Farmers fight urban hunger with bucket ponds

Rwanda urban farmers are utilizing little resources by practicing static bucket ponds for cat fish rearing in a move also hailed as key in taming urban hunger.

A team of extension officers from Rwanda are deepening fish farming among the urban dwellers in Uganda with the introduction of the of static bucket ponds for Cat fish rearing. The campaign which is being spearheaded by extension officers was started two years ago and is geared towards inspiring the urban masses into farming and empowering people on the usage of little resources at their disposal to earn a living.

The agricultural extension officers are pooled together under Agri Extension organization which is deepening the adoption of commercial agriculture in the region. “We are focusing on enticing most of the people in urban as well as rural areas but with limited resources to put to use the available small pieces of land and turn around their fortunes. Although it’s widely known that in order for one to indulge in fish farming, he should have access to a sizeable land for construction of fish ponds, we are negating this myth with our newly improved bucket ponds,” explained Joachim Birungi the coordinator for the project in Uganda.

According to Joachim, bucket ponds are best fit for the backyard farms and ideal for people with small space and interested in fish farming. “We have already created bucket ponds for over 300 individuals and organizations. Depending on the size of the available space, one can construct 1-30 bucket ponds given the available resources.” The bucket can be made from locally available materials like timber and tarpaulins. The size and height depends on the available fingerlings to be reared. For instance for an eight feet long and six feet height of a bucket, it can accommodate over 400 cat fish. The tarpaulin or polythene paper is used to cover the pond and hold water. Depending on the size of the catfish in the bucket pond, one may require 2000-6000 litres of water.

This type of fish farming dictates one to be dedicated in terms of management. “The water is static and therefore requires replacement after every three to seven days depending on the need. If one does not observe this, then the cat fish may suffer suffocation and die,” noted Joachim. In addition, the choice of water to be used should be done cautiously. Rain water is the best for such a project. However other alternatives include non salty borehole water. Tap water which is plenty in urban areas is already treated with chlorine and if used may kill all the fish. Nonetheless, Joachim noted that if fetched and kept in the open for over three days may be useful although he discourages this because of human error which may end up being costly.

Hygiene of the pond is paramount to the success of the venture. Charles Mulwana a farmer in Mukono who had adopted the project lost all his first batch of 400 catfish due to human error which compromised the hygiene. “I had conducted disinfectant in the pig sty and came to feed the fish oblivious of the danger my hands with traces of salt had to the fish. Within a week, I had lost all the fish and have been forced to start afresh,” explained Mulwana.

The innovation only supports catfish species because of its endowment with both gills and lungs for breathing. Other fish species like Tilapia cannot survive under stagnant water because they only depend on the gills for breathing. However, for farmers who can afford Oxygen blowers and have access to source of electricity, then they can rear both Tilapia and Catfish under this model. One month catfish fingerling weighing about 80 grams costs about Ush800. After a period of about 4-6 months the fish attains market size and can retail at about Ush10000 depending on the area.

Data from fisheries department of indicates that North African catfish is the most preferred specie that farmers prefer in Uganda because of its ability to feed on anything organic at household level, fast growth rate and favoured in the regional market. In addition, it also does well in all waters especially in swamps. As a result, it has overtaken Nile perch and tilapia and is estimated to account for 60 per cent of aquaculture production in the country. Output for catfish has overtaken tilapia with an annual production of over 38500 tonnes compared to Tilapia’s 1632.5 tonnes.