Kabarole is one of the few districts in Uganda endowed with crater lakes which are mainly used as tourist sites with minimal fishing activities around these lakes.
According to the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), the district has a total of 49 crater lakes. However, most of them have not been fully exploited for fishing largely due to limited technology despite the fact that the water bodies have potential to serve in a versatile capacity for fish production.
Meanwhile, the government has through NAADS launched a UGX 5b project to promote cage fish farming on the 49 crater lakes within Kabarole District.
The project, implemented under the Presidential Initiative on Agro Industrialisation for Local Economic Development (AGRILED) in the Rwenzori Region is aimed at transforming local government system to facilitate effective business-oriented local development with a focus on poverty reduction and sustainable wealth creation.
Kabarole and the entire Rwenzori region’s domestic fish production is dominated by small-scale artisanal farmers whom government intends to encourage into cage fish farming systems so as to utilise the vast available scattered inland water bodies.
Although they are 49 crater lakes available, only 22 have been tested and cleared for cage fish farming.
Grace Fatuma Kazigati, the NAADS Agribusiness Development Officer said the project will be implemented in a phased manner starting with three sub-counties of Ruteete, Kicwamba, Kasenda and that seven crater lakes have been identified to kick start the project; two from Rutete, four from Kasenda and one from Kicwamba.
She said under this project, farmers are to be equipped with fish production skills, provided with fingerlings for stocking and also given 30 fish cages with each installed and stocked with 3,500 fingerlings.
“These crater lakes were selected after a feasibility study on the nature of the waters and their past history of supporting fish life. We have already started the implementation of the project by training them in areas of mindset change, development of business plans, cost benefit analysis for fish farming and the role of farmer organisations in maximizing profits in cage fish farming,” Kazigati said.
“We have also trained the extension staff in-charge of each of the four pilot sub-counties to enable them follow up and further guide the farmers on how to maximize their profits. We have trained a total of 150 farmers in the initial phase,” she added.
According to the National Development Plan (NDP III), the government plans to increase fish production to one million metric tonnes by 2030 a plan that hinges mostly on aquaculture and restocking of small lakes and making use of emerging fishery of small fishes like silver fish (mukene) on Lake Victoria and Lagogi on Lake Albert.
Meanwhile, Brian Baguma, the Kabarole District Fisheries Officer, urged farmers to take the project seriously citing good feeding for the fish as a must if they are to benefit from this government support.
He explained that there is minimal risk in cage fish farming if the fish are well fed unlike crops which are affected by seasonal changes.
Vice Chairperson Kabarole District Local Government, Stella Kyorampe, said the project will not only help the district to tap the fast-growing market opportunities and increasing demand for fish at local, regional and international markets, but will also create employment opportunities for locals within the area.
Kabarole Resident District Commissioner, Julian Ayesiga, said the project is expected to improve on household incomes of the farming communities, ensure food security, provide source of employment for the youth and women and subsequent foreign exchange.
“We are committed to offering all necessary support to ensure all the key players in the district benefit from this unique project,” she said.
The fisheries sector in Uganda provides a vital source of food, providing about 50 per cent of animal protein.
It employs close to 80,000 people who are directly involved in catching fish and a further 800,000 people who are involved in it.