Introduction

Freshwater aquaculture and fisheries programming in Zimbabwe 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 food security, per capita incomes of the rural communities, thereby solving the problem of unemployment, mitigating unnecessary rural to urban migrations and countering poverty. Poverty and food security are closely intertwined. For the rural poor in particular, food security requires 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. 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

There is also a desperate need to improve the dietary diversity and nutrition of the population already ravaged by the HIV/AIDS scourge, effectively translating to an improved life expectancy. Aquaculture Zimbabwe sees the need to develop rural small and medium enterprises 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 be achieved alongside 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. Effective agro-policies that have strong popular support are an outcome of negotiation and bargaining amongst many different interests and constituencies in society. These processes are crucial to building democratic participation and to creating accountable, responsive governance in all sectors. However, if the voices of the poor and marginalized are not asserted in these processes, other interests are likely to dominate in both the design and implementation of policies further alienating the needy. Aquaculture Zimbabwe participates and facilitates participation by communities in lobby and advocacy activities for agro-policy formulation and review. The rural communities are the hardest hit by poverty and malnutrition. Sources of dietary animal 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 a money making venture. 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. As is happening in other SADC countries, Zimbabwe needs to shift the fisheries and aquaculture sector from the bottom of the priority development list to the top and accord it separate figures in the fiscal budget.

Brief history
Aquaculture Zimbabwe (AQZ) is a local registered Private Voluntary Organization (PVO No.33/12) working towards the development of the fisheries and aquaculture subsector for improved livelihoods in the country. The organization was registered as a Trust in 2008 and as a Private Voluntary Organization in 2012. AQZ maintains its head office in Harare, a sub office in Masvingo and field offices in all its districts of operation. It has implemented programs in Mwenezi, Chiredzi, Kwekwe, Shurugwi, Bindura, Zvishavane, Makoni, Mutasa, Mt Darwin, Mutare, Chirumanzu, Bikita, Gokwe South, Chivi, Zvimba, Chegutu, Beitbridge, Insiza, Umzingwane and Kariba districts. AQZ has a team of experienced personnel in various disciplines which include crop and livestock production, aquaculture, capture fisheries, business development services and marketing, rural finance, nutrition, water sanitation and health, gender and natural resource management. Over the last ten years, AQZ has grown phenomenally on the backdrop of an exclusive focus on a value chain with immense growth potential – the fish value chain. The annual budget for the organization has been on an upward trajectory and in 2018, AQZ implemented projects worth over US$1,942,906.91 combined. AQZ has implemented projects for various donors which include the European Commission (EC), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) and Department For International Development (DFID). The organization has experience in pioneering low cost rural fish farming enterprises to vulnerable communities, particularly, in agro ecological regions III, IV and V which typically experience erratic rain fall patterns with prolonged dry seasons in between. AQZ uses an inter-sectoral approach to implement nutrition sensitive and climate smart projects. Aquaculture Zimbabwe has a strong technical partner base from which specific programs can tap into depending on the needs arising on the ground. These strategic partners include The Department of Biological Sciences of the University of Zimbabwe (Fish Pathology), The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, The Department of Livestock Production and Development (now the Crop and Livestock Department) and the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS).

Previous Experience and Expertise

Agricultural livelihoods
Integrated agriculture aquaculture combines at least three agricultural enterprises with aquaculture as its integral part. The integration of agriculture and aquaculture creates a system that produces nutritious food with modest labour demand and also sustains farm productivity year round even through droughts. AQZ has facilitated adoption of small livestock production, poultry, fish production, apiculture and horticulture not only as food security interventions but also as income generating projects.

The integrated agriculture aquaculture system design is founded on sustainability and synergetic effects where by products from one component of the system become inputs on the other component. Waste from poultry is used to fertilise water in the ponds for the effective growth of algae which is supplementary feed for the fish. The fertilised water which is nutrient rich is also used to water the garden while the bees on the apiculture component will get water from the ponds and nectar from the garden crops.

