Geoffrey Ojok | January 9, 2017
Paul Ssekyewa arrives at his fish farm with a smile on his face. After learning how to make his own fish feed on the radio, he is happy to be a successful fish farmer.
Mr. Ssekyewa uses local ingredients like cassava and sunflower cakes to make fish feed, a technique he learned through a farmer radio program on Buddu FM 98.8.
Mr. Ssekyewa lives in Ssenya village, about 135 kilometres west of Kampala. The married father of two says he worked hard for many years to become a successful fish farmer. He adds, “I started my fish farming dream with a pond [measuring] 50 metres by 90 [metres] in 1980, on the waterlogged area in my ancestral home in Ssenya village.”
In his early years of fish farming, he mainly raised tilapia for home consumption. But he began to sell the surplus in the nearby village market of Matete because of high demand. He recalls, “When I saw the demand for fish in the local market, I decided to acquire training—together with my wife and my two children—on fish farming and on making innovative fish feeds.”
Currently he raises 10 species of fish, although he concentrates on tilapia and catfish.
In order to save money, Mr. Ssekyewa makes feed from locally-available materials, and from sweet potato and banana peelings. He says, “I used to spend $1,300 US in three months on feed, but now I spend less than $100 US to buy peels from restaurants to make feed. This means I save about $1,200 US.”
Fred Kabangu is the district agricultural officer for Masaka district, which includes Ssenya village. He says fish farming can help farmers earn a good income. He adds, “Fish farming is now one of the most profitable businesses a farmer should know, although many people fear to start due to insufficient funds and little knowledge of fish keeping and feeding.”
Mr. Ssekyewa’s fish farm has expanded and so has his marketing strategy. He now transports fish to Kampala by motorcycle and then to Gulu by bus. He arranges it all simply with phone calls. He sells the fish in Gulu for $2-3 US each.
He says that marketing his fish is no challenge at all with mobile phones. He explains: “I do not need to travel to Gulu in case a client wants fish. I put the fingerlings in jerry cans on a boda boda [motorcycle] that takes them to Kampala; then it would be delivered to the farmer by the conductor, to whom I give instructions through mobile phone.’’
Mr. Ssekyewa says the fish mature in five to six months because of the proper nutrients in the fish feed. He explains, “In six months, the tilapia and catfish are ready for harvest, and from the sales, on average I earn $14,117 US.”
Dan Okuli Dickens also raises fish. He lives in Bungatira village, about five kilometres from Gulu town in northern Uganda. Mr. Dickens says his skill in fish farming has improved thanks to the Twezimbbe (Let’s build ourselves) radio program on Buddu FM. He explains, “My fish project has gained more than before because of the training I got on how to make feed for fish. In the open market, the quality of my fish is better than for other farmers.”
Mr. Ssekyewa is happy because he has educated all his children to the university level, and one girl is pursuing an advanced degree because of the income he makes from fish farming.