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Copyright 2017 - @ College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences - Makerere University. All Rights Reserved!

Makerere in Regional Research on Fish Feeding, Breeding, Marketing and Fish Effluent Water Quality Control Technologies to commercialize Fish farming in Uganda

AquaFish Innovation Lab reseachers on a visit to Majoline  Fish Farm  in Kiwanga Zone A Seeta in Mukono district, Uganda


  • Fish farming profitable  but constrained by poor quality  feeds as consumers  cry of inconsistent  fish supply
  • Researchers develop  feeding and breeding technologies for  fish to commercialise the industry
  • A cell phone application developed to ease market  and information access on fish

Fish farming is a profitable venture but is constrained by feeds, best feeding and breeding practices leading to inconsistent supply to consumers. The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Aquaculture and Fisheries (AquaFish  Innovation Lab), based at Oregon  State University  in the United States, works with local patners to conduct research and build capacity to overcome  these challenges.

The studies in Uganda that started in 2009  and ending 2018, are part of the The AquaFish Innovation Lab with additional partners in Asia, United States of America and Latin America. The AquaFish Innovation Lab program is funded by the USAID Feed the Future project.

The research is being conducted by Makerere University in collaboration with Oregon State University (OSU), Auburn University, North Carolina State University of the United States of America (USA), Moi University, Kenyatta National University of Science and Technology of Kenya and institutes like NaFIRRI, ILRI among others.

Speaking during the annual regional planning meeting and field visit to a section of fish farmers in Uganda early January 2017, the  AquaFish Director Dr. Hillary S.Egna who is also Head Aquaculture Department Oregon State  University USA said, the program is part of the 24 USAID Feed the Future Innovation Lab research programmes focusing on a variety of aspects around nutrition, poverty and development.

AquaFish Innovation Lab Director Dr. Hillary S.Egna speaking during the media interview at Sheraton Hotel Kampala Uganda

“Our particular niche right now is animal protein for nutrition. Our mission involves real  investment in a constellation of activities around income generation, capacity building and good research in aquaculture best practices not only in practical  things that can be done in East Africa  today but also  looking for emerging work for the future.” She said.

Dr. Hillary S. Egna said the objective has been to use the best aquaculture pactices available to help innovate the fish  industries in all these countries, educate people and ensure long term training in Aquaculture to reduce poverty, create income and employment opportunities.

Currently in Africa, the program is working in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana. AquaFish  also previously worked in  Mali, South Africa and Egypt. 

Egna also said that this project has focused on the small scale start-up aquaculture industry in Uganda as it is not yet a big industry.

“The types of aquaculture focused on are fresh water systems, feed technology conversion ratios, making systems more efficient and effective  utilizing naturally  occurring  inputs to drive systems with low cost. We work with start-ups, small  and medium scale holders to scale up and commercialize activities and technologies”, Egna said

L-R: Jenna Borberg (Assistant Director of Research), Hillary S.Egna (Director), Prof. Joseph J Molnar and Makerere University PI  Assoc. Prof. Theodora Hyuha during the media interview shortly after the regional planning meeting at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala Uganda.

According to Dr. Hillary S. Egna, the project in Uganda also looked at how people market fish; prices of fish; different species of fish (wild, tamed and oily), innovations on market access and breeding of lung fish and fish species  vis a vis climate change among others.

With just  one year left to end the current program activities that started  six years ago, Dr. Egna was optimistic that  the project had made  great  success and  excellent connections with colleagues who  will continue to achieve  great success in future.

Key project achievements according to Dr. Hillary S. Egna are the development of a  cell phone technology  in Kenya, Ghana and now in Uganda,  technologies around feed technologies that are more efficient and better for the environment  and the farmer, and the  utilization of  local inputs like insects  and food that are  scalable for regional replication.

“We have been able to adopt some of the market access real time information on how much you can get for your fish in the market place because that is going to be a driver and engine for the growth of the industry-that people can make money by growing fish, knowing how to grow fish well, the different kinds of fish and in which environment”, She said.

She further reported that in Tanzania, they worked on water quality best effluent management practices to reduce environmental load of aquaculture projects by putting a lot of emphasis on reducing the implications and negative effects of waste from aquaculture  system.

“In terms of technology, we have been able to adopt technologies from other regions like effluent water quality control  primarily in Asia. What I see and hope for Uganda as the fish industry takes off, is avoidance of mistakes made somewhere in terms of environmental water quality controls”. Dr. Egna said

Other project achievements include work on gender and nutrition and trying to offer opportunities for a number of people not traditionally involved in aquaculture like selling fish and adding value to the product.

She also observed that besides developing the capacity that did not exist in the field of aquaculture, the project had registered success along the fish value chain that will make incremental changes in the next 5-10 years.

 “In Africa Value addition has been at the low level but at Makerere University there is some work on value addition like making fish sausages. We hope that some agencies will pick up our work and push it forward to another generation following innovations set and trainings conducted”, the Director stated.

After the regional planning meeting, the team visited  Majoline  Fish Farm  in Kiwanga Zone A Seeta in Mukono district, IG Invest Uganda  Cage Fish Farm  and factory on River Nile in  Busana- Buikwe district and Jinja Fish Farmers Association in Jinja. Other sites include  NaFFIRI Kajjansi Station, where they  reviewed lung fish  reproduction and nutrition research.

A section of the IG Invest Uganda  Cage Fish Farm  on River Nile in  Busana- Buikwe district, Uganda

Professor, International Agriculture Joseph J. Molnar from the   College of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology Auburn University USA said  the Projects in Kenya are being led by researchers at Moi University  in Eldoret focusing on  aquaponics and intensive indoor operations.

“ In Uganda we  have a different  project focused on capturing, describing and organizing the reproductive system of lung fish to commercialize the industry. To have a commercialized fish  industry,  we have to be able to get a reliable set of big fish that we can raise and market in a batch. You also have to understand the entire reproductive system to induce and get the fish to produce and fertilize those eggs and grow them up in a quarry and then get that stock to the pond and care for them”. Prof. Molnar said.

Prof. Molnar said that the project was able to discover how the reproductive system of the lung fish works, how to feed them and the kinds of feed that can make them quickly become a market size species.


Prof. Joseph Molnar (L) exchanging the business card with the Chairperson Jinja Farmers Association

Ugandan graduate students according to Prof. Molnar are looking at water chemistry in ponds, taking samples from Ugandan waters, analyzing them including profiling Ugandan waters to enhance the understanding of what quality of water is suitable for fish production.

“The other project is developing a cell phone application for farmers. I am excited about this because  it is a way for district fisheries officers, fish traders, processors, input suppliers and fish farmers can get information  and talk about fish”, The Professor stated.

With the cell phone application, different stakeholders in the fisheries sector  are now able to know what stock is available in fish ponds and the prices being offered. It is a way of organizing the fish market place so that fish farmers can clearly pass information to customers and suppliers of inputs such as feeds.

The Principal Investigator, Makerere University Associate Professor Theodora Hyuha said the   project has been looking at marketing and economics of fish production.

Makerere University PI, Assoc. Prof. Theodora Hyuha (L)   looks at the harvested fish at the IG Invest Uganda Ltd cage fish farm 

Assoc. Prof. Hyuha said the University has conducted studies on economics of aquaculture.

“Our interest was to find out whether fish farming was profitable. On the first phase, we found out that fish farming was profitable but there some constraints particularly feeds.  Along the value chain, we looked at traders and processors of fish and found out that many were  facing challenges in terms of fish supply and consistency. So those are the kinds of problems that require us to work with biologists to improve on fish production”. The Makerere Don said.

The Don  also said that the project was also working on capacity building and had enrolled graduate students.

“We have students who are going through this project and one  is graduating this year (2017). The other PhD student  is looking at  preferences and consumption patterns of fish in Uganda”.

She said the PhD student is looking at the differences between fish from the lake  and fish farmed  and establishing  whether, consumers  know the difference  between  the two  fish and whether there is there premium or no premium.

Prof. Hyuha reported that Uganda has  the capacity to produce the tonnage of fish to meet the government  target.

“There is a big opportunity for the farmers to take advantage of the market by working together as agroup to raise capital to propel the industry for increased production.  We have ready markets in Dr. Congo, Kenya, Rwanda. The only issue is  feeds which can be addressed.” She noted.

 Assoc. Prof. Theodora Hyuha (Centre)  with some of the project researchers on the visit to the  Source of River Nile in Jinja Uganda

Fish Farmers reap big but decry  poor quality fish feeds

The Farm Manager Majoline Fish Farm Ltd  Martin Ssentongo  said the farm is engaged in rearing and breeding of mainly tilapia and catfish. He reported that the advantage with fish farming was the availability of the market.

“This is urban fish farming and besides rearing and breeding fish, we came up with value addition for fish. We get out the fish, fillet it and sell the fish fillets because the demand is very high”, Ssentongo said.

Farm Manager  Majoline Fish Farm Uganda Ltd. Martin Ssentongo (extreme right) speaking to the Project team

Mr. Ssentongo  said