By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Aquaculture projects, particularly those established in the northern parts of the country need urgent remedial measures if they have to positively contribute to the wellbeing of the country’s economy. Special Advisor to the Minister of Fisheries and Marine resources Alec Forbes last week revealed that six existing aquaculture projects in the country are “not working” due to poor site assessment done during the initial stages of establishment. Aquaculture establishments exist in the Oshikoto, Ohangwena, Oshana, Otjozondjupa, Hardap and Karas regions. “There are so many places where we can put up aquaculture farms but site selection in this case was not done properly,” he said. Forbes, an accomplished professional in the field of aquaculture and other related fields, said Namibia is blessed with an environment suitable for fish farming. The field has already received global demand and thus holds great potential in turning around the country’s economy. “Namibia is lucky, you have 1 500 kilometres of coastline. Consider aquaculture as a gem that many landlocked countries do not have. Take advantage of this, I can help where I can. Approach it gently, delicately and see how it will turn around the economy for wealth,” he counselled. Taking the global view, aquaculture has become a dynamic industry with projections that developing countries will dominate the fishing industry by the year 2020. Recently, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources visited Singapore and signed a contract to supply about four million pacific oysters per month. This, according to Forbes is confirmation that there is a market for aquaculture produce in the world. Tilapia has become one of the species in high demand especially in the United States markets. Hence, Namibia can intensify its activities in the production of this fish type for export. Other than that, Namibia has many potential species for its people and export as well. Fresh water fish with potential are carp, red claw crayfish and giant freshwater Malaysian, he said. The Kavango River only has about 92 species of fish though undersized. Other Namibian species that can be explored for the aquaculture industry include the giant black tiger shrimps, mussels and rock lobsters. Rapid population growth, increasing affluence and urbanization in developing countries has slowly led to changes in the demand and supply of animal protein for both livestock and fish. Due to this rising appetite for fish, it is becoming more expensive compared to other food products such as rice. In Namibia, at the attainment of independence, each person consumed about four kilograms of fish per year but today this has increased to 12 kilograms. Namibia’s performance in terms of export and in relation to the Gross Domestic Product 1990 to 2002, shows a poor export performance of 0.3 percent compared to Botswana with 8 percent. “Namibia needs to improve its competitiveness and aquaculture may just be the necessary vehicle,” said Forbes. Forbes reiterated that the industry is vibrant and aquaculture has changed the lives of many people with a global yearly income of about US$68 billion. If the country is to attain Vision 2030, concerted efforts in aquaculture have to be made. The industry demands a high labour force and thus employment creation is guaranteed. In addition, food security and increased export earnings are other benefits. This supports president Hifikepunye Pohamba’s sentiments when he launched the harvesting of fish at Omahenene-onavivi inland aquaculture centre in Omusati last year. He said national food security, employment creation and increased investment opportunities are key as fish farming steadily becomes a progressive production. Forbes urged the Namibian government to improve support for the existing producers, spread successful methods to other regions and boost regional transfer of information and technology, research and training as well as providing incentives for fish farmers. He called on financial institutions to fund such projects as the industry has spin-off opportunities that include feed production, processing, packaging and transportation. Namibia can make it in this industry. If there are any challenges, they are mostly man made and can therefore be changed, he concluded. Forbes was speaking during a public lecture hosted by the University of Namibia last week Thursday.
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