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Fish Farming


Dried fish is one of Zambia's most popular sources of protein. Storable without refrigeration, it's used in many of the popular relishes eaten with nshima. Dried fish is a staple item in the Zambian diet, and the Luangwa River was suffering from the relentless harvest of undersized fish, leading to depletion of breeding stock. Fish farming is an exciting area of development and technology that does more than protect the Luangwa River from overfishing.

COMACO's fish farming program was originally introduced in 2004 to promote food security and local sales within the community while providing an alternative to over-fishing the wild fish populations. Recruitment targets included active poachers, fisherman working the Luangwa River, and illegal charcoal makers. Many have adopted fish farming as their new livelihood of choice. (See image to right of fish farmer receiving payment for dried fish).

Fish farming encourages good rainwater management and can contribute to improved bee keeping, also practiced by many fish farmers. By keeping hives nearby the ponds for year-round access to water and flowering plants, a farmer can stabilize his bee population year round. With the help of the Fisheries Department of the Zambian Government, COMACO has been able to provide detailed instruction to new producer groups on how to construct a fish pond, manage fish and ultimately develop their own hatchery to restock after harvesting.

In order for fish farmers to realize the full economic value and advantage of fish farming versus river-caught wild fish, COMACO hopes to provide a reliable market for fresh farmed fish to urban buyers, particularly Lusaka. To justify the investment costs of freezing equipment and related transport requirements, COMACO is currently promoting the establishment of 300 new fish ponds in areas where over-fishing of rivers has depleted wild stock. As the supply of farmed fish also becomes more locally available, it is hoped the pressure on wildlife as well as wild fisheries will decline.

One of the many beneficiaries of the fishing project is Satenji Banda, a 45 year old married woman with four children from Zumwanda chiefdom. Previously, Satenji depended largely on subsistence farming for her livelihood, she and her family had a hard time surviving as she was only able to harvest enough maize for her family with no surplus to sell for cash. Satenji frequently struggled even to produce enough to sustain the family until the next harvest. Satenji, first joined COMAO in 2006 and decided to try fish farming as a livelihood activity. Through COMACO skills training, she acquired basic knowledge of fish farming, soon realizing that there was a lot of potential for success. The Tigwilizane group (translated ‘work together’) which she belonged to, was given fingerlings by COMACO and her journey to prosperity began, working on a group fish pond, and improving her skills.

In 2008, Satenji decided to start her own fish farming business - to take better care of her children and to supplement the income of her husband, a COMACO-trained beekeeper! She dug her own fish pond and bought 250 fingerlings to start her business. After using correct feeding methods such as plankton, maize bran and manure as supplementary feed, Satenji successfully harvested 270kgs of fish last season which she sold at a price of K12,000 per kg, from which she earned K3,240,000! At current exchange rates, this translates into sales of approximately $750 – twice what even the best, busiest poachers in the Valley used to earn! Satenji now sells her fish to restaurants and market shops in Lundazi and has established a good chain of customers. She now has a sustainable, predictable source of income and a happier family!