More than 900 fish farmers in Acoli subregion are struggling to stock their ponds with fish fingerlings (fish seed), due to absence of a hatchery in the area.
The fish farmers found in Kitgum, Pader, Agago and Lamwo districts, who have organized themselves into 54 groups, are forced to travel up to Lira district, or Kajjansi in Wakiso district, in order to buy quality fish fingerlings.
In 2010, USAID set up a 10-million-shilling fish hatchery in Kitgum town, but four years later, components of the machine were allegedly stolen, leaving the machine non-functional to date.
John Okeny, the Chairperson of the fish farmers who are organised under the name “Manjola Fish Farmers”, told theCooperator that most farmers buy fish fingerlings from other regions, which is reducing their profit margins.
“Each fish fingerling costs Shs 500 minus transport. If our hatchery was working, we would buy the fingerlings at Shs 250 each,” he said.
Okeny says that in addition to the costly fingerlings, the fish feed is also expensive, costing Shs 60, 000 for 20 kilograms, which he says lasts only a week.
“The manufactured feed is very expensive and accounts for up to 80 percent of all the expenses in the business. These 20 kilograms last only a week when one has two or three ponds like I do.
It is discouraging for beginners,” Okeny said.
Alfred Omony, the Kitgum District Production Officer, says the lack of a nearby hatchery has caused many fish farmers to abandon their business after just one year of doing the business.
“There are 68 fish ponds in the district but only 25 are active. Others dig the dam and later fail to stock it with fingerlings because of its expense,” Omony said.
Hellen Aditi Lembe, Production Officer, Kitgum Municipality, thinks that, if it were not for these challenges, fish farming would have been a lucrative business, because it requires little land to start, unlike crop and animal husbandry.
Aditi, too, says the major challenge affecting the fish farmers has been getting the fish fingerlings.
“The nearest hatchery is in Lira district. The one we have here in Kitgum needs rehabilitation, if not then we shall continue getting fish from as far as Lake Kyoga and Victoria expensively, yet this is something we can produce from here,” Aditi said.