• Rwebitaba, Uganda, Fortpotal
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What is aquaculture?

Aquaculture is the science, art and business of controlled production of aquatic plants and animals. For statistical reasons, FAO defines aquaculture as “the farming of aquatic organisms, including fish, frogs, shellfish (crustaceans and molluscs) and aquatic plants” (FAO, 2000b). As a fact, aquaculture is now the fastest growing animal production sector in agriculture. Aquaculture can be done in marine, brackish and fresh waters; it can be practiced in land-based culture units such as ponds, tanks made of a variety of materials, and race-ways, while open water systems for instance cages, hapas and pens are used.

Majority Ugandans basically understand aquaculture as fish farming, which is just a branch of aquatic science dealing with fin fish production. In Uganda, ponds and tanks are common although cage production has gained production. Major farmed fish is Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), African catfish (Clarias gariepunus) and Mirror carp and cold tolerant species such as Trout among other species can be experimented in highland areas.

Fortunately, water covers 18% (Atukunda and Ahamed, 2012) of Uganda’s total surface area which if exploited could highly contribute to food security alongside the conventional agricultural sector. It must be noted that fish exports, dominantly from capture fishery are second to coffee, but continued decline has been registered recently, partly due to increased fishing pressure (DFR, 2012), pollution, illegal fishing practices among others. Additionally, the Ugandan population has continued to grow and was estimated at 35.4 million in 2013 (UNFPA, 2013), widening the gap between demand and supply of fish and fishery products. This demand gap can only be met through augmentation of aquaculture production to supplement capture fishery production.

In the Rwenzori region, exploitation of available freshwater resources would greatly help to supplement the 6250mt capture fishery from Lake Edward and Lake George including Kazinga Channel (UBoS, 2014). This effort can help to boost per capita fish consumption and food supply to the rapidly growing regional population. Consequently, the potential to exploit locally available lakes, rivers, stream, springs among others is urgent to supply local and international markets.

The status of Aquaculture Research at Rwebitaba ZARDI

IAquaculture research at Rwebitaba-ZARDI started in 2013 following the construction of three ponds totaling to 600m2. The ponds were stocked with Tilapia and African catfish fingerlings which formed the basis for fish breeding in the Rwenzori region. This was a significant step in a region where farmers lacked a credible source of quality fish seed, the number one challenge to fish farming in the region.

Through selective breeding, the aquaculture unit has pure stocks for Nile tilapia (Fig.1), Tilapia leucostictus, Tilapia zillii, Mirror carp and the African catfish. From the available tilapia stocks, preliminary on-station performance studies in earthen ponds have indicated good growth and reproduction responses for Nile tilapia, hence the need for improvement.


Figure 1. An established line of Nile tilapia at Kyembogo station, Rwebitaba ZARDI

With the current funding from the World Bank, through the ATAAS project, the institute has been able to establish an additional six ponds each measure 200m2 (Fig.2) and two measure 300m2 each, for aquaculture research and development. Additionally, an African catfish hatchery is being set-up at the Kyembogo to facilitate research and rapid production of quality seed. The Rwenzori region boosts of abundant freshwater resources, hence an opportunity to invest in aquaculture research and development for improved food and nutrition security including household incomes is to be exploited through these facilities.


Figure 2. Overview of the aquaculture research unit at Kyembogo station, Rwebitaba ZARDI

On-going aquaculture research at Rwebitaba ZARDI

At the moment, the aquaculture unit at Rwebitaba ZARDI has one on-going project: “Development of appropriate technologies to increase aquaculture production in the Western Highland Agro-ecological Zone”.

The overall project goal is to develop suitable fish species for aquaculture in the zone.

    Project specific objectives include the following:

  • To establish and install an indoor tilapia and catfish hatchery
  • To conduct an aquaculture survey in the zone
  • To establish base populations of suitable aquaculture species on-station
  • To identify the best performing strains for aquaculture in the zone
  • To conduct ccross breeding tests using different tilapia strains
  • To develop feeding strategies for Nile tilapia fry, fingerlings and grow-out fish

So far, survey findings have been documented in Kasese, Kamwenge and Kyegegwa districts, while plans are under way for completion in Kyenjojo, Kabarole, Bundibugyo and Ntoroko districts.

With regard to establishment of base populations, pure Nile tilapia strains from Lakes Victoria, Kyoga, Albert, George and Edward are being collected for selective breeding (Fig.3). These tilapia strains will be characterized for growth performance both on-station and in the field with the goal to identify suitable strains for aquaculture within the sub-region. Once identified, suitable strains will be produced massively for farming in the region.


Figure 3. Larviculture experimental set up at Kyembogo station, Rwebitaba ZARDI

Potential areas of research interest for collaboration and partnership include alternative feed ingredients, alternative aquaculture species, and larviculture, Artemia production and applications in fish hatcheries, integrated rice-fish farming, aquaponics, reservoir aquaculture, aquaculture socio-economics, including strategies for exploitation of crater lakes for aquaculture production. Other areas are limnological studies of the Rwenzori crater lakes and their fisheries, among others.

Other services offered by the aquaculture unit

    The aquaculture research team at Rwebitaba-ZARDI also serves the region by:

  • Supplying quality Nile tilapia fingerlings
  • Technical advice in fish farm design, pond sitting, construction and management
  • Offering water quality testing and management advice
  • Offering advice in fish pond predator control
  • Technical skills for good production practices
  • Advising farmers in fish feeds and feeding strategies
  • Artemia application in African catfish larviculture
  • General training for farmers and internship students
  • General aquaculture consultancy services