Over 50 farmers in Kasese municipality are counting losses in the millions of shillings after all their fish ponds were swept away or covered up by flash floods that ravaged the entire Nyamwamba valley from uphill Kilembe to Kasese town.
According to Nyamwamba Valley Fish Farmers Association adviser, Lt. Col. Barnabas Mughongo, the 50-member association which owns a total of 70 fish ponds, with 57 being active, lost everything to the devastating floods.
”We have lost both ponds and the fish to the flash floods. As you can see, the ponds were all covered by soil and sand,” Lt. Col. Mughongo, himself a fish farmer, said.
Mughongo, who owned five fish ponds all fully stocked with catfish, tilapia and Nile perch, says they were due for harvesting in August this year. Now, the Lt. Col., who says he had stocked 30,000 fish fry in his ponds, each costing between Shs 300-500, is reckoning with the damage visited upon his investment.
Whereas he expected an income of at least Shs 90m from selling the mature fish, even considering worst-case estimates, the destruction of his ponds represents a substantial loss.
“Even if I sold each fish at only Shs 1000, that is Shs 30m lost to the floods, on top of the Shs 5m I spent on construction of each of the two big fish ponds, and Shs 2m for each of the three smaller ones, all of which are no more,” he said.
Mughongo, who doubles as the Coordinator, Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) in Busongora North, Kasese district, refuted claims that they were paying the price for setting up their fish ponds in the low lands. Instead, he blamed the floods on failure by local leaders to enforce good agricultural practice in the mountains.
“It is not our fish ponds that caused the flooding and meandering of Nyamwamba River but the problem comes from the uphills. Leaders must wake up and enforce good farming practices as has been done in areas like Kabale,” he said.
Mughongo called on government to come to their rescue by providing the fish farmers with funding or loans to do alternative businesses.
Yona Bazare, also a fish farmer, says he invested Shs 6m to buy land, construct a pond and stock 8000 fish fry, expecting to earn between Shs 16-18m. However, all that was put to waste by the floods
“My cat fish were mature and due for harvest after the lock down. Each fish weighed 2.5kgs based on first samples, but now all my hope is gone,” Bazare said, adding that his harvest had been delayed by the low market occasioned by COVID-19-related restrictions.
According to Bazare, they were waiting for the river to return to its normal channel before resuming business since, he said, fish farming is still a viable business.
Another farmer, Harriet Kabugho, also appealed for government help, saying fish rearing was their only hope for survival.
“I was counting on my fish pond for income to feed my 9 children and provide school fees, but now my hope is shattered,” said Kabugho, whose husband is currently unemployed, leaving her as the family’s sole breadwinner.
She proposed that government provide them an alternative source of income instead of giving them food handouts, a practice she believes is not sustainable.