Fisheries

Introduction: Fish is one of the most important natural resources in Uganda, employing over 2 million people directly and indirectly. Fishing and related activities constitute the major economic livelihoods and sources of food for the majority of the people in the rift valley part of kasese district.  Over 20,000 people depend on the fisheries resources of Lake George and the kazinga channel while an estimated 15,000 depend on Lake Edward for their livelihoods. The Fisheries natural  resource base of Kasese District  is depended on Lakes  George ( Area: 250sq. km, average depth; 2.4m, Kazinga Channel 40 km long,  and Lake Edward ( Ugandan Area; 670sq.Km, Average depth. 17m),  in the western rift valley.   On addition to the natural resource base, are rivers and streams in valleys, which are important sources of water to an   average of 350 active fish ponds in the district High population growth and unemployment have increased pressure on the lakes hence increased pressure on Lake Fisheries hence increased poaching and fishing effort. Along with the use of unauthorized small- mesh nets, these factors have led to an important decline in fish stocks and yields. Current average fish catches are estimated at 5-10 kg per fishing expedition which is far below the national average of 50-100kg. Decline in fish catches coupled with absence of commercial fish farming have a big gap between production and demand. To relieve pressure off the lake fisheries and address supply gaps, government of Uganda has recently focused attention to aquaculture promotion. The riparian population of Kasese has traditionally depended on fish for food and income.  The improvement of the fisheries sector in kasese will contribute to food, nutrition security, and overall increased household income.   Capture Fisheries potential for Kasese District.
Pond fish farming:  With the mountainous sloping lands and numerous rivers and streams, kasese District is blessed with Avery suitable environment for the development of fish farming. To maximize this potential the district is promoting fish farming through earthen pond fish culture, for communities that have access to free flowing rivers and streams.
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In the pictures (A), shows the scenery of some of the valleys with potential for fish farming in kasese district, (B), one of the farmers in maliba sub- County harvesting a fish pond.  One of the challenges fish farmers face is the lack of fish harvesting gears.
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C
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The figures C,D,E and F , pond fish handing at the pond site  is still a challenge that needs to be addressed, no formal criteria is used in marketing of fish. Fish prices are determined by mere estimation which leads to farmers being cheated. This method of marketing leads to very law output from pond farming enterprises.
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Figure: F, above. Fish handling at the pond sites.  Many farmers are not conversant with some fish processing techniques like smoking and salting. Therefore once fish is harvested in bulk, its sold at a loss (cheap prices) at the pond site due to fear of spoilage. In most cases the price is determined by the buyers and the farmer has no power to bargain. This therefore calls for the need to train farmers in simple fish processing technologies vis’a vis smoking and salting as well as providing infrastructure for the same processing methods to some selected firms.
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Figure G: marketing strategy at the pond site. Fish farming technologies / interventions: To improve fish production in the district, and supplement the volumes caught from the wild (lakes George and Edward), some fish farming technologies have been promoted. The technologies include tank and cage fish farming.  Tanks are promoted in areas with no free flowing streams, where as cages are promoted at the lake regions. Various farmers have been trained in tank farming and some youth groups in low cost (bamboo) cage construction.  Four tank fish farming pilots are in place however at subsistence level to cater for house hold food security and small incomes. All the pilots were stocked with African cat fish(Clarias gariepinus), and all have been harvested. Fish were able to grow in tanks, to an average size of 500g in 7 months. However this disappointed the farmers as they were expecting 1kg and above.  The main challenges experienced by farmers with this technology is the management of water quality, diseases and maintaining the feeding rations as it principally depends on formulated floating feeds.
In the picture above is one of the innovations of a fish tank using tap water, in a yard in Kasese Municipality.
On the left, anew innovation of recirculation system where rain water is harvested, used in a fish tank, pumped in abiofilter tank, and reused in the growing fish tank.  The water is biologically filtered using sand and plants. This technology is so convenient in backyards, tap water can be used or rain water like in this case. It favors high stocking density; however use of floating feeds is a must. The farmer has been growing African cat fish with average of 500g per head in 8months.
In one of the green houses in Katwe Kabatooro town council, the entrepreneur registered success. Average weight attained by fish was 500 to 700g, in 8 months with 80% survival rate.  There were no incidences of diseases in the tanks for the whole grow out period.  Feeding was based on locally formulated sinking feeds, and use of compost.
However some commercial farmers have come up with innovations of tanks where fish is stocked at high density in green houses. This requires high maintenance costs in terms ensuring good water quality in the tanks, feeding, and water oxygenation.
Freshly harvested cat fish from green house tank in Katwe Kabatooro town council, packed in drums and destined for Mpondwe market.
Cage fish farming Trials: As the riparian population in the district increases, the pressure exerted on fisheries resources also increases. In Kasese District this resulted in the use of unsustainable means of fishing and drastic decline in the production levels of its two lakes.  Given the unsatisfied demand of fish in the district, there is an urgent need to compensate for the decrease in fish capture and increase the availability of marketable fish. At the same time given the lack of alternative livelihoods for riparian communities who often depends exclusively on the declining fish resources, it is acknowledged that they would very much benefit from the development of other viable livelihood alternative options. Cage fish farming in Kasese District has been at small scale levels, small size cages of 2mx2mx2m have been used, with a maximum stocking density of 2000 fingerlings.  Tilapia ( Oreaochromis niloticus) fish species have been used.  Metallic (locally fabricated) and bamboo cages have been used. Riparian groups have been trained in construction of bamboo cage, as a source of livelihood and as a way of reducing costs of acquiring cages in case the group intends to begin cages.
Figure above shows a locally fabricated metallic cage frame for one of the riparian groups on Lake George.
 In the figure on the left; Training youth groups in bamboo cage construction.  This is a low cost technology of making cages that is affordable by small scale entrepreneurs especially the youth.  Through the acquired skill the youth are able to obtain livelihood through construction of cages for other members of the community who intend to adopt similar projects.
In the figure above; Bambo cages installed in one of the dams/ water reservoir in Mubuku irrigation scheme under management of Jeza Youth group.
Challenges of cages experienced in kasese District.
  • Crocodiles that attack and destroys the cage netting materials leading to escape of fish.
  • Lack of capacity of the host groups to sustain the feeding of the fish on floating feeds as recommended for cage management.
  • Stocking of mixed sex tilapia where the females slows in growth.
Fish handling is one of the challenges in all the local markets in the district. Fish products especially, smoked, salted and sun dried fish are handled in un hygienic manner.   Poorly packed fish are put directly on the floor/ bare ground posing a health hazard. Fresh fish at landing sites is similarly handled in a similar way, in the picture below fresh cat fish being stepped over, in a fish slab at one of the landing sites that was visited (kasenyi fish landing site, Lake George).  This practice cuts across all the fish landing sites although the district has put in effort to put up modest structures for fish handling. Compliance of communities to appropriately use them is still challenge.
Fish handling in the local fish markets in the district.
Fish packaging is one of the most challenges in all fish products destined for Kasese markets.  Fish is packaged in cement bags, displayed on the ground during bargaining process.  Interventions towards ensuring that fish handling in the district conforms to standards should be apriority.