Rwanda aims to hit an annual production of 25,000 tons of fish by the end of 2012, from the current 13,000.
This was revealed by Dr. Wilson Rutaganira, the coordinator of PAIGELAC, a project under the Ministry of Agriculture charged with the promotion of fish production in the country.
Rutaganira expressed confidence in doubling the current production because of the ongoing efforts to upgrade fish breeding infrastructure, like floating cages.
“We expect to reach this goal much as it is sounds way too high. We have installed all the necessary infrastructure like fish cages for breeding more species like Tilapia. We also enhanced measures against pollution from soil erosion, and encroaching on water bodies by residents,” he said during an interview with The New TImes.
Fishing and other related activities are conducted through 128 cooperatives spread countrywide.
Rutaganira added that through the cooperatives, members are trained on entrepreneurship, with the aim of gaining more income out of the enterprise.
“We have also introduced sessions of mentoring cooperative members to become entrepreneurs. This will help them increase their income, and thus motivate them the more, to boost the industry’s earnings”.
Initiated in 2006, the project is co-funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Government of Rwanda.
It was slow to achieve its objectives of increasing production water bodies from 10per hectare to 30 kg, because of lack of expertise in managing the new industry. Farmers also had little experience in improved methods, according to Rutaganira.
Fishermen appreciate the contribution of the activity to their lives.
“We have food to feed our families unlike before. Our members also joined developmental projects like SACCOs and obtained insurance against water accidents,” says James Rutebuka, the head of Dusabane Nasho, COADUNA cooperative of Kirehe District.
Muhire Elia, another member of the same cooperative says that through fishing, he no longer lives in a grass-thatched house. He said he even managed to procure himself a motorcycle and raise capital for his wife to start a small business.
The cooperative members cited accidents caused by crocodiles and hippos in the lakes as the main challenge they face.
Rutaganira, however, noted that most of the fish from Rwandan lakes face competition from the popular Tilapia, and opt export their production to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Silver fish (small fish) which are common from our main sources like Lake Kivu are sold to the Congo where they have a bigger market. Tilapia still dominates the local market.”
With the current breeding of Tilapia species in pilot cages, the industry expects to boost its revenue from fish in the near future.