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Press Release 
Gerhard Backeberg 

 Revitalised state-owned hatcheries can form nodes for development  

The Water Research Commission (WRC) initiated a study, conducted through participative action research, which has done much to revitalise state hatcheries (tanks and ponds to breed fish fingerlings) in South Africa. Most of the state-owned hatcheries in South Africa were dysfunctional for a number of years prior to this WRC intervention, conducted in collaboration with Rhodes University and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (DAFF).

Dr Gerhard Backeberg, WRC Director for Water Utilisation in Agriculture, says, “Over the last decade, the WRC invested in a number of research projects on aquaculture. The first was a baseline study on the contribution of aquaculture to rural livelihoods in South Africa. In the report, published early in 2004, a number of priorities for further research were identified”.

Revitalisation of state hatcheries was one such key intervention that was identified, to create service centres or hubs to support community–public–private partnerships (CPPPs), training, technology transfer, fingerling supply, extension and other services in support of aquaculture development. This rationale formed the basis for the recently completed project entitled ‘Participatory development of provincial aquaculture programmes for improved rural food security and livelihood alternatives’.

One of the outputs of this project was the formulation of aquaculture strategies in participation with personnel from the provincial departments of agriculture, in most provinces. According to Qurban Rouhani, WRC project leader and Programme Manager of the Rural Fisheries Programme at Rhodes University, there was significant support from the various provinces for this project. “All of our counterparts in various provincial departments expressed a need for the technical support this project brought them, and were genuinely engaged with the team.”

In addition, the project undertook the revitalisation of selected existing provincial hatcheries, to act as development hubs for emerging farmers, from which to provide services such as advice, training and fingerlings. The WRC project team found that the facilities were in a general state of disrepair, operating on low budgets and with few skilled staff, and were not performing. A critical aspect was that the operation of these provincial facilities had no guiding policy and their existence seemed to be dislocated to the needs of the province.

The WRC project team was able to provide technical support, not only in the training of staff at various provincial hatcheries, but also in developing plans on the revitalisation and operation of these hatcheries, in close cooperation with the provincial agriculture departments.

One of the hatcheries to receive a makeover was Turfloop hatchery near Polokwane, Limpopo, which was originally established in 1982 as a catfish production and research facility under the former Lebowa homeland authority. The facility, which ceased operation in the early 1990s, began operating again following investment from the provincial agriculture department and support by the WRC project team from Rhodes University.  In 2008, catfish were spawned again on the site for the first time in ten years. By 2009, Turfloop was producing its first male tilapia with technical assistance from Limpopo University’s aquaculture unit. Although there is still much work to be done, a valuable and substantial aquaculture facility is once again in operation.

According to Rouhani, the most valuable lesson learnt during this project is that emerging farmers are not looking for handouts. “Emerging aquaculture farmers need practical advice on how to produce more efficiently and assistance to compete with commercial farmers in the market on a more equal level. While we can provide the technical assistance, it is up to government to create an enabling environment for emerging farmers to become successful.”

Backeberg says “Aquaculture will only be viable if it is profitable and attractive for investment by private sector commercial interests.  This means that aquaculture development has to be market-led, meeting consumer demands at lowest possible cost, but also requiring government support.”

“Specific attention has to be given to establishing new, emerging small business farming enterprises with opportunities for employment creation in rural areas’’ says Backeberg. “This purpose can be achieved with public-private partnerships in which State hatcheries are operated by competent technical personnel producing fingerlings for profitable enterprise by farmers with extension services linked to these development nodes.”

This information is contained in a recently published WRC report (TT 502/11)which the WRC CEO, Dhesigen Naidoo presented to Dr Motseki Hlatshwayo, Chief Director Aquaculture of DAFF, who co-funded the project on 7  March 2012.

Contact: Dr Gerhard Backeberg

Director – Water Utilisation in Agriculture

Tel: 012 330 0340 or E-mail: gerhardb@wrc.org.za

Left : WRC CEO, Dhesigen Naidoo presenting the study  to Dr Motseki Hlatshwayo, Chief Director Aquaculture of DAFF
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