There is need for more investment into Rwanda’s fisheries industry to help develop the sector and reduce imports of fish, Dr Wilson Rutaganira, the aquaculture and fisheries programme coordinator at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), has said.
The official said the sector requires targeted interventions, especially geared at supporting and improving the nascent aquaculture sector to boost production and meet market demand. As is the case in other countries globally, there has been a gradual decline in capture fisheries resources in Rwanda because of effects of climate change, overfishing and use of illegal fishing gears, among others.
He, however, said aquaculture is instrumental in helping the country reduce shortfall, adding that the capture fisheries sector has been faced immense challenges that have hurt output. The capture fisheries sector is hard to manage compared to fish farming, where one is able to control many things to ensure high production, he said.
“Investing in fish farming is the answer if we are to increase production. So, we should take advantage of new fish farming technologies like cages on Rwanda’s lakes to spur the sector’s production,” he said in an interview with Business Times. He said they target to improve fish cages on Kivu, Burera, Ruhondo and Muhazi lakes and are promoting tilapia and clarias species which have a big market in Rwanda. Though Rwanda has 40 species of fish, only five of them are of economic importance, according to RAB.
Rutaganira said fish production stood at 26,500 tonnes in the first half of the year, over 1,690 tonnes of this were contributed by the aquaculture sub-sector.
The sector is projected to grow by 3.2 per cent lower than 3.7 per cent recorded in 2016, according to central bank figures.
Why more investments are needed
The RAB official said a Belgian investor has installed cages on Lake Kivu at Rusizi, noting that the country needs other big investors in aquaculture to improve production and make it sustainable. Rutaganira explained.
Rwanda, a net fish importer, produces 1,000 tonnes of fish presently, and imports 15,000 tonnes per year, he said. He noted that the investors required would initially be producing for the local market and later for the export market. He said Eastern DR Congo imports more than 100,000 tonnes of fish annually, adding that by investing more in fish cages on Lake Kivu, Rwanda would take advantage of this huge market.
The 2011 national master plan for fisheries and fish farming indicates that if Rwanda’s population growth continues as projected by Vision 2020, the country will require 112,000 tonnes to attain the average sub-Sahara per capita consumption of 6.6 kilogrammes per person per annum, and 265,600 metric tonnes to reach the global average of 16.6 kilos. But Rwanda’s per capita fish consumption is presently at 2.3 kilogrammes per person per year, the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Rutaganira.
“This means that we are unable to produce enough to satisfy the market. So we should be looking to at least attain the sub-Sahara’s level of per capita consumption,” he said.
Speaking to Business Times last week, Alphonse Rudasingwa, the chairperson of Trans Victoria-Kagera Basin, a fish factory in Rwamagana District, said the country’s fisheries sector has been ignored.
“Though 13 per cent of Rwanda’s total surface area is covered by water, the fish sector has not been given priority compared to agriculture and livestock sectors,” he said.
Rudasingwa said if the money spent on fish imports was invested in aquaculture, this would greatly improve the country’s production capacity and reduce the import bill. “The sector should be given more support to boost industrial growth and job-creation as well as help improve local exports,” he added.
Value addition facilities
The entrepreneur called for establishment of an industrial park for players to operate from, arguing that this would promote value-addition and enable them acquire product certification. Rudasingwa said certification could enable them to access bank loans to improve the value chain as well as expand the businesses.
He added that there is also need for collaborative efforts to bring together sector players to chart a way forward for the sector.
Rudasingwa said Rwanda’s position in the Great Lakes region puts it at an advantage of becoming a processor of fisheries products targeting the local and regional markets. He said government should set up a fund to provide affordable finance for sector players.
Every year, RAB closes the lakes to any fishing activity for a period of two months to allow for recovery and fish maturity.
“During this period, the market is served by fish farmers. This year, we are planning to introduce conservation systems to ensure sustainability of the sector,” he said, adding that without such measures it would be hard to protect the fish given high demand. Rutaganira said RAB is promoting cage fish farming because of shortage of land for cultivation “is limiting expansion of fish farming using ponds”.
“Marshlands are being used to cultivate crops so we encourage people to invest in cage farming,” he said, adding that there are currently 10 companies engaged in cage fish farming. He said 150 cooperatives are practicing pond fish farming on about 250 hectares of land.
RAB upgraded Kigembe Fish Research Centre in Gisagara District that hosts two hatcheries, one for clarias species and another one for tilapia, to ease access to fish fingerings by farmers. The body has also introduced satellite hatcheries around Lake Kivu in Rubavu, Karongi and Nyamasheke districts.
“These hatcheries ensure that farmers get seeds on time and provide for high survival rate,” he explained.
Rutaganira said the biggest challenge is lack of feeds, noting that this has affected the productivity of both cage and fish farming. He said more than 65 per cent of investment in fish farming goes into feeds, adding that quality fish feeds are presently being imported.
“A farmer in Rusizi who targets to produce 2,000 tonnes of fish per year imports three containers of feeds a week. It costs $2,500, to ship in one container from Israel or elsewhere to Dar es Salaam. This more than doubles to $5,700 to ferry it by road from Dar es Salaam to Rwanda…This is very expensive and discourages investment into fish farming,” he explained.
He said one kilogramme of imported feeds is at between $1.3 (Rwf1,106) and $1.5 (Rwf1,276), depending on protein content, which he said discourages investments. There are currently three factories that produce fish feeds in the country, according to RAB.
Low funding is also affecting growth of the sector. RAB says government needs to invest Rwf1.5 billion each year if Rwanda is to attain sub-Sahara per capita fish consumption of 6.6 kilogrammes. Officials said most of the money allocated to the sector is spent, mainly on fighting illegal fishing as well as fish breeding to ensure farmers access fish fingerings easily.
According to Rudasingwa, the sector lacks cold chain facilities, adding that fish farmers still lack affordable feeds, a situation that affects production.
Amiel Sezikeye, the chairperson of fishers union at Lake Burera, said unscrupulous fishermen who use illegal gear affect fish stocks and their operations, adding that they sometimes steal equipment. He called on the government to support the group by constructing decent drying and storage facilities as well as processing equipment, arguing that the sector was still using outdated methods that compromise quality.
The local authorities should also crackdown on people engaged in illegal fishing activities,” he told Business Times.