By Shingirai Vambe
The rising economic challenges have seen most people resorting to the environment and some have taken the business of poaching fish in various water bodies in the country, which has resulted in the depletion of fish in Zimbabwe.
Rare are occasions when people consider aquaculture, fish and crocodile farming as part of agriculture, and taking cropping as the only form of agriculture.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) called in stakeholders and the Zimbabwe government, The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, Climate and rural Development at a local hotel in Harare, Monday morning to look into drafting of the Bill that has to do with farmers to rescue the sector.
Dr. Patrice Talla, the FAO Sub Regional Coordinator, in a speech read on his behalf by Louse Muhwigirwa said Good laws and functioning legal institutions are essential contributors to the predictability, security and flexibility needed to spur growth in this sector.
The fisheries sector was put under the watch of the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority which has for years been lamenting of incapacitation at the same time fish mongers wanting to survive and fend for their families.
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The proposal for revisiting the archaic fisheries Bill which no longer speaks to the current economic and environmental statuses is to improve production, create employment and of cause practising sustainable fish farming.
“In the year 2021 and 2022, FAO conducted a consultative process through an aquaculture value chain analysis (VCA) in Zimbabwe with a view to identify challenges restricting growth
and also come up with an upgrading strategy for the sector. The value chain analysis identified the policy and legal framework as one of the key issue and a necessary accelerator to unlock the potential in the sector,” said Talla.
He further added that, FAO Global Strategic Framework and the Country Programming Framework (CPF) for 2022 – 2026 is focused on transformation of Agrifood systems through
the Four betters i.e Better Production, Better Nutrition, Better Environment and Better Life.
The Deputy Minister Lands and Agriculture, David Marapira said with all the water bodies that the country is endowed with, it will be embarrassing to hear of the massive depletion without proper management and sustainable fish production.
“The Government fully recognises the importance of fisheries and aquaculture in the drive to eliminate hunger and malnutrition in Zimbabwe’s quest to achieve an empowered upper middle-income economy by 2030,” Marapira said.
He however acknowledged the production tonnage which has fallen to 20 000MT against the demand of 60 000MT per annum. He said collaborative effort by development partners has not gone unnoticed and to this end Government would like to thank FAO to committing funds for the development of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Act under the Fish 4ACP countries project.
It was noted that the neighbouring Zambia production has increased massively over the years, due to policies that create an enabling operating environment. Zambia used to import from Zimbabwe and now exporting and one known company, Lake Harvest is alleged to have skipped to Zambia.
Farmer and Chairman of the Zimbabwe Fish Producers Association, Garikai Munatsirei passionately took delegates through with information, highlighting on the challenges and reduction in production the sector has had over the years.
“We are not doing anything in commercialising fish. if we can do it with other crops, why not fish?
“We have a number of policies under one non-perfoming sector, the ZimTrade Act, AMA Act, EMA Act, Zinwa Act, this should be bundled into one piece of legislation. We are now a net importer from a significant exporter due to compliance costs,” said Munatsirei.
He further stated that Egypt has only the river nile, but produces 1.3 millionMT per annum while Zimbabwe with over 60 water bodies is struggling to produce 20 000MT of fish.
Meanwhile, Crocodile farmers have also shared challenges facing the industry in farming the reptile meant for leather products which account for 38% global supply, and with the consumer resistance of meat, the crocodile farming face sustainability challenges.
Both fish and crocodile feed was said to be expensive, requiring 15000MT of soya beans and maize annually.
The draft bill which is being worked on by key stakeholders, local legal experts and others in Rome is expected to be ready by December 2023.
“FAO has taken a deliberate step to engage our legal experts from our headquarters to support this fisheries bill development. FAO has supported various countries in this area and as such the legal experts will bring in the international and regional knowledge and practices which are catalytic to this process. We are eager to see the policy and legal framework streamlined and harmonized to avoid duplications that only complicates investment in the sector. I am happy that this initiative is in line with the government effort to promote the ease of doing business in the country,” Talla said.
FAO is working on institutional and technical strengthening of the farmer organization and government extension services in the area of fish production. The Chinhoyi University of technology through FISH4ACP program has trained selected farmers and extension service officers on Black soldier fly feed production.
Meanwhile, there is a growing demand of tilapia fish in Africa and globally.
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