ABOUT 20 kilometers from Mlandizi ward and 30 kilometers from Bagamoyo in the Coast Region, there is a village called Miswi. This is where you will find a fish hatchery run by a young Tanzanian woman scientist, Juliana Nyato.
Juliana (29) practices aquaculture, or in simple words, ‘to rare fish to maturity and all those things that surround the trade’.
With a broad smile, the young scientist says the going is not easy.
You say the going is not easy, did I get you right, you ask her. “Yes, you got me right, it isn’t,” she replies.
What about this successful hatchery, you further ask. “It is a little entrepreneurial package producing: One, egg to sell to smallholders who have fish ponds; Ttwo, fish produced here must get a market so that we earn money to run the hatchery, and finally produce fish feed for this enterprise and other buyers who have fish ponds.”
In silence, you look at the young lady and the ambition she is pursuing singlehandedly, you shake your head in delight and approval. Then you further ask: Madam, where did you study and gather the courage to do these things? “I am a local graduate,” she tells you. Indeed she is.
Juliana is a graduate of Morogoro-based Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA). She studied BSc in Aquaculture at the university between 2012 and 2015. Unlike other graduates looking for employment in offices, she opted to employ herself because, she says, were the fisheries sub-sector to be developed in earnest, it would do wonders to Tanzania and Tanzanians.
She confidently makes this assertion because she has already walked the talk. She has a hatchery.
There are volumes of statistics that explain how the fisheries sub-sector can protect fisheries products, create employment, increase food security and nutrition, you name it.
You go through these expert elements on fisheries with Juliana without her comment; you only win her nodding, punctuated by smiles. Finally she tells you: “In my opinion, it is varied efforts of local scientists in this sub-sector that can solve the problem of overfishing in Tanzania’s waters.”
Then you discuss the views of the East African Community (EAC), Secretary General, Ambassador Liberat Mfumukeko, on the issue, who says the regional aquaculture has not developed its potential and accounts for only seven to eight percent of regional fish consumption.
Ambassador Mfumukeko made these and other comments at one of the stakeholder’s workshop on the EU-EAC TRUE-FISH Programme co-organised by the European Union (EU), delegation to Tanzania and EAC.
“Developing aquaculture to meet the increasing demand for fish in the region is crucial,” said the ambassador.
The Country Director of WorldFish for Tanzania and Zambia, Mr Sloans Chimatiro also said during the same workshop that in the face of climate change, sustainable aquaculture practices offer water, energy and feed conversion efficiencies superior to any other domesticated animal food production system.
When you exhaust comments relating to fisheries by these and other giant personalities, Juliana finally tells you: “You see, I am vindicated, but we have to go beyond words and act.” Juliana has acted. She has established a hatchery where she produces eggs for her own project and encourages people on social media platform to secure improved eggs from her. She trains people on proper fish-raring husbandry. She sells fish to people to improve children nutritional status. Finally she produces small amounts of fish feed for her project and smallholder entrepreneurs.
In the Tanzanian context, Juliana is doing a great thing to herself and this country. She is part of Tanzania’s unsung heroes and heroines.
Juliana’s project entails working in soaked mud, travelling on hired motorcycles (bodaboda), and persuading suspicious prospective ‘peasant-students’ to take up the job for their sustainable livelihoods. The English have a saying: “It is easier said than done.” Those who want to emulate Juliana would better have that saying at the back of their minds. You have to walk the talk.
Juliana says in the face of unemployment problem, she chose to practice what she learnt at the university. But she also has valid worries on fish depletion in Tanzania.
“Fish stocks are fast depleted in our lakes and rivers, aquaculture is the only sustainable way to solve this serious problem we are facing,” Juliana notes.
Her arguments are supported by efforts of various local and regional stakeholders.
A good example is a recent initiative by European Development Fund’s project to contribute to developing competitive, gender equitable and sustainable commercial aquaculture in the Lake Victoria Basin.
The Fund has put at the disposal of the EAC some 10 Million Euros to do, among other things, mitigate the drastic decline of Nile Perch and Tilapia stocks by increasing their reproduction.
The TRUE-FISH project seeks to improve access to commercial networks for aquaculture related businesses; increase availability and quality of local skilled workers for the development of aquaculture-related businesses as well as improving sustainability and bio-security of the regional aquaculture production systems.
One can only hope that the efforts of enterprising young scientists like Juliana will feature in that project.
Emmanuel Rubagumya writes about Science, Technology and Innovation.