In fish farming, the farmer grows fish in captivity, thus necessitating the need to pay adequate attention to the health, nutrition and propagation of the fish. More often than not, the farmer's objective is profit-making, in which case the farm has to be of a commercial scale.
Why farm fish?
Below are some of the reasons fish farming is important, nay, sine qua non, to Botswana; and these readily explain the need for investment in this virgin industry:
* All over the world, fish stock from the wild (oceans, rivers, lakes, and so on) has proven to be insufficient for mankind due to over-exploitation and pollution of natural waters. This stock insufficiency is aggravated in landlocked Botswana, what with its few perennial waters! It is, therefore, only through fish farming that enough quantity of fish may be produced to augment supplies.
* Unbeknown to a large segment of the public, there is a huge demand for fish in Botswana. This unfortunate ignorance is steadily playing to the advantage of the enlightened and rich few, who make a lot of economic profit from fish importation. Fish demand is far in excess of supply.
At least 4000 tons of fish is consumed in Botswana each year. Out of this quantity, only a paltry quantity of about 300 tons is produced locally, leaving a whopping deficit of 3, 700 tons to be supplied through importation, mainly from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Little wonder, therefore, that fish smuggling across those borders is said to be a thriving, though illicit, business. But, again, it is only fish farming which possesses the capability to cater for this huge differential that exists between national demand and supply.
* More than any other farming activity, fish farming generates the highest yield per area of land. Yields in excess of 50 tons of fish per hectare per annum are quite obtainable in aquaculture.
* Fish has potentials for perhaps the highest returns on investment among all agro-allied activities. This is more so with intensive culture practice under sound technical management. Aquaculture is a very secure investment with very regular and sustainable net income.
* Fish has a remarkable reproductive capability, compared to other reared animals. About 100, 000 eggs can be produced by a single female cultivable carp.
* As a result of the obvious investment potentials obtainable therefrom, fish farming is one of the fastest-growing global industries. For example, in the United Kingdom, fish farming represents the second-largest area of animal production, next only to broiler chicken. About 70 million fish are grown and consumed each year in that country.
Globally, more than 40 percent of all food fish is produced by aquaculture.
* Fish is an excellent feed converter and, therefore, has a lower feed requirement than most reared animals.
* Water: Fish farming exerts far less pressure on water conservation techniques than other farm and industrial usages. And because fish is a poikilothermic (cold-blooded) animal whose habitat is water, it doesn't develop thirst to drink the water in which it lives, unlike poultry and cattle, which need to drink a lot of water. Thus, contrary to the opinion held by the largely uninformed, most aquaculture practices do not result in any significant water loss. Moreover, any good aquaculturist is sufficiently equipped with knowledge of sound water management techniques.
* Fish farming demands far less of the farmer's energy than any other farming activity. Consequently, less energy is required in aquaculture for protein production.
* Fish is a high quality food that is particularly rich in protein. And, in order to prevent the incidence of arthritis and some other health problems, one is advised to eat much fish and white meat. This applies more to those above 40 years of age.
* Fish is remarkably rich in omega-3, which is a group of essential fatty acids that are important in reducing cholesterol levels.
Botswana's suitability for fish farming
Is Botswana suitable for fish farming? Or, put differently, is fish farming achievable in Botswana? The answer to both questions is a resounding YES! Botswana, for sure, has a semi-arid climate with the inherent factors of low annual rainfall, high temperature, high evaporation rate and largely loose soil texture. But advances in aquacultural technology have taken adequate care of all these problems.
There is, therefore, no aspect of Botswana's natural deficiency (either perceived or real) that cannot be sufficiently circumvented or mitigated through application of proven techniques in the effort to produce food fish. The stark ignorant and those who prefer not to see anything good in Botswana should not, therefore, continue to label the country worse in climate than Israel, Namibia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Morocco, to name but a few, all of which are among countries where fish farming is notably thriving despite similarities with, or even worse climate than, Botswana's. Doing so has the potency of sending the wrong signal and discouraging potential investors in this and other fields. Fish farming is, therefore, unmistakably achievable in this country.
The benefits of fish farming
In addition to the obvious financial profit accruable to the investor, below are some socio-economic benefits which may be further derived from fish farming:
* Improvement of family income.
* Enhancement of national food security.
* Generation of gainful employment opportunities, especially in villages and rural areas where fish farms are usually located.
* Curbing rural-urban migration.
* Improvement of social equity and environmental wellbeing.
* Diversification of national economy and of training and employment profiles.
* Conservation of scarce foreign exchange that is usually expended in fish importation.
* Possible reversal of Botswana's current status of fish-importer nation to that of a net exporter of fish. In conclusion, fish farming is highly profitable, certainly achievable and is indeed an imperative mechanism to be employed in the bid to feed Batswana with the much-desired quality protein.
It is also a potent source of employment generation and economic empowerment of the citizenry, most especially the youth and the rural dwellers.
*Lotanna Nzegwu is a consultant aquaculturist and fisheries technologist.