NKOMBO KACHEMBA, Kitwe
THE fishing industry in Zambia has the potential to contribute immensely to the growth of the country’s economy and create the much needed job opportunities for the local people.
However, depleted fish stocks and lack of research in fish genetics are some of the factors which have contributed to the poor performance of the sector.
Zambia is endowed with so many natural water bodies but most of them have been depleted of fish species due to destructive fishing methods.
Some fish species have gone into extinction due to lack of research on how their genetics can be improved to sustain their life cycle.
In Zambia, the National Aquaculture Research Centre (NARDC) is the biggest research station but not much is happening at the institution in the area of research due to lack of resources.
The centre, which is located in Kitwe’s Mwekera area was established in the 1950s as a fish farm, but was later upgraded into a research centre.
Though not known by many, the research centre has continued to generate information and latest technology on aquaculture development, which it disseminates to fish farmers.
Fingering production is one of the activities that the research institute conducts to mitigate the shortage of fish seed the industry is currently facing.
The research centre also conducts research in fish breeding genetics, fish nutrition, fish health and fish production.
All these researches have contributed greatly to the growth of the fishing industry in Zambia.
The research station has 77 fish ponds, which are stocked with fish used in the production of fingerlings.
Its core mandate is to produce fingerlings, which are of good quality and of good genetics to replenish the natural waters and fish ponds.
NARDC principal research officer Lumbwe Kalumba explains that the institution is the biggest research centre in Zambia but that it is incapacitated in terms of resources.
Mr Kalumba said the centre has the capacity to produce four million fingerlings per year but it is only producing less than one million due to lack of resources.
Mr Kalumba said despite the challenges that the institution is facing, it has continued to conduct research in fish genetics, health, production and nutrition to contribute the development of aquaculture in Zambia.
He said the research centre produces fingerlings for the red headed bream[pale], red breasted bream[mpende], three spotted bream[Kafue bream], Tanganyika bream, Catfish and Carp fish.
Mr Kalumba saysthe research centre cannot meet the demand for fingerings in the fishing industry.
“Once we produce the fish seed [fingerlings], we sell them to our fish farmers, some of them are restocked in our natural water bodies. The fingerlings we produce are of good quality,” he said.
In the area of research, the centre is currently conducting studies on how to improve the genetics of the Kafue bream, which is an indigenous fish species.
It is believed that once the genetics of the Kafue bream are improved, it will grow bigger and faster like other exotic species such as the Nile fish.
Mr Kalumba explains that under the research, the Kafue bream has been collected from different parts of the country and is being cross-bred to produce fingerlings.
When the fingerlings grow to about 50 grammes, they will be cross-bred again until the genetics of the fish species is improved.
“The Nile fish was genetically improved in Egypt. It is an exotic fish which grows bigger in size and this is what we want to achieve for the Kafue bream. We want it to weigh atleast 300 grammes,” he said.
Mr Kalumba said Worldfish, an international organisation is interested in the research, which is likely to come to an end in the year 2022.
Fish nutrition is also important in aquaculture development and the research station has been conducting research on how it can nourish fish feed with proteins and Vitamin C.
Mr Kalumba explains that NARDC has conducted studies on lemons, moringa, tadpoles and even on coagulated animal blood to try and nourish the fish feed.
“We have soya, which is rich in protein but our studies are focused on making fish feed which is cheaper and available to our fish farmers,” he said.
And Mr Kalumba says lack of information on fish management among fish farmers has contributed to the poor performance of aquaculture in Zambia.
He said most fish farmers lack information on fish management, which affects fish production.
Most farmers do not know to manage their fish ponds and how to feed fish.
And Chanda Mumba, an aquaculturalist at NARDC said the research centre also helps farmers to ascertain whether the water in their fish ponds has sufficient oxygen.
“We see our farmers coming to the centre with dead fish and we advise them to ensure that there is enough oxygen in the water,” Ms Mumba said.
She said the farmers are also advised to ensure that they test the PH in water, which should be between 6.5 and 8.5.
Meanwhile, Timothy Chigoya, a pond manager at NARDC said he has learnt a lot on fish management from the centre.
“I never knew how to manage the fish ponds but now I know and I can be a successful fish farmer,” Mr Chigoya explained while cleaning the fish ponds.
NARDC will also play a key role in the implementation of the US$50 million aquaculture development programme.
Government has obtained a loan from the Africa Development Bank (AFDB) to boost fish production in Zambia.
One of the programme under this project is the Zambia Aquaculture Enterprise Development, through which some fish farmers will be trained in fish farming at NARDC and then dispatched to fish farms on the Copperbelt.