Rural Aquaculture

 

The Rural Aquaculture Program arises from the realization that the current local and global food shortages are set to persist and they need serious counter strategies. A large proportion of the population of Zimbabwe is dependent on subsistence agriculture, and poverty in this segment is a consequence of low agricultural productivity, especially in areas with inadequate resource endowment such as poor soils and erratic rainfall. In the most densely populated areas of the country, diminishing average farm sizes and yields have undermined both food availability and income generation from cash crops at the household level. Traditional fishing communities have not benefited from fishing resources for many years due to an assortment of reasons that range from a lack of government support to poor methods of conserving the resource. Thus establishing affordable and sustainable farming systems targeting the disadvantaged rural small-holder farmers, orphaned and vulnerable families is the most effective way forward as it seeks to improve the per capita incomes of the rural communities, thereby solving the problem of unemployment, mitigating unnecessary rural to urban migrations and countering poverty. 
midlands irrigation
Poverty and food security are closely intertwined. For the rural poor in particular, food security will require increased food production, which relies on, among other factors, reliable access to water. Providing sufficient water supplies can only be accomplished by amongst other measures, expanding irrigation systems, improving water-harvesting techniques, implementing water and soil conservation practices, introducing innovative and sustainable aquaculture production systems, introducing new drought resistant varieties, or some combination of all these techniques to achieve the multi-functionality of the new age agriculture. Zimbabwe has vast unutilized natural water resources that can be easily converted to sustainable food baskets. Apart from the numerous large water bodies and countless smaller ones, the country is home to 6-shared river basins in the SADC region, coming second to Mozambique that has 9 of them. The underutilized river basins in Zimbabwe are Buzi, Limpopo, Okavango, Pungwe, Save and the Zambezi. Independent studies have indicated that 92% of the poorest households in Zimbabwe are found in the rural areas. Indicators are that lack of access to food is a major contributor to malnutrition and poverty in these communal areas. There is a desperate need to introduce low cost freshwater aquaculture production systems to help rural communities’ combat poverty while at the same time conserving their environments in a sound manner. The majority of the Zimbabwean population resides in the countryside where they rely on the land as the most crucial weaponry in the march against poverty. The rural communities are the hardest hit by poverty, malnutrition, and low levels of education, unemployment and HIV/AIDS. They are further marginalized by the fact that basic commodities in Zimbabwe are mainly found in the urban centres where they are sold in foreign currency, which they have no easy access to. Apart from agro-based activities there are currently no other viable economic activities in rural communal areas. Crop based livelihoods cannot adequately supply a square meal for family members. Agricultural incomes continue to decline and unsustainable management techniques in agriculture and natural resources have become a growing concern, threatening the resource base of the country. As a consequence, the communities continue to experience food insecurity, land degradation social instability, gender imbalances, domestic disputes, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and the overall challenge of entrenched and widespread poverty.
midlands fish
In Zimbabwe fish is an integral part of the local diet: those who can not afford to purchase fresh fish frequently, at least buy dry fish and /or kapenta to have fish flavor in their meal. In addition, other sources of protein like beef, pork, and chicken are now becoming scarce and expensive; hence the demand for fish is on the increase. Traditional sources of fish such as rivers, dams and so on are being over fished hence the supply sources can only come through aquaculture. As a result, fish of any size can be sold at any time and progressive farmers with experience in fish culture will view fish not only as food, but a fish- pond as an “ATM”. Even with such good demand, productivity of the very few existing fish-ponds are poor, particularly with rural people who do not yet know that fish culture is a potential economic activity. 

Aquaculture Zimbabwe is working to promote a sustainable model for Rural Aquaculture through the Family Approach in which beneficiaries take charge of low cost fish farming cage clusters on communal waters. This approach promotes security and responsible farming. Beneficiaries receive training on crucial components such as environmental awareness, biodiversity and conservation. Families guard jealously their fish farms within communal water resources and sell fish on the common market to ensure they afford to restock their cages with fish seed from the nearest fish hatcheries.
midlands3 women in aquaculture
At Aquaculture Zimbabwe we believe that nobody should be worse off because of living with natural resources and as such everybody should receive a fair share of the net benefits. We are targeting households that do not have cattle livestock and therefore cannot till the land successfully. Those are the families we would rather have farming our perennial water resources sustainably. They too require disposable incomes and an enhanced social image among other community members. Our model promotes clear land and resource use rights and economic benefits to communities and individuals which is essential for the successful implementation of our program.

The Rural Aquaculture Program entails teaching community members on the best sustainable water harvesting systems that will promote perennial fish farming activities. We hope to achieve complete fish availability on the common market (both urban and rural markets) within the near future and rapidly increase our national per capita fish consumption. The current scenario where Zimbabwe’s uptake of fish is so low as compared to the rest of SADC has to be a thing of the past. We hope to improve the dietary diversity and nutrition of the population already ravaged by the HIV/AIDS scourge, effectively translating to an improved life expectancy. The project Aquaculture Zimbabwe sees the need to develop rural SMEs in aquaculture and fisheries as an effective way to utilize rural water resources for economic benefits and enhanced multiple uses of the water resource to achieve the goal of sustainable livelihoods. It is critical that that we partake agriculture as a multi-functional practice. Increased agricultural production should result in social cohesion, gender equality, improved human health, respect for local, traditional knowledge and above all be part of the equation in the fight against HIV/AIDS.