Friday, August 22, 2014

Batibo Council Embarks on Promoting Sustainable Inland Fish Farming

By Dorothy Agbor
Besides impressive farm produce like cocoyam, yam, palm oil and the famous “futchu” the Batibo Council in the North West Region of Cameroon has embarked on empowering fish farmers in a discovery of new fish technologies to boost the breeding of fishes. Unlike before when cash crops used to be the only main source of income in that municipality, fish farming is hoped to become another potential source of income which will go a long way to impact lives positively.
In line with this, the Batibo Council in collaboration with the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Industries on August 20, 2014 organized a training workshop to drill fish farmers and would-be fish breeders on inland fish farming techniques.
In his opening speech, the mayor of Batibo Council Tanjoh Fridrick urged councilors to come up with an action plan for fishing. Harping on the economic importance of inland fishing, Mayor Tanjoh Fridrick disclosed that the Batibo could support in buying fingerlings as part of their contribution to farmers. Batibo council he added is committed to support sustainable inland fish farming. He also encouraged all those going into fish farming that by so doing they will not only depend on cocoyam and other crops but that fish farming will fetch them better income. “It will also increase the intake of protein in the municipality” he argued.
The workshop according to the Sub Delegate for MINEPIA-Batibo was entirely sponsored by the council while his service provided the technical know-how. The workshop was more of practical (on farm demonstration) than theory as participants visited Pa Godfrey Asanji’s farm where they shared ideas, experiences and knowledge on the construction of fish ponds, selection of fingerlings, fertilization, feeding, harvesting etc.  Talking to this reporter, Pa Asanji says it took him alot of time, energy and money to come up with the fish pond and being one of the largest in the region, important agriculturalists who visited his pond promised giving him a medal which was never fulfilled. Yet,  “I have never had any subvention from government ever since I started. I remember I was once told that the governor was to visit my fish pond, but finally he did not”, he concluded. However, Pa Asanji remained committed to fish farming; today he is being presented as a model to newcomers and would-be fish farmers in Batibo Sub Division.
 The discoveries made by this humble farmer portray good techniques of breeding and preservation, which other farmers who visited his pond were eager to learn in order to reduce  costs of production and increase the productivity of their ponds.
In that regard, Nugang Godwin Forbang, a field technician in-charge of training practicing farmers, told participants that fish farming is good business. Hear him “we try to make them understand that what they are doing is business not any kind of subsistence farming or activity and also government has invested a lot of money and is still promising more inorder for them to be well trained”. To him the workshop is expected to empower farmers on the modern techniques of fish farming such as site selection, pond management, as well as feed production using local available produce. He said that a pond must be made in a place with sun light to facilitate the growing of algae in the surface of the water; algae are the main food for fish.  He also instructed farmers to avoid making the pond near a raffia palm bush or eucalyptus so that these trees will not absorb all the water in the pond with their roots. The pond he added must be well protected with bamboos well netted around to protect it from predators and thieves.
“The surface area of a pond can vary from 10m2 to more than 400m2 according to the set objective for the production. The dept should be at least 1.2m at the level of the water supply pipe and 1.5m at the emptying pipe.  A good pond should have the form of a wheelbarrow raised at the level of the knees. The dike at the end should be at least 6 m and its top 1m with a gentle slant that allows for entering the pond without the least difficult. We are trying as much as possible to use the most comprehensive language-pidgin English to reach them so that they can understand”, he continued. In order to stratify fish farming, Nugang says prospects of submitting a project for Islamic Bank funding are high given that very soon they will embark in setting fish farming groups in the municipality. This he said will sustain their actions and boost the sector as well given that the environment is already an asset. He emphasized that they will go for funding that will enable farmers to acquire fingerlings and set up sales points with refrigerators as well.
Background Information
Out of an estimated 176,000 tons of fish produced in Cameroon annually, only 1,000 come from aquaculture sector or inland fish farming. This represents 0.1% of national production despite the available natural resources that allow for higher fish farming. Cameroon allegedly spends close to 100 billion francs CfA each year to import fish to supplement the production deficit which is estimated to be 230,000 tons of fish.
Pa Asanji testified recently that during the year there is enough fish in his farm at harvesting, he makes money. But unfortunately most farmers who have ventured into it do not have the yields they expected at the end of the year.  “Unfortunately, pond fish farming, which started in Cameroon in the early 1950s, is still poorly established and far from realizing its potential”, says the Fon of Mbengwi, Fon Thaddeus, another renowned farmer in the North West Region. In the past, farmers were able to acquire fingerlings at the Nkwen Fish Pond and Mbengwi, yet some of these ponds which were financed from government financing have been neglected. Since fish farming is not like poultry that a farmer gets a new band every time, it is hoped that the Batibo model will go a long way to revamp the one-time flourishing sector that collapsed into the doldrums.    A study carried out on the ‘Development and Status of Freshwater Aquaculture in Cameroon’ in 2008 indicated that “fish is a preferred protein source for most Cameroonians because it is cheap compared to other meats as bush meat, pork, chicken and beef”. Although there is a problem of fingerlings, finance to open up fish farming businesses, poor organization by the farmers, the dominant use of earthen pond instead of modern structures, some farmers do not know even the basics in fish farming before getting into the activity. They are unable to get the good varieties, they do not construct good fish ponds and they do not feed the fish well. Earthen ponds are the commonest rearing structure of aquaculture in Cameroon up to date thus production is low and discouraging for many farmers, who remain at the subsistence level and lack the basic know-how. As a result most fish farmers according to researchers are not satisfied with their harvests, thus getting discouraged.
However, prospects are high with the coming of LIFEDEP, giant project intended to boost livestock and fisheries activities in the North West Region.
Rearing Tilapia
Tilapia is very common in the North West Region. However, if raised alone in the pond, the farmer will harvests much fish but of very small sizes that are just like fingerlings. This is due to rampant tilapia reproduction in the pond. This explains why tilapia should be raised in ponds with other carnivorous species of fish like clarias, African cat fish that eat and regulate the number of tilapia in the pond.
African cat fish or claria
This fish is generally used in the pond as predator. The species grow faster than the tilapia but it is not easy to get its fingerlings. It is advised that fish farmers who can afford them make provision of one cat fish for two tilapias. Thus, for a pond of 300m2 the farmer can put 300 tilapias to 150 catfish. If the fish farmer cannot buy the cat fish, ‘hemicromis fasciatus’ locally called ‘banga fish’ can be got from streams around and put in the pond to regulate the tilapia population.
‘Hemicromis fasciatus’ (Yellowish fish with five black marks on each side)
This fish is very effective in the control of tilapia in the pond, but grows slowly. It is advised to put one hemicromis fasciatus for 20 tilapias. Some fish farmers have nicknamed it a tiger in the mist of sheep.
‘Parchena obscura’ (viper fish)
Put two viper fish for two tilapias. Yields in tilapia ponds in association with predator fish
After 8 months of rearing tilapia alone one can harvest lots of tilapia but very tiny fish just like fingerlings.To get one kg of fish, you need at list ten fish from such a pond. This is good if the fish farmer wanted to produce fingerlings. When you associate tilapia with cat fish or viper fish you could harvest tilapia large enough for three to five fish to weigh one kg, with catfish weighing 800g and some tilapia fingerlings.  With ‘hemichromis’, you will have tilapia that two to 4 fish will weigh a kg and no tilapia fingerling will be got, but much of the hemichromis fingerlings and adults of small sizes (more than 10 of such fish can get into one kg).

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