Aquaculture or fish farming is a business that requires an adequate water supply. With a large inland water supply and diverse marine life, Tanzania is just perfect for fish farming. The country has 21 unique species of one of the most farmed fishes on the planet, Tilapia. Fish farming in Tanzania is a lucrative business and the government’s interest has equally helped in boosting the sector.
Recently, the government made a move to introduce fish farming in Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest freshwater lake. This has spiced up interest in fish farming within the Northern region of the country. But the progress made over the years is being threatened by COVID-19. In this article, we’ll take a look at what fish farming in Tanzania entails, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector.
Tanzania Covid-19 Update
Tanzania currently has 26,034 confirmed Covid-19 cases and so far, there have been 724 deaths resulting from the virus. Its former president John Magufuli placed a ban on the release of COVID-19 information stating that the virus had been defeated. Consequently, there is a gap of more than one year since the last official report on COVID-19, released in April 2020.
However, things are changing at an unprecedented pace since the new president, Samia Hassan, assumed office. The president’s administration has expressed interest in obtaining COVID-19 vaccines. Her administration equally reversed the ban placed by the former president on the release of COVID-19 data in the country. This was necessary to qualify for the $570 million emergency loan from IMF.
The country was able to secure its first batch of more than 1 million Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, through the COVAX initiative on July 24th. Under the advisement of her COVID-19 task force, the president has set up health guidelines to combat the spread of the virus. Its strong vaccination campaign is showing great promises as the administration records 350,000 COVID jabs taken within 2 months.
The United States is also committed to providing much-needed support to the Tanzanian government in its fight against COVID-19. This will come in the form of a 1.7 billion dollar project that will last for 10 months. The aim of the project is to provide medical supports in 4 referral hospitals across the country.
According to finance minister Migwuhe Uchemba, there has been a considerable drop in the growth rate of the economy. But with the efforts of the Tanzanian government and support of foreign entities, Tanzania is expected to recover quickly from the devastating impact of the pandemic.
How Profitable is Fish Farming in Tanzania?
Despite having a rough start, fish farming in Tanzania has become quite profitable. This is indicated by the rapid expansion of the sector. In 2004, tilapia, trouts, and catfishes were the major fishes being cultivated. The reported turnover at the time was 1522.80 tonnes of tilapia fish worth about 1.3 million US dollars and a mere 7 tonnes of trout worth about Eighteen thousand US dollars. Cultivation of shrimps and other marine organisms was still in the planning phase.
Today, things are much better than it was back in 2004. With support from the government and non-governmental organizations, more Tanzanians are turning to fish farming as a source of income. The result is a spontaneous growth of the sector and an increase in production capacity. From just under 1600 tonnes of fish in 2004 to more than 5000 metric tonnes in 2016. But this was just scratching the surface as production quickly jumped to more than 11,800 metric tonnes in 2017. A difference of about 10,000 metric tonnes of not only fishes but prawns as well.
The increase in the production capacity of the sector raked in millions of dollars as well. In 2016, the sector reportedly earned about 18.3 million dollars but in 2017, that number skyrockets to just under 41 million dollars. This indicates that not only is there a market for the fish, but there’s also a shortage of supply.
What is the Government Doing to Help Grow the Sector?
The Tanzanian government’s effort to inspire the cultivation of fishes started as far back as 1950. According to a Food and Agriculture Organization report, the government began stockpiling reservoirs that were initially meant for irrigation and flood control with tilapia. To boost its efforts, the government also launched a national campaign on fish farming in 1967. However, both strategies failed mostly due to mismanagement.
Not relenting in its efforts, the Tanzanian government adopted several measures to help it achieve its goal. First was the inclusion of aquaculture in the Fisheries Act of 1970, then the provision of loans, and creating awareness through seminars and workshops. The government also provides a three-year tax-free period for investors in commercial aquaculture.
This should spark the interest of investors capable of undertaking aquaculture on a commercial scale. To further increase production and reduce harvest losses, the Tanzanian government is collaborating with non-governmental organizations like WorldFish and the International Fund For Agricultural Development.
A Basic Guide to Starting a Fish Farm in Tanzania
Thinking about starting fish farming in Tanzania? These guilds will get your foot on the door.
