teach him fish farming and he is empowered even more. He can feed his family and sell surplus fish to provide for the family in other ways too. Cage culture in Karoi A project started two years ago, to grow tilapia fish on Munandi Dam, Karoi, is undoubtedly a growing success. Sokonia Kaitano’s fish business, established with start-up capital from the MP for Karoi, Honourable Sarah Mahoka, who also provided the dam is one of the most productive small-scale commercial fish operations in Zimbabwe. Today, Nicole Tilapia Harvesters Pvt Ltd supplies the surrounding community and Karoi SPAR supermarket with tasty tilapia.

“There is potential to grow to 400 tonnes of fish a year,” says Sokonia, setting his sights on growing the business further.

This season’s harvest, still underway, currently stands at an impressive 7,2 tonnes.

The whole project was carefully planned. University of Zimbabwe biologists carried out a baseline study to assess water pH and turbidity and test for agrochemical contamination. The system is ecologically sound, with algae to aerate the water during the day.

Old tennis court poles were used to save on the cost of cage construction.

“Bamboo also works,” Sokonia advises.

Four sets of juvenile cages, 12 x 8 metres, were made to hold 9 000 fingerlings each. Once acclimatised, fingerlings are transferred into larger, double structured cages, with an inside bag net to keep predators out. Here, they are grown to 400 grams on daily feeding, calculated on cage and fish size.

The growing tilapia operation is ably run by Alexio Zulu, John Issa, West Siankonka and Fanuel Katombo who underwent training in aquaculture. After first learning to swim, they were trained in feeding, monitoring and analysing water conditions, monitoring, as well as biosecurity, to prevent mortality from disease and maximise production. The team, also skilled in fish filleting, processes orders for tilapia.

“Ultimately we want to start our own breeding operation, to be able to supply fingerlings to others who want to go into fish production. This is our vision,” says Sokonia.

“Other communities can also benefit from fish farming,” he says enthusiastically.

Always keen to share his knowledge, Sokonia has been invited to give a presentation on his successful fish operation at the Zimbabwe Fish Producers’ Association launch on March 17 at Exhibition Park.

Vision and perseverance have paid off. “We did not let high losses in the beginning deter us, we recognised the potential of the project,” says Sokonia.

In the first year, more than 9 000 fish almost ready for harvesting escaped into the dam through the second hand nets, which required daily inspection and constant mending. Nets and the feed – which accounts for 60 percent of production costs – are the most expensive inputs in fish farming.

Feed formulated for fish

Investment in fish feed manufacture in Zimbabwe shows that with the right fish food, it is possible to attain growth rates comparable to the international aquaculture standard. These results are spawning new growth in aquaculture. The strategic partnership between Aquafeeds Pvt Ltd and Profeeds Pvt Ltd to produce extruded fish food is a key development in the growing aquaculture industry. The heat extrusion process ensures that fish feed formulated from selected ingredients can be digested and utilised by the fish for optimum growth.

Aquafeeds Pvt Ltd was established in 2013 to provide specialised floating tilapia and trout feed to Zimbabwe’s fish farmers.

The company won Agro-Initiative project funding from TechnoServeto and established a tilapia feed milling operation and the following year entered into a joint venture partnership with feed manufacturer ProFeeds, another Agro-initiative award winner.

In a winning combination, the joint venture is producing no less than 10 different types of fish feed, including feed for fry, fingerlings, juvenile, adult fish and broodstock to meet specific nutritional requirements.

An important ingredient here is Omega 3, which when incorporated into fish feed, makes cultured fish a better source of this vital fatty acid than their wild cousins. Significantly too, Omega 3 also has nutritional benefits for the growing fish, enhancing their feed conversion ratio and growth potential.

As well as promoting the growth of small-scale commercial fish production, the joint venture is also supporting small-scale farming in Zimbabwe by sourcing key raw ingredients – maize and soya – from this sector. Aquafeeds also supplies fish feed to large commercial aquaculture.

Other stockfeed manufacturers in Zimbabwe have also diversified into fish feed to cater for the growing aquaculture industry. Keeping abreast of latest global fish feed production processes is critical to achieving good growth rates and returns from commercial fish farming.

Fish for health

The many health benefits of fish are not only about good nutrition. Did you know that fish production helps to control malaria and bilharzia, as fish eat mosquitoes and bilharzia larvae?

Globally, more people are eating fish today as the benefits of regular fish consumption are now widely recognized. A firm favourite with many, fish is not only tasty, but nutritious too. This high quality protein provides the essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals such as iron, calcium, iodine, zinc and selenium.

Fish is recognised as the best source of omega fatty acids needed for both the body and brain to function optimally. Farmed fish, reared on commercially produced feeds are higher in omega 3 than wild fish. This helps prevent stunting in child growth, a form of malnutrition prevalent in many rural communities.

Fish forms part of a healthy diet and it is not surprising that the world’s great fish eating nations are also among the healthiest. Known health benefits of eating fish include reduced risk of cardiac death and strokes and decreased risk of depression. Nutrient rich fish also aids neurological development in unborn infants.

Freshly caught, dried or frozen, fish have an important role to play in improving food security and nutrition in Zimbabwe. In rural villages and urban areas alike, small fish projects can be established to supplement the family diet and income.

Fried, baked, steamed or cooked over a fire, fish make a tasty, light and nourishing meal. Who can resist tempting trout, tasty tilapia, and crisped kapenta?

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  • CANDID TALK

    A very commendable project which the SMEs Ministry should promote country wide for the export market. There should also be promotion of fish canning industry for the export market. This will see the country generating the much needed foreign currency.