Rwanda: What we must do to meet fishing industry targets


RE: “Ngoma, Bugesera cooperatives reap millions from fish farming” (The New Times, January 31).

Rwanda - Fish harvested from cages by Jarama Cooperative in Ngoma District. File

This is a good intervention and I hope such success stories can be scaled up for more impact. Rwanda does not have a fishing tradition since fish farming was introduced in 1939 under the Belgium government but has remained largely artisanal.

Before 1994, the fisheries were largely donor interventions which led to sustainability issues once projects closed down. Rwanda’s fish production is at 24,000 tons, making it one of the lowest fish producers in the region with Kenya having 168,000 tons and Uganda 670,000 tons per year.

Rwanda fishing industry offers approximately 250,000 direct and indirect jobs. Ministry of Agriculture has a comprehensive master plan for fisheries and fish farming in Rwanda for 2011-2020, and there are a few points to note.

Inadequate regulation framework: Regulation is needed to control illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. Excessive fishing, use of destructive gears and lack of proper monitoring has led to collapse or near collapse of fishing industry in Rwanda. For example Eastern Province fisheries collapsed in the mid 1980s, due to introduction of the predatory African catfish and the alien mamba snake into Lake Muhazi by a donor project. Destructive gears include use of under size mesh nets, striking of water surface (typhooning), use of chemical attractants, poison fishing, and beach seining.

High fish imports: Rwanda imports fish worth $10 million USD from Uganda and Tanzania, hence a need to reduce drastically fish imports in Rwanda which contributes to a healthy balance of trade. For example Rwanda imports indagala while it was introduced in Lake Burera, which needs scaling up this intervention.

Healthy source of nutrients: Fish is considered to be a more healthy source of proteins than red meat, contributing to overall population health. Rwanda’s per capita fish consumption is very low at 1.6 kg compared to sub-Saharan Africa’s consumption of 6.7 kg and the global consumption at 16.6 kg.

Rwanda’s underutilized fishing potential: Rwanda has an extensive hydro-logical system with the network of rivers, lakes and wetlands draining into two major drainage basins—Nile to the east and Congo to the west. 8% of Rwanda is covered by water with 24 lakes, including 3 shared lakes (Kivu with DR Congo, and Cyohoha and Rweru with Burundi). Nyungwe National Park is Rwanda’s major watershed for Nile and Congo basins. Akagera River contributes to about 10% of Africa’s longest river—the Nile.

Inputs supply and processing: Many inputs are imported and there is need to strengthen this aspect of the value chain.

Fishery products, processing and marketing: Rwanda has little supporting infrastructure like cold rooms to transport fish directly from the lakes to the markets. For imported fish the cold room facilities are available, making it easier to find imported fish in supermarkets and traditional markets rather than local farmed fish. For instance, early in the morning along the road from Kigali to Nyamata/Bugesera, one encounters women with fish in baskets, but it’s hard to verify how fresh the fish is.

Institutional framework: The responsibility for implementation is done by Rwanda Agriculture Board, while at local government/districts local veterinary officers have the responsibility for extension work and implementation of the policy. Research institutions are limited to University of Rwanda. Absence of research capacity means that critical information is absent, e.g. water quality environment, fish stocks, fish migrations, production systems, post harvest handling etc. Professional training in aquaculture is also a big gap limited to University of Rwanda.

Legal framework: There is a 2008 law covering restrictions in fishing, introduction of aquatic species, aquaculture practices, protection of aquatic organisms, fishing licenses, hygiene and quality of aquaculture and fishery products…

Interventions, according to

the master plan, include:
1. Developing a private sector led aquaculture industry. Detailed resource planning and zoning of production areas, support sustainable fishing methods like cage farming, tanks and raceway based aquaculture, development of aquaculture parks, Support aquaculture input suppliers to ensure availability of inputs.

2. Recovery and development of fisheries production and its value chain.

3. Developing institutional capacity: Includes management and regulation of aquaculture and fisheries, research, innovation and advisory services.
With 3 more years to go for the targets set out in the master plan, hopefully more concrete actions can be done to implement the recommendations.



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