FONTEINTJIE TO BECOME AN OASIS IN THE SOUTH
(NAMPA FEATURES SERVICE)
By Pearl Coetzee
KEETMANSHOOP, 01 APR (NAMPA) - The Fonteintjie Aquaculture Farm here will soon be an oasis to the people of the South because it not only breeds fish but also grows fruit and vegetables, and will soon start breeding chickens.
The 15-hectare piece of land was donated to the community by the Keetmanshoop Municipality about six years ago at no cost. The Khomas Regional Council also played a significant role in the commencement of the project here in collaboration with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.
The farm is adjacent to a fountain located in the Tseiblaagte residential area.
It opened its doors in 2006, but the 30 community members who worked at the project lost interest in aquaculture farming after the first harvest in November 2009. Fingerlings or baby fish need about seven months to mature.
No harvest has since taken place, because the fish that were left to mature were stolen, resulting in the project coming to a stop.
Aquaculture technician in the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Peter Simasiku, was put in charge of the farm to make the project a success, and soon after attended an aquaculture management training workshop in Grahamstown, South Africa at the beginning of 2010.
Simasiku said he learned a lot from that event and brought back a list of ideas to give the farm a 'new look and to get back to business as usual'.
To put his ideas in place he needed more hands to assist on the farm, and roped in two women - Selma Abraham and Lucia Manah - the only ones of the first group of workers to remain on the farm.
They now assist Simasiku with the day-to-day tasks of the project, such as feeding the fish and cleaning the ponds every day.
The women are now part-time employees of the Ministry of Fisheries after many years of working as casual labourers on the farm without any remuneration. Their contracts expire in May this year and are open for renewal, according to Simasiku.
Despite the hard work, both women enjoy their duties on the farm from sunrise to sunset.
?It is hard work but I enjoy my job. I like fish and have learned a lot about aquaculture since I was employed at the farm,? said Manaha.
The farm is home to tilapia and common carp fish, as well as catfish which was added to the ponds at the beginning of 2013.
Catfish is one of the fish species that holds the greatest prospects as it is most prevalent and a suitable fish to culture, although there are other local fish species which also have potential.
The African catfish is said to be one of the most robust and fastest growing culture fish in the world, according to Simasiku.
Without proper equipment and supplies, fish cannot thrive as well, making a business less lucrative than it could be.
One important piece of equipment for aquaculture is an electrical pump.
?This is one of the biggest challenges the farm is facing because the servicing of machines on a regular basis is of utmost importance. Cleaning the concrete dams constantly and draining the water out of the ponds is another priority,? explained Simasiku.
The water drained from the ponds is not wasted, and is instead used to water the fruit and vegetable patches.
The water contains extra rich nutrients released by the fish.
At the moment, the small harvests of spinach and cabbages are divided amongst the workers, but in the near future, the produce will be sold to community members at an affordable price.
With the help of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), a chicken coop was built at the end of last year.
The first chickens were ordered from South Africa, and are expected to arrive soon.
Simasiku thought it ideal to venture into a chicken business on the farm, because of the space still available on the land.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry also built a storage room for wood that was completed towards the end of last year.
Wood will be collected from the surrounding areas, stored and made available at a cheap price to the community.
?The future of this farm looks very bright,? said an optimistic Simasiku.
The government, in 2004, identified aquaculture as a prime priority development area as both Vision 2030 and the National Development Plans (NDP) documents highlight the urgency to develop aquaculture.
The Fisheries Ministry embarked on a national plan to develop the aquaculture industry in which it established research stations in key areas in the northern, north-eastern, south-central parts, and the west and southern coast of the country.
Aquaculture has the potential to significantly contribute towards sustained food security, income to rural households, enhance revenue generation for the State through exports, re-enforcement of employment and inwards investments.
Worldwide aquaculture is forecast to be a major growth industry into the 21st century. In response to increasingly constrained global supplies of wild finfish and shellfish and the growing consumption of seafood products, aquaculture production has expanded in many regions of the world.