A group of youths, majority of them university graduates, have something to smile about, after a support by Business Development Fund (BDF) helped transform their fish farming business.
The members are grouped in Mukindo Fish Farmers Cooperative, all of whom hail from Runyinya cell in Mukindo sector.
The group started off as a saving association with 11 members in 2015 before thinking of fish farming.
Today, they have grown to 18 members and most of them studied agriculture and livestock while others did wildlife and aquatic resources management at University of Rwanda.
Patrice Nzeyimana, the president of the cooperative said they chose to venture in fish so as to put to good use the knowledge they had acquired to transform the area where they are born.
The transformation, he said, was envisaged in the provision of the much-needed fish products area residents and beyond, but most importantly start a model farm that would set an example in Mukindo and nearby communities.
“At the beginning, each member would contribute Rwf500 every week in the first two months but each member was allowed to save with up to five shares. Later the share price was increased to Rwf3,000 with aim to start a fish farming business,” he said.
After eight months, they had saved up to Rwf500,000, which they sunk in their fish farming business.
“Local officials gave us fish ponds that were lying idle, most especially we had skilled manpower like myself who studied wildlife and aquatic management,” he said.
The group started with farming the Nile tilapia fish species and according to him, each member has a task to play towards the development of the project.
“We harvest every after six months,” he said.
How BDF intervened
Nzeyimana said that much as they had the necessary skills, they still fell short in terms of output, owing to limited capital.
He said that things only got better three years after they embarked on the project, when in July 2018 they acquired a Rwf9 million loan from BDF.
“Before BDF came to support us, our fish production was very low mainly due to insufficient feeds. One Tilapia fish we harvested weighed just 250 grams,” he said.
Thanks to BDF support, he said that not only did the production in terms of quantity, but also the size of the fish significantly increase to double what they would harvest.
The cooperative increased the ponds from 10 to 13 and introduced other species namely Carp and Clarias.
“We initially had 12,000 tilapia into the ponds and when the BDF support came, we introduced more 36,000 composed of Tilapia, Carp and Clarias,” he said.
They also expanded the business.
“While it was previously difficult to get feeds to put in fish ponds, with BDF support we started to rear rabbits and pigs that provide the necessary feeds for the fish. We bought 10 pigs and they have since increased to 22.
We bought 30 rabbits which have multiplied to 84 currently,” he said.
The cooperative is supposed to pay back the loan in three years and Nzeyimana said they are on good track.
The cooperative supplies fish to restaurants, residents and others and each kilogram of fish is sold at between Rwf2,000 Rwf3,000.
“We also sell fingerlings to prospective farmers as part of our broader plan to boost economic activity in the area, he said adding that this also goes a long way in solving societal problems of malnutrition.
Mukindo Fish Farmers Cooperative has also started growing pepper on one hectare.
“We have already harvested two tons of pepper. After deducting the investment cost, we get a profit of $1 dollar per each kilogrammes of pepper,” he said.
This means that from last season harvest, the cooperative gained profit of Rwf2 million on pepper alone.
“We are going to increase pepper production on two hectares,” he said, adding that they have already secured a market in India.
In all projects, they employ 22 causal labourers and have six permanent employees.
The fish farming project supported by BDF contributes to national plan to increase fish production.
Rwanda’s fish output increased in 2018 on account of increased investments in modern and commercially oriented aquaculture practices.
There is about 1,400 fish ponds countrywide, of which 731 are effectively productive, 569 semi-productive, and 125 which are not being utilized.
In 2016, the country produced just 26,581 tonnes of fish before increasing to 31,465 and 43,632 tonnes in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
Rwanda targets to produce 112,000 tonnes every year by 2024