Promoting aquaculture in Mozambique
In southern Africa’s Mozambique, overall aquaculture production experienced a decline in the last decade, mainly due to high production costs and poor production techniques in the country.
However, some promising FAO initiatives promoting fish farming as a source of employment and livelihoods are underway in the country to promote sustainable aquaculture in Mozambique as a means to increase fish productivity and production, and income and employment along the aquaculture value chain.
Traditionally, the Mozambican aquaculture sector is comprised of many small-scale extensive fish farms. Production is mainly destined for consumption by the fish farmers and their families, although some surpluses are sold, generally close to the village. Inland aquaculture production in Mozambique is currently low, estimated to total some 200 tonnes of fish per year.
Production comes from about 9000 predominantly subsistence level ponds, mainly in Manica, Sofala, Zambezia, Niassa and Tete Provinces. Production also falls well short of demand, which has been growing rapidly in recent years, especially in towns but also in rural areas. The supplies of marine fish such as mackerel have been expanding, but they are not able to meet demand and provide relatively limited quantities in inland areas.
In Mozambique, the main farmed species at a subsistence level is Oerochromis mosambicus, which is suitable and well adapted to the biophysical conditions in the country, including those in the Manica and Sofala provinces.
For eight years, Jeremias Agapito has been developing his farm that includes a fish farming unit. This unit breeds and grows freshwater fish (Oerochromis mosamibicus). With a Masters degree in Mechanised Agriculture and Livestock, he is one of the fish farmers with commercial aspirations in the south Mozambican province of Inhambane.
He has twelve fish ponds and produces an average of approximately 300,000 fingerlings annually. At the request of the government of Mozambique, this initiative received FAO support aimed at improving technical equipment to increase production under a technical co-operation project between the Government of Mozambique and FAO, entitled Development support to commercial aquaculture in Inhambane Province of Mozambique.
Jeremias Agapito began fish farming by chance. When he inherited some land from his parents, he decided to use it for farming.
"I started fish farming in an experimental tank, only to fatten the fish. Later, I began to reproduce the fish," he explained.
Already possessing experience in agriculture, he wanted to attempt an integrated approach to fish farming. Integrated approaches combine fish farming, while integrating the feeding of fish with the production of agricultural products.
That experiment transformed into a company, called Piagropecus, and is already generating income. Piagropecus currently employs ten people.
He was invited to an international conference in Zambia to represent the fish farmers of Mozambique where he benefited from an exchange of experiences with other fish farmers from more than twenty countries.
Following this exchange, FAO experts from various countries visited his fish farm several times to provide more support, both through training and practical on-farm support.
"I have attended to various training courses through FAO and improved my knowledge, and this training, combined with on-farm support, really helped me a lot in improving my farm on various technical aspects and also in operational procedures," he said.
“With this support from the government of Mozambique assisted by the FAO, I was able to start fish farming as a business.”
In addition to his efforts in fish farming, Jeremias Agapito is also a teacher at the Higher Polytechnic Institute of Gaza, where he teaches Agricultural Engineering, Zoo Technological Engineering, Forestry Engineering, and Aquaculture Engineering, among other subjects.
Piagropecus receives students from several schools who come to the fish farm to gain practical experience and to undertake end-of-course work on aquaculture. From this initiative, thirty engineering students have obtained their diplomas.
Arsénia David is one student who has just finished the course, and she is currently carrying out her professional internship at Piagropecus.
"It is interesting to work with fish and I like this area. I already know how to manage the feeding of the fish and to identify their sex,” she said, adding that following her internship, Arsénia would welcome an opportunity to continue working as a fish farmer in a company such as Piagropecus.
Jeremias Agapito is only one of several beneficiaries of the FAO project for Development Support to Commercial Aquaculture in Inhambane Province.
Through FAO's aquaculture project, Piagropecus technicians had the opportunity to learn and improve their aquaculture techniques and business skills; breeding, grow-out, green water culture, feed management, and farm management.
In addition to Piagropecus technicians, the same project also trained approximately a hundred small-scale fish farmers in the districts of Zavala, Panda and Inhambane, and 35 extension workers from the Ministry of the Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries.
The aim of the project is essentially to implement a thorough capacity-building programme for select producers with the potential to develop commercially viable aquaculture enterprises. This was undertaken to equip technical personnel and farmers with adequate practical skills and knowledge about aquaculture. Ultimately, the objective is to promote sustainable aquaculture in Mozambique as a means to increase fish productivity and production, value addition, income and employment along the aquaculture value chain.
“This project has been an important support to an innovative aquaculture sector platform tool that has encouraged discussion and improved advocacy in the development of aquaculture in the province and throughout Mozambique,” said Vasco Schmidt, Fisheries and Aquaculture Officer in the FAO Subregional Office for Southern Africa.
“The country has an excellent bio-physical conditions in certain areas and sites. Fish farming in Mozambique, particularly in Inhambane Province, is constrained by a number of reasons, including limited availability or access to input resources, human capacity and its institutional weaknesses, and also weak existing links between the various sector players, from small to medium scale producers, investors, feed and seed producers, traders and buyers,” he explained.
“However, there are significant opportunities to enable the development of the aquaculture sector at provincial and also national levels and therefore, aquaculture in Mozambique could benefit from a continued support to developing human capacity at all levels and across the value-chain, support to adequate technological approaches, support to aquaculture as a business approach, Such efforts could lead to a country and province-specific enabling environment for the sector to develop in a financially, economically and environmentally sustainable manner,” Vasco Schmidt said.
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