The cost of animal feed in Zimbabwe is high. This means that raising livestock, including fish, can be very expensive. But some fish farmers, including Abel Moyo, are using chicken manure to cut their costs. Mr. Moyo operates Darlington farm in Mangwe district, about 230 kilometres south of Bulawayo.
Mr. Moyo raises fish in a dam on his farm. He is discovering that fish farming is a profitable enterprise. He explains that fish farming is not labour-intensive and there are few input costs.
Mr. Moyo says that using dams which are nearer homes can also cut costs. Many customers travel to the farm and buy fish directly from the dam. He says, “I just catch fish at this dam and sell them at virtually no transport cost.”
Pamela Mbele is a mother of two who has turned to fish because beef is expensive. She explains: “We now have beef only on payday or when there is a special occasion. I cannot afford to have beef on a daily basis.”
For many families in Zimbabwe, the main meal of the day was based on beef. But with the cost of beef rising, families are looking for a more affordable source of protein. Because fish costs less than half as much per kilo as beef, demand has increased. Mrs. Mbele says, “Fish is now our daily relish for the rest of the month because it is affordable.” (Editor’s note: “Relish” is the local expression for the “sauce” which accompanies a staple food such as maize or rice.)
Mr. Moyo raises three types of fish: silver bass, kapenta, and tilapia. He says, “I have never used commercial fish feeds. I have been using chicken manure ever since I began fish farming.” He says manure is a reliable source of nutrients for his fish, and uses his own chickens as a source.
He realized that fish could benefit from chicken manure after watching birds roosting near his dam. He recalls, “I wanted to cut down the trees because I hated birds sitting on those trees and their feces going into the dam.” But his fishing friends said the bird manure was good for the fish, which were clearly not suffering any ill effects, and still reproducing.
Mr. Moyo did not entirely believe his fellow farmers. So he decided to experiment with using chicken manure in his dam. He says, “I poured chicken manure to see what would happen and it worked wonders. I have been using chicken manure ever since.”
Lindiwe Nyoni is a field officer with the Agricultural Rural Extension Services Department in Bulawayo. Her department provides advice to communities on developing aquaculture. She says: “We encourage communities to take up fish farming because a good market exists out there.”
This is certainly true for Mr. Moyo. Every Sunday, people pay $10 US each to try their hand at fishing in his dam.
Currently he is carrying manure from his poultry sheds to the dam. But, with the money he is saving by not buying fish food, and the income from the Sunday fishers, he plans to build a chicken run above the dam. The manure will fall directly into the water below the run, saving him time and labour. Mr. Moyo says this will ensure the dam is not starved of chicken manure when he is not around.