The number of small-scale fish farmers in the Copperbelt has increased to 1 400 – from a mere 200 – over the last decade.
According to provincial fisheries principal officer Zyangani Chirambo, the increase is of great significance to the economic diversification of the province which largely depends on copper mining. “The growth in the Copperbelt’s aquaculture was driven by increased awareness of fish farming as business,” Chirambo said.
Last year, the province produced 120 tons of fish, mainly thanks to small-scale fish farmers who entered the sector following initiatives like the Smallholder Agribusiness Promotion Programme (SAPP). It focuses on developing the aquaculture value chain from production to consumption.
Fish stock in Zambia’s vast fisheries once seemed inexhaustible but overfishing has led to serious depletion. The annual fish catch is 75 000 tons, while total consumption is pegged at 130 000 tons.
There are nine major fisheries in Zambia: Kariba, Tanganyika, Itezhi-tezhi, Bangweulu, Mweru Luapula, Mweru wantipa, Kafue River, Zambezi River and Lukanga Swamps. Minor fisheries include Lusiwashi dam, Lower Zambezi and Chambeshi River. There are more than 400 fish species in the fisheries.
The growing aquaculture industry, like on the Copperbelt, helps to fill the gap between supply and demand as the national appetite for fish continues to grow.
Earlier this year, Zambia acquired a US$50million loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to boost its fish industry. According to Livestock and Fisheries Minister Michael Katambo, half of the loan will help 12 000 women and young small-scale fish farmers.