FOR Jennifer Manatsa (56) of Sithole village, taking care of 11 grandchildren has been challenging. Toiling in other people’s fields and gardens was her order of the day.
“My grandchildren had difficulties going to school, I could not feed them, and it was very difficult for me. We used to work in other people’s fields and all we get were just peanuts,” she said.
But all that is now water under the bridge. Manatsa, who is now a member of Dzingazhara Fish Co-operative, made up of 14 members, said the fish farming project has transformed their lives.Every morning she goes to inspect her fish ponds. She feeds the fish, and when it is harvest time, they prepare the fish for the market before taking some home for consumption.
“When we started in 2011, we thought it was a joke, actually we did not know that we could come this far, but we have seen changes. My grandchildren are now very happy, they are now going to school and at least I can now feed them,” she said.
“During production, we weigh the fish and measure the upper body to assess their growth and if they are suitable for the market we then sell them.
“So far, our market is still local, that is villagers and teachers, but we are hoping to extend to other places.”
Manatsa said last year they sold 1 035kg at $3 per kg, getting around $ 3 000 and sharing the profits before buying inputs for their other projects.
“Over 8 000 fish will be ready for the market soon and we are hoping to increase in the next season,” she said.
They are also developing an orchard, poultry, garden and apiculture projects so that they diversify and increase their income.
“I have also imparted the knowledge to my grandchildren and when they are on school holidays they help me with the project. Our hope is to see aquaculture expanding in the country,” she said.
With assistance from World Food Programme’s productive assets creation programme, the group got an opportunity to expand operations by renovating their pond and adding two more.
In 2014, the group was registered on the European Commission funded programme through World Vision.
Country director for Aquaculture Zimbabwe, Martin Dingwa said they have assisted the members by training them.
“In this project, we have assisted the members in training them from the start, how to set up the fish ponds, the designs and correct slopes. We also supported them with the material apart from the locally available. We train them on how to breed and they can now use their own fingerlings as well as supplying to other people,” he said.
Dingwa said the projects will go a long way in sustaining households taking part in the initiative.
Paul Mwera, chairman of the Zimbabwe Fish Producers Association, said the project shows that aquaculture has got a future in the country.
“I am quite impressed with the project. It shows that aquaculture will supply the protein content that is required in food security. It has improved the livelihoods of so many households,” he said.
“They (the fish co-operative) are benefitting the people, so that they are getting the protein, which is food security sustaining for their families. And also because they are selling the fish, they are getting enough money to support their children.”
Dingwa said the projects are capital intensive to set up and there is need for the government to facilitate easy access to water bodies and reduce the burden of what people should pay towards making that project.
“We are talking about removal of charges on the use of water. Another challenge is that, in some projects there is need for an expert, whom we do not have. The extension officers are good at crop farming and not aquaculture, which is another challenge, we have lack of technical support,” he said.
According to experts, developing of aquaculture can contribute to the alleviation of food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty through the provision of food of high nutritional value, income and employment generation, improved access to water, enhanced aquatic resource management and increased farm sustainability.
The project so far is implemented in eight districts Binga, Kariba, Insiza, Umzingwane, Masvingo Beitbridge, Mwenezi and Hwange.