1. Get familiar with the laws of the land
Like any country in the world, Tanzania has laws that govern the land. The Fisheries Act 2003 is an important law that any fish farmer must be familiar with. Part IV of this act outlines the laws as it applies to aquaculture in Tanzania.
Through the act, the government emphasizes the need for farmers to collaborate with local authorities and also protect the environment. The government also reserves control over the use of genetically modified species and resources as well as monitoring and control of aquacultural practices amongst others.
2. Register your fish farm
According to the law, every fish farm should be registered and this can be done within the local government area where the farm is located. While the act didn’t stipulate the registration processes, it is clear that this will help the government monitor and control the sub-sector. Other than this, farmers are free to cultivate their fishes with little to no constraints and the government provides a three-year tax-free period for commercial fish farmers.
3. Choose a location
Like any business, fish farming in Tanzania has a lot to do with choosing the right location. Depending on the location of your farm, you may have to deal with climate change and feed scarcity. These are two major challenges facing fish farmers in Tanzania.
Although feed scarcity is amenable, climate change remains one of the biggest challenges especially for fishes reared in open ponds or marine environments. Using open ponds or cages is common among fish farmers in areas located in the coastal regions of the country.
4. Decide on a system to use
The majority of the fish farms are owned by individuals who use extensive or semi-intensive methods which is less expensive. This subsistence fish farming is mostly done in earthen ponds (constructed using the soil only). However, some farmers also use concrete tanks and concrete ponds (Walled ponds), and even cages.
The size and type of material used in making the fish pond depend on several factors among which are the geographical location, climate condition, available funds, available materials, and labor cost. Due to the flexible regulations, the farmers are free to decide on how long to rear the fishes and how many are kept in each pond. So, naturally there is a variation in statistics concerning the number of fishes per pond and the cultivation period.
5. Get your fingerlings
Tilapia is the most common cultivated fish species in Tanzania. While most farmers farm only tilapia, others practice polyculture by farming both tilapia and catfish. Getting a good fingerling stock is a prerequisite for a successful culture.
A general rule is to go for pure breed stocks and not crossbreed. It will be quite difficult to differentiate between the crossbreed and pure breeds fingerlings and this is why it is advisable to buy from vendors with a good reputation.
Impact of COVID-19 on Fish Farming in Tanzania
Disruption in the fish market
The impact of COVID-19 on fish farming in Tanzania is several folds, each having a resonating effect on fish farming in the country. First, the restriction of movements interrupted the supply chain. Most farmers were unable to sell their products on time. The result is longer cultivation/storage times which eventually adds to the overall production cost. With the price of the fish going very high and no market to sell it, most of the farmers are running out of capital.
Large-scale farmers with access to loans are able to buffer the impact and hold out until the market begins to move as usual. Meanwhile, small-scale farmers with no readily accessible funds are forced to sell off at a loss. Now, most fishes in Tanzania are farmed mostly for local consumption by individuals who are small-scale farmers. Therefore, the fallout from the pandemic will affect not only the farmers who farm the fish but also those who provide services that depend on it.
Inadequate feed supply
Another major challenge facing fish farmers in Tanzania is the availability of feeds. While local feed ingredients are abundant, getting a hold of them could prove difficult. This is because the availability of the local feeds depends on location. Although there are many options to choose from, not all of the local feeds provide the level of nutrition that the fishes need.
The pandemic made matters worst in this area. The lack of movements meant that many of the farmers were forced to depend on what’s available within the vicinity of their farm. This could lead to poor turnout and long cultivation periods especially in situations where the available feed doesn’t have the nutrients needed.
Fish farming in Tanzania is profitable, especially for commercial fish farmers. However, there are so many factors that stack up against investors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, with the improving vaccination drive across Africa, things should stabilize really soon. With that projection, the best time to invest in Tanzania’s fish production industry is now.
The International Fund For Agricultural Development and the government of Tanzania are planning to scale up production in the sector. The target of the 77.4 million dollar project is to boost the yearly production of tilapia and catfish to 25 million and 10 million respectively. Are you planning to invest in fish farming or do you already own one? If so, kindly share your ideas, opinion, and advice for beginners in the comment section below.