Small scale productive infrastructure
AQZ has experience and capabilities in building resilience to climatic and economic shocks in communities through the creation of productive assets in form of weirs (small dams) integrated with gardens, fish ponds, poultry (broilers, indigenous, pegions), apiculture, fruit production, tree nurseries and rabbits. Through the Participatory Technology Development Approach (PTD), AQZ works with the communities on feasible site identification for initiatives that are integrated preferably taking a micro watershed approach and considering complementarity of efforts rather than stand-alone projects. Making use of simple and low cost site specific technical designs, farmers with the high end technical expert advisory and guidance from AQZ, take an active part in establishment of highly productive yet sustainable infrastructure.

Watershed Management
AQZ has worked with communities in watershed management activities. This included assessment of the status of the biophysical, socioeconomic and institutional dimensions around the given watershed. After identifying challenges, watershed management plans would be done and implemented to manage/rehabilitate the landscape. While some activities are environmental protection related, focus is put more on activities that impact on the livelihoods of the communities. Interventions such as those for soil and water conservation which include terracing, contours, check dams, gulley reclamation and management, tree plantation among others have been implemented.


Market linkages and value addition
AQZ has successfully linked farmers of various crops and livestock with input suppliers and markets. AQZ has also facilitated contract farming arrangements for individuals and groups that are in aquaculture. Not only has these interventions improved productivity, they have also ensured sustainability of the projects. AQZ works with the fish farmers imparting technical knowledge on fish processing and preservation methods outside of the cold chain so as to retain value and reach other output markets. As AQZ, we have been learning that such knowledge is quite empowering for the farmers and literally gives them an opportunity to prepare for different market chains altogether, i.e. for dried, smoked and frozen fish.


Cash Transfers
AQZ has distributed cash to over 6000 households in Bikita, Chirumanzu, Masvingo and Mwenezi districts on the WFP Cash transfer programmes in year 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2019. This was either through mobile platforms or through Cash-In-Transit by a security company. AQZ also implemented a four months Emergency El Nino Response project with funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Netherlands. Under this program, 1800 households in 3 wards of Masvingo district received cash via a mobile telephone network, Ecocash at a rate of $7 person for all the household members. In 2017, AQZ implemented another cash based transfer program using the mobile platform.


Nutrition
AQZ promotes consumption of fish as an alternative source of animal protein of choice to its program beneficiaries. Healthful eating practices have also been promoted focusing on pregnant and lactating mothers, infants and children under five. Along with fish consumption promotion, AQZ has also promoted adequate meal frequency and dietary diversity. Integrated agriculture aquaculture is an innovative way to diversify food types available to households and consequently diets

Business Development Services
AQZ promotes entrepreneurship through linking fish farmers to the input and output markets. AQZ has experience promoting various income generating activities which include but are not limited to indigenous poultry production, beekeeping, horticulture, fruit production in addition to fish production. Most of the aquaculture projects established with AQZ assistance are transformed into profitable business entities through business trainings. AQZ focuses on supporting and transforming farmer producer groups into rural based agro small and medium enterprises that sustainably generate income for the owners. Trainings have also been offered on the formation of internal savings and lending schemes as well as arranging financing and contract farming opportunities for the registered groups among other capacity building initiatives. AQZ also has experience in organizing farmers into groups and register them as cooperatives.


Community Based Natural Resources Management
AQZ has collaborated with the Environmental Management Agency, Forestry Commission, Rural District Councils and other development partners in creating awareness on issues of sustainable natural resources management. It has facilitated formation and training of ward based Environmental Committees and Environmental Monitors to do natural resources comanagement. Along with Parks and Wildlife, AQZ has promoted sustainable fishing and fish resource management in communities surrounding dams. AQZ has also successfully promoted sustainable use and protection of wetlands. Carefully designed agriculture aquaculture interventions on wetlands have also raised community awareness of the need to protect and value natural resources such as wetlands which in turn would ensure continued supply of water necessary for agricultural production during lean and peak hunger periods.


Water Sanitation and Hygiene
AQZ has mainstreamed WASH activities in all its programs from the realisation that poor health may compromise the gains of development projects. In partnership with the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s Environmental Health Technicians AQZ has rolled out Participatory Health and Hygiene Education to its project beneficiaries. AQZ has facilitated construction of toilets and hand washing water points at all its project sites and advocated for construction of toilets at household level. AQZ partnered Oxfam on a WASH program to rehabilitate boreholes, conduct water testing, train pump minders, Environment Health Technicians (EHTs) and water point user committees to service water points.