Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
VILLAGERS in Zhulube, Insiza District in Matabeleland South Province have hailed a European Commission- (EC) funded aquaculture project for its role in ensuring improved nutritional levels and revenue generation among people in the area.
Zhulube aquaculture project, situated within the 15 hectare Zhulube irrigation scheme is part of the $4,5 million EC-funded four-year “Integrated and Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture Production for Improved Food Security for Vulnerable Households in Zimbabwe” programme launched in 2013 in eight districts namely Insiza, Binga, Kariba, Umzingwane, Masvingo, Beitbridge, Mwenezi and Hwange.
The project funding, which ran up to 2017 was being implemented by World Vision International-Zimbabwe, Basilizwi Trust and Aquaculture Zimbabwe. Zhulube fisheries secretary Ms Sophie Nasho-Madebe said the fish breeding project had played a significant part in improving the livelihoods of most rural folks.
“We started selling fish realised from our three ponds in 2016 at $3 per kg (kilogramme) and we sometimes harvest the fish and distribute them to each member as part of motivating each other to embrace the project while also enhancing nutritional levels at households through dietary change. Since we were also allocated breeding stock we sometimes sell fingerlings to a number of individuals who are into fish production around the province,” said Ms Nasho-Madebe.
There is generally lack of proper nutrition provision necessary to support human life and health in most remote areas thus fish come in to fill this gap. The aquaculture project saw the construction of a storeroom, ablution facility, guardroom as well as the provision of 6 000 fingerlings including 2 000 breeding stock, dustcoats, plastic bins and fish pellets. Ms Nasho-Madebe said the fish project also plays a huge part in integrating their agricultural enterprises.
“We regularly drain water from the ponds and use it to water our crops. This water will be high on nutrients from the fish’s droppings and it improves the fertility of our soil. We also use the intestines obtained after fish to feed our chickens. Chickens are fond of fish intestines and in turn we use the chicken droppings to feed the fish, which is a favourite for them while we also use part of the droppings as mature for our produce at the irrigation scheme thus this shows how integrated our farming enterprises are,” she said.
Ms Nasho-Madebe said members were working on ensuring the sustainability of the fish project.
“One of our goals is ensuring the sustainability of this project in line with the funders’ expectations of curbing donor dependency syndrome within communities,” she said.
A member of the irrigation scheme, Mrs Ellah Madebe said produce from their cropping activities has improved food availability in the area.
“This scheme has played a huge part in improving our livelihoods especially the elderly. The majority of this scheme’s members are elders who use part of the proceeds realised from this farming venture to cater for their unemployed children as well as grand children. We have used the money realised from selling our produce to improve our homesteads as well as pay school fees for both our children and grand children over the years,” she said.
Zhulube irrigation scheme, which started operations in 2003, is home to 40 members drawn from six villages namely Mpumelelo, Thandanani, Siyaphambili, Masiyephambili, Thuthuka and Masibambaneni.
Its membership comprises 23 women and 17 men. Mrs Madebe said although there was a readily available market for their crop produce, the irrigation’s viability was being hampered by lack of input suppliers within the district.
“We are being forced to buy virtually all the inputs in Bulawayo as there are no outlets at Filabusi business centre and this is wearing us down in terms of transport costs. Our fence is now old and from time to time animals break in and destroy our crops and the other challenge we are facing is that our reservoir has a crack on its spillway thus we tend to lose a lot of water,” she said.
The irrigation scheme has over the past two farming seasons been a beneficiary of Government’s Special Livestock, Fisheries and Wildlife Programme and has cropped maize for two seasons and wheat for one season.