Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) has moved to more than double production at Kigembe Fish Farming Centre, located in Gisagara District of Southern Province.
According to officials from the institution, the target is to increase the production of fingerlings from the current two million to five million at the end of this financial year to increase fish production in the country.
Besides, the agriculture body has embarked on empowering farmers to produce fingerlings on their own by availing three small scale fish hatcheries to remote districts of Nyamasheke, Karongi and Rubavu, according to Dr Christine Kanyandekwe, Head of Animal Resources Department at RAB.
Speaking to The New Times on Monday, Kanyandekwe said that RAB had imported a new hatchery worth Rwf78 million to hatch fish of the clarias species and it had already been set up at the Kigembe centre.
Kanyandekwe noted that the move intends to put more efforts in clarias fish to diversify from the tilapia fish that has dominated the market for years.
Meanwhile, Kanyandekwe said there are three small scale fish hatcheries that have been procured and will be used this financial year, to ensure hatching activities are brought near where farming is taking place.
These will be distributed in three districts namely; Nyamasheke, Karongi and Rubavu.
“The government wants to support and encourage farmers to produce fingerlings by themselves,” she said adding that they have since equipped farmers with required skills in this regard.
The president of Fish Farmers’ Cooperative Federation, Theophile Nyandwi, told The New Times on Monday that there was a problem where some fingerlings died owing to long distance from the hatchery.
Another issue, he said, is the shortage of, as well as costly fish feeds, saying that production of fingerlings in remote district will ensure safety of fish off-springs.
He said the price of a fingerling is not high as it is normally Rwf50, including the transport fare. The fingerlings, he said, are carried by RAB from the hatchery to the site to raise them.
RAB figures show that annual fish production was 25,000 tonnes in 2015. Rwanda imports 15,000 tonnes of fish per year. The target is to produce 120,000 tonnes in 2017.
According to Dr Wilson Rutaganira, Aquaculture and Fisheries Program Coordinator at RAB, to date, there are up to 700 cages of different volumes in the country, with the least volume 8 cubic metres and the biggest 198 cubic metres (of water).
Rutaganira noted that these cages have production capacity of up to 2,500 tonnes of fish annually but due to lack of appropriate good quality feeds, which leads to under stocking of the cages and even having a few stocked, production does not exceed 1,000 metric tonnes annually.
“This is why we are advocating for a stimulant package in form of feed subsidy to the farmers which would increase production of the existing cages but also encourage even other investors to invest in fish farming,” he noted.
Kanyandekwe pointed out that the lease of the Urban Fisheries Promotion Centre to AQUAHORT Export Ltd/AEL that was approved by the Cabinet in September, will help address the fish feeds issue.
Quoting the fish farming master plan, Rutaganira said, “if we only used 2% of our water (Kivu), we can produce more than 80,000 MT annually but this needs government intervention to the tune of at least Rwf1.5 billion annually for at least five years.”
If this is done, he said, it would generate more than Rwf331.76 billion annually.