Fish farming, a rewarding pastime

March 1, 2019

Agric Digest

There is no mystery to fish farming. Often, investors are not impressed until large sums of money are involved and this discourages small timers. Feasibility studies developed by Government agencies and other ‘experts’ who have never managed businesses of their own are almost always too scary and they sometimes mislead opportunity prospects into seeking elusive loans they may not really need.

In fact, it is better to start small, feel your way, fall down, get up and learn to stand before going for a loan. Loans should be taken when you are sure that you have some level of mastery in that trade and that ensures that you will be able to repay it. You do not earn mastery without a period of experimenting and learning.

When a loan allows you to spend a year or so in business before you can start repaying, it does not mean that the full sum will not be repaid eventually. In fact, I think it is important to equally teach those who apply for loans, how compound interests on loans and other taxes are calculated before they collect the loans.

Agricultural businesses like livestock farming and crop cultivation are familiar terrains in Nigeria and a serious venturer should be seen to have started something, however small before he or she is granted a loan. However, where there may be keen freshers who can be supported with other tangibles like land and equipment but not money. Training on feasibility should be hands-on, not these one-week seminars that many attend these days with the sole purpose of accessing loans they may not be able to manage.

Serious agripreneurs need not wait for loans; they can set out faster by starting small and thereafter get loans for expansion when they are more likely to succeed and repay the loans. This will save them a lot of stress.

Fish farming is a business that a focused entrepreneur can start with as little as N10,000.00. An old kerosene or water tank, a clay or concrete tank  can serve for a starter. Catfish fingerlings usually go for as low as N20 – N50.00 each while that of Tilapia goes for half as much. Harvest can be anything between 4-6months and you can run between two-four cultures in a year. You may never need a stifling loan. All you need is a quick ear for information on best practices, nutrition and health; and a good marketing plan.

Start small, experiment, make mistakes and allow your creative powers to find vent. Do not insist on doing it by the book; engage your reasoning abilities, your instincts as well. Humans have been known to confidently keep fowls, dogs, horses, and have engaged in fish farming for so many centuries so why can’t you? The earliest known references to pond fish culture are from China, some 4,000 years ago, and from Mesopotamia, about 3,500 years ago. Fish farming was practised during the times of the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean region, and later became part of the food production system of Christian Monasteries in Central Europe. Such efforts, even though undocumented, must have existed in parts of Africa since ancient times.

Keep in touch with knowledgeable people. Our tertiary institutions and research institutes are brimming with brilliant minds who, with a little encouragement, would give you some workable tips you need to succeed. Other helpful groups could be your neighbours, club members, and so on who own ponds and are willing to share information with you. Always ask if there are simpler ways of doing what you plan to do. For example, although concrete lined ponds are excellent, less expensive clay lined ponds serve just as well. The water may be sipping through a bit, but then; you can keep a water supply source close.

The first and most important thing is to start. Never allow yourself to fall again into the ‘capital intensive’ scarecrow to plateau your ambitions. An expert from the Kainji River Basin Authority while speaking on fish farming confirmed that even kerosene tanks, after a good clean out, could serve as ponds; only they must be kept in a shady, cool environment.

They are best fed on improved fish feed which are now available. Use of only quality fish feed ensures that you get the best results within a calculable period and that disease outbreaks are curtailed.

The pond water should however be drained when there is an algae bloom- when the algae cover the water surface; a situation that can stop oxygen and sunshine from getting to the fish.

The water in aquaculture ponds need not only serve to culture fish. As a source of irrigation water, pond water is usually richer in nutrients than well water and also contains nitrogen-fixing blue-green algae which can improve soil fertility.

One is almost tempted, sometimes; to call fish farming a pastime instead of an enterprise because of its pleasurable and almost non-stress attributes; but then our readers may prefer to read about business ventures than pleasures. However, Fish farming is as much a hobby as a business and, either way, it is rewarding.

Source: Punch Newspaper

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