Economic Empowerment of Fish Farmers Through Sustainable Fish Farming

Mazuba Mwanachingwala (wearing a pink blazer) completed a Masters of Science in Sustainable Aquaculture in 2014

This story forms part of the 2017 Outcomes Study. Alumni were selected to share their Most Significant Change as a result of the Australia Awards program.

 

I work in Laupula Province, Zambia under the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock. Many people in the province depend on fishing for their livelihood due to two major lakes, Lake Mweru-Luapula and Lake Bangweulu. Unfortunately, wild fish stocks are depleting due to the use of illegal fishing equipment and poor fishing methods. This process threatens food security and the source of income for most people in the province. One way of mitigating this is to promote fish farming as a business, although the lack of superior quality fingerlings and low-cost fish feed hampers the sustainability of fish farming. In the past, this would lead to most fish farmers abandoning their ponds as they see fewer benefits for maintaining them.

Due to these challenges, I decided to apply to Australia Awards for a Master of Science in Sustainable Aquaculture at Curtin University in Western Australia. During my studies, I undertook an aquatic research project which considered mixtures of fermented cassava peel and duckweed in partially replacing the fish meal as a protein source for fish feed. I also completed a course on Sustainable Aquaculture which addressed issues in fingerling production.

When I returned home, I trained fish farmers on fish feed development from locally available crops and established fish nursery production centres. Fish farmers are incorporating more plant materials in the fish feed which is helping reduce the challenge of the lack of availability of low-cost fish feed. Furthermore, I worked with the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) project, after being promoted to District Fisheries and Livestock Coordinator. The project addresses the issue of malnutrition in children below two years, and it procures fingerlings for fish farmers with infants. I saw this as an opportunity to empower our local lead fish farmers in fingerling production so that they can sell fingerlings. I successfully lobbied a SUN Project Coordinator to engage our lead fish farmers. This initiative has revived the morale of fish farmers and economically empowered them.

fishing 2An example of this is one lead fish farmer who, at 75 years old, managed to educate his children and construct a modern house out of fingerling and table sized fish sales. He started fish farming in 2011 and has 14 stocked up fish ponds.

Furthermore, I supported a fish farmers group to implement a three-year Development Plan, and have achieved 80% of the plan. The group started fish farming in 2011 and has 48 ponds stocked with fish. The farmers have also constructed a skills centre, used for training, which was partly sponsored by a Peace Corp volunteer. Also, the group received a donation of a pelleting machine for fish feed formulation.

Due to the success of the program, colleagues from other districts have replicated my approach and introduced nursery production centres in their regions. In addition, the use of locally made fish feed has led to a rise in fish farmers increasing the sustainability of fish farming. When the approaches to fingerling availability and fish feed production have fully scaled up, fish farming will become an attractive economic sector that contributes to food security and reducing poverty.

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