Ugandan fish farmers are reaping from cage fish farming as a form of aquaculture,now recording double yields while occupying lesser space than the traditional fish ponds in a practice also making inroads in other East African countries. The fish mature in five months compared to nine months that it takes in the fish ponds.
The technology which was introduced in the country about four years ago by Source Of the Nile Fish Farm, one of the fish farms in Uganda,has quickly gained prominence especially among farmers dwelling around river Nile and its environs due to the higher returns it promises on a relatively shorter period compared to the traditional fish ponds. This technology enables tilapia fish to gain over a kilo at about 5-6 months due to the fact that there is constant free flow of fresh water and fresh oxygen as opposed to the fish ponds where poor drainage systems hamper yields.
The Fish Farm which also supplies the technology and fingerlings to Kenya and other East African countries, is the main supplier to the government of Kenya through the Ministry of Fisheries. The government of Kenya in 2009 launched an ambitious fish farming project that was rolled out in 140 constituencies as part of an economic stimulus programme meant to spur fish farming in the country.
The method is ideal for individuals who have access to flowing fresh water body like a lake or a deep river of a minimum of 7metres depth. In addition, the choice of the water point should be free from predators like crocodiles and hippopotamus as the cages require daily checks and therefore the farmer should be assured of his security and that of the fish at that water point. “For the farmers who would like to adopt this method of aqua culture, Source of the Nile Fish farm offers initial research analysis of the farmer’s water point of preference to determine the depth and safety of the cages at that point,” explained James Kulanga an expert working with Source of the Nile Fish farm.
The upper part of the structure is made from angle lines and frames which are welded in a rectangular shape of about 2 by 5 metres. The metallic part of the cage is then painted with red-oxide to prevent it from rusting because the bottom part of the structure which is wholly covered by a net is submerged in the water. To ensure that the structure floats in water, empty 20 litre jerry cans are tied on the sides of the structure.
“The structures are locally manufactured apart from the net which the company imports from Zimbabwe where the technology has taken root and was borrowed from,” noted James Kulanga. The structure also comes with a Juvenile cage measuring about 1 by 5 metres which is used to breed the fingerlings weighing about 2 grams up to the time they weigh about 12-15 grams a weight which allows the fingerlings to be big enough and not to pass through the main cage. Juvenile cages can accommodate about 10,000 fingerlings while the main cage accommodates about 3500 fish.
The main cages are fitted with a metallic bucket like structure whose opening at the bottom is funnel shaped fit with a pendulum. “This is the feeding trough and a farmer pours fish feeds in the bucket after which the fish will always knock the pendulum which opens the funnel and feeds pour in the cage for the fish to feed on. The farmer therefore is required to check after an interval of about 6 hours in order to add the feeds,” noted Kulanga. Unlike the main cages, the juvenile cages are fitted with automatic feeding troughs which releases fish feeds throughout the day and there is no need for checking.
The farm also conducts breeding for the fingerlings which are reared in the cage. The process entails identifying a female fish which is on heat and two male counter parts in the same state. Kulanga explained the process of identifying male and female fish ready for breeding, “A female fish on heat has a glittering fatty belly while a male one in the same state has a belly that has turned reddish. Due to the fact that tilapia fish lay over a million eggs, we confine one female fish with at least two male ones for 21 days in order to acquire maximum fingerlings.” Fish farmers who cannot afford to breed the fingerlings by themselves purchase the fingerlings at Sh2 from the company. “The most common breed that we are breeding is Tilapia and Catfish as they are easily accessible and matures faster as opposed to the Nile perch which also takes a relatively longer period to mature,” explained Kulanga.
The company which is based in Jinja has attracted over 1000 farmers and has made inroads in the areas neighbouring Lake Victoria and River Nile with farmers from Entebbe, Nyenga, Bugungu, Masese among others adopting the cage farming. On average, each farmer has at least 3 cages with each accommodating over 3000 fish.
The venture is twice lucrative compared to fish ponds as the farmer is required to feed the fish for only six months upon which they attain the required weight for selling to the market with each retailing at about Sh270. Each fish reared under this technology consumes only 1.5 kilos of the feeds up to maturity stage which is estimated to be at about 6 months when they weigh over a kilo. To ease the farmers’ work, the company also sells to them the fish feeds which are a mixture of ground small fish, cassava flour, cowpeas, soya, millet and cooking oil. Currently the market price for a kilo of feeds is about Sh80
Apart from quick maturity, the method also guarantees high yields as the net cage guards the fish against predators like birds and other water animals that feed on the fish because the fish are confined in the net hence ensuring over 90 percent yields as opposed to the ponds which are open and prone to the predators.
Those interested can contact Source of the Nile Farm Limited on: