The VAD Foundation in pursuing its Vision and Mission has initiated an aquaculture as one of the community empowerment and livelihood programs in Aweil State and South Sudan as a whole.
What is Aquaculture?
Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Farming implies some form of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators, etc. Farming also implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock being cultivated. Particular kinds of aquaculture include fish farming, shrimp farming, oyster farming, mariculture, algaculture (such as seaweed farming), and the cultivation of ornamental fish. Particular methods include aquaponics and integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, both of which integrate fish farming and aquatic plant farming. (Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO))
The VAD Foundation’s Focus in Aquaculture
The VAD Foundation has chosen to focus on fish farming and aquaponics for now based on the need in the local community. The Foundation’s fish farming is primarily for training women, youth and other local farmers who want to venture into fish farming. In addition to training the local fish farmers, the fish farming project also serves as a research center for learning institutions and other partner organizations. The VAD Foundation launched a pilot project by building demonstration fishponds for raining fish. The Foundation currently raise varieties of fish such as tilapia and catfish which are known to do well in climatic conditions such as those found in the local area. As a research center, the VAD Foundation’s fish farming raises other type of fish that have become rear in the region due to over-fishing in the local rivers.
The first pilot demonstration fishponds hold more than 3000 fish but the Foundation plans to expand the project so that it can raise more fish and fingerlings for the local farmers. The Foundation identifys and trains 50 fish farmers and groups annually. On completion of the training, the fish farmers are supported to build their own fishponds and are supplied with fingerlings. They are also given the necessary field support by VAD Foundation until they can manage their fishponds by themselves. Trained fish farmers will also become trainers for other interested fish farmers in the region with the support of the Foundation’s field officers.
Currently there are no fishponds in the region other than the VAD Foundation’s fishponds and therefore the local community only rely on fish from the rivers which are scarce due to the seasonality of the rivers. Fish can only be available during rainy season and shortly after when the rivers are still flowing. The rainy season is generally four to five months depending on what part of the region one comes from in the Bahr-El-Gazal region. Fish farming will improve the supply of fish to the residents throughout the year. Fish is one of the stable foods for the residents of the region.
Benefits of fish farming to the community
Improves the food security in the community. Fish is a good alternative to meat and therefore the local farmers do not have to slaughter their goats and cows for meat.
Improves economic status of the community. Local fish farmers can sell their fish therefore generating good income to supplement their other sources of income. With the additional income from fish, the farmers can support the education of their children.
Improves the nutritional health status of the community. Fish is a great source of several essential nutrients therefore reducing malnutrition among the members of the community.
Raising fish is cheaper and quicker compared to the livestock. Tilapia fish and catfish can take between 4 to 5 months to mature to market size. This will ensure that there is a good supply of fish to many families during dry season.
Note: The initial cost of starting fish farming is higher, but it is important to understand that most of the initial high cost is a one-time investment. This includes drilling a borehole and building a fishpond. These capital cost will be recovered within a short time therefore making fish farming cheaper in the long run.
Fish farming can become self-sustaining after the first year of fish harvest. This is because a farmer can harvest fish from one fishpond at least twice a year and can generate enough income for personal use and to buy new fingerlings and fish feed.
The cost of supporting 50 women in fish farming until they are independent is $200,000.