Saturday, 30 July 2016

Common problems experienced by small scale fish farmers in Tanzania.

Management of fish farms under a semi-intensive culture system has its challenges: from fish feed formulation, propagation, fingerling transportation, predator and disease control, etc. 

1. Fish feeds

This is the single-most expensive expenditure in fish production. During the normal production cycle, a farmer may spend as much as 70% on fish feeds alone. Quality commercial feeds are usually not easily available to the farmers as and when they need them. And when available, they are very expensive. The only alternative is for the farmer to be able to formulate his own farm-made feeds as a way of supplementing the commercial feeds. These feeds may not be as complete as the commercial ones, but they play a bigger role in sustaining the small scale farmer.

2. Poor site selection and pond design

This has a direct impact on maintenance costs of the fish farm. A poor site may lead to loses through flood damage, excessive loss of water through seepage, inability to drain the pond during drainage and repairs, etc. Loss of water through seepage leads to wastage of water and loss of nutrient/manure. For manured ponds, the water will always remain clear despite regular fertilization. Lack of proper drainage will lead to an accumulation of wastes, feed remains, toxic mud, etc which cannot be completely handled since the bottom cannot be dried and cleaned.

3. Lack of good quality fingerlings

Most of the blame games start here. The complaints include: "my fish are not growing yet I feed them daily", "I started seeing so many fingerlings after only one month", "this @#$% must have given me tadpoles", etc. Remember, what looks like a fingerling may not necessarily be a fingerling. It may be a stunted but mature fish!!!

4. Poor management skills

Unlike other animals, fish spend all their lives in water. It is from this water that they get their food, accommodation, 'playgrounds', and the oxygen they 'breathe'. Yet it is in the

same water that contains their wastes, rotting food remains, disease causing germs, external pollutants, etc. For this reason, water quality management is the most important thing when running a fish farm. Ever heard of fish having a "muddy taste?" I will try to discuss some of the critical areas on this forum.

5. Lack of marketing skills

I have come across so many farmers who harvest the fish first, then look for market thereafter. Such farmers always undergo very huge loses and end up quitting fish farming - you can take this to the bank. This is not because of lack of buyers, but poor marketing/coordination. Another problem could be the method in which the fish is harvested and handled before delivery to the market. I will post some of the fish handling techniques on this site in the next few days.

6. Predators and parasites

Birds are the usual suspects in this category. And they come in all colors and sizes: Cormorants, Fish eagles, Kingfishers, Marabou storks, Egrets, herons, hammerkops, etc. Some birds (like the Marabou storks) will even summon their entire 'clans' once they discover a good feeding ground. Other predators include snakes, monitor lizards, otters, and thieves (man). There are various methods which can be used in controlling this animal - with varying degrees of success. I will be highlighting some of the simple methods in due course.


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