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Fish farming in crocs’ backyard

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By Wisdom Ngwira:

MODEL FOR MANY—Fisheries players admire Fulamchenga’s ponds

He was born and grew up in Nkhata Bay District. Stanford Fulamchenga was haunted by the fact that the majority of his peers, whom were residing closer to Lake Malawi than him, outpaced him financially by cashing in on the water body through fishing.

“I admired my friends who could come to our village to sell fresh fish at very exorbitant prices and we reluctantly bought from them.

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“It was very easy for them to get rich as, even without going far with education, they could make ends meet through small-scale fishing business,” says Fulamchenga from Goneka Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Timbiri.

For him and other people from his village, it seemed difficult to engage themselves in fishing business at a distance of 30 kilometres away from the lake.

“The nearest river, Limphasa, is a hive of marauding crocodiles where no one dares to step into to fish,” he says.

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But, as the saying goes, every problem has a solution. After a strong feeling, Fulamchenga convinced himself that it was possible to harness fish farming and live like his peers at the lake.

He hatched a raw idea to use the water from Limphasa River for fishing.

Fulamchenga diverted a small patch of water from the crocodiles den to about 200 metres upland where he constructed a small fish pond.

The idea, hatched in 2002, gave him an opportunity not only to evade the marauding crocodiles, but also to diversify fish breeds in his ponds, in contrast to the river which has limited species.

It further helped him not to tamper with natural fish in the lake, but rather conserve it by rearing his own.

“With the help of the area’s agricultural extension worker, I constructed a small pond where I stocked sizeable Chambo fish species I bought from the Fisheries Department in Mzuzu.

“I was very cautious not to start with big investments as I wanted to see how I could perform with one small pond.” Fulamchenga says.

He uses indigenous ways of feeding his fish stocks by giving them maize bran (madeya), occasionally mixed with milled usipa [fish].

The farmer says his first harvest gave him double strength as he harvested a lot of fish from the pond. This propelled him to construct more ponds.

However, it was in 2014 when he made a breakthrough in fish farming.

Through the agricultural extension worker, he was connected to the then Agriculture Technology Transfer and later to Mpwepwe College of Fisheries where he honed real skills of fish farming.

“I came back a completely changed person. I gained modern fish farming skills, which I eventually employed in the business.

“In 2014, I constructed 10 fish ponds measuring 40 by 100 metres where I stocked a lot of fish. I could no longer fear whether I could manage my investment.

“From the year’s proceeds, I invested some money to construct 10 more fish ponds. As I am talking, I have 20 big ponds with 24,000 fish each,” he says.

Fulamchenga further says he has a steady market in Mzuzu City, where he supplies fish to Mimosa Court Hotel and Tutlas Superrette.

“I am making a lot of cash as I sell the fish at K2,500 per kilogramme. Usually two fish weigh up to a kilogramme,” he says.

He has managed to construct houses in Mzuzu which he rents out.

“I am also able to pay school fees for my children and one of them is in his final year at The Polytechnic,” Fulamchenga says.

He further explains that every member of his family is involved in the fishing business to cut costs.

For example, he says, he is the Production Manager responsible for all operations on the fish farm while his wife is the Marketing and Finance Manager, who deals with market sourcing and all financial transactions.

Despite the success story, the business has challenges.

“Feed is very expensive because we have to import it from Zambia. This eats a lot into my budget. Again, the fish species we have feed on floating feed but on the market there is feed that sinks down the water. This makes it very difficult for our fish to access the feed,” Fulamchenga says.

Mzuzu Agriculture Development Division (ADD) Programme Manager, Wellington Phewa, says Fulamchenga is a rare farmer who has ignored all odds to start fish farming even without relying on water from the lake.

“We have many people in the country who live upland and always complain that they rarely access fresh fish. But they have rivers nearby which they can utilise for fish farming.

“Here we have this classic example of a farmer who is relying on river water to do his fish farming in an upland area,” he says.

Phewa says many rivers and other water bodies are left underutilised, which is a big loss to the country.

“The country’s area is mostly water body which entails that, if utilised, it would benefit the nation,” he says.

On the fish feed concerns raised by the fish farmer, Phewa says the ADD will engage the Agriculture Research Unit so that viable interventions can be initiated to help farmers like Fulamchenga.

Sustainable Development Goal 14 clearly spells the need for nations to properly use water from lakes and other bodies including their inhabitants like fish.

The protection of the water bodies and its inhabitants is in line with part 158 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.—Mana

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