Phase one of E59 million Aquaculture project nears completion

By Sizwe Dlamini

In a bid to end Eswatini’s reliance on 100% fish imports, phase one of the Aquaculture project worth E59 million is nearing completion.

The Aquaculture Center building contains 28 fish ponds and laboratory equipment that will aid the estimated 1000 fish farmers already operating in the kingdom to produce better quality fish for local consumption.

When speaking from his offices at Mpophoma, project manager at the Taiwan Technical Extended Mission, Andrew Su said that the Aquaculture building was part of a project between the government of Taiwan and Eswatini.

The Project Manager highlighted that the new Aquaculture building is meant to stabilize fish production for local farmers, in turn stabilizing fish prices for the farmers who want to bring their produce to market.

“The new Aquaculture building located at the Malkerns Research Station is part of an ongoing fisheries project which began in 2022 after the initial proposal in 2019 by His Majesty King Maswati III. Funding for the project came from Taiwan after we studied proposals from Eswatini to establish a comprehensive Aquaculture industry in the kingdom. The Aquaculture industry is to be established in several stages over some time to reduce the kingdom’s reliance on fish imports which are growing in price.”

“Currently, Eswatini imports 100% of all its fish, a number that can be reduced by the current 1000 estimated local fish farmers. The local fish farmers only farm for subsistence purposes at this stage. To add salt to injury, only 30%of the estimated fish farmers are operating consistently due to the lack of productive fish and proper feed. The Aquaculture building will house breeding pools for tilapia of the Mozambique variant along with other tilapia variants coupled with water reservoirs and a laboratory to monitor water conduciveness”.

“The project’s primary goal is to introduce tilapia breeding as well as advanced Aquaculture techniques and add promotional systems. The project further aims to train technical staff and bolster their knowledge. As I earlier stated, this is just phase one of this project, phase two which includes the construction of Aquaculture offices and breeding demonstration ponds should be completed by July 2024,” he said.

Su added that the government wanted to replace unregulated fishing which is detrimental to the ecosystem with Aquaculture which replenishes fish populations and further aids substance fish farming.

In 2019, the government passed the Fisheries and Aquaculture Act stipulating regulations on wild fishing with the hope of reducing wild fishing that was unregulated resulting in the over exploitation of local fish populations thus harming the local ecosystem.

Furthermore, the government proposed the National Development Strategy and the Ministry of Agriculture strategic plan to replace wild fishing with aquaculture to allow food security and boost nutrition for local farmers and their immediate families.

Currently, there are no commercial fish farming production models available as the only fish variants available are tilapia and minor catfish and trout fish farms.

“Tilapia is a cheap source of protein. Local tilapia is cheaper than its imported variants by at least a quarter, however, in Eswatini consumption of aquatic products stands at only 2.4kg per year, far lower than the global average of 20kg per year and lower still than the African average of 9.9kg per year. Hence aquatic products have plenty of growth potential in Eswatini,” said Su.

Principal Secretary (PS) at the Ministry of Agriculture Sidney Simelane said that the building should have been opened by late February however it will be opened in late May due to delays.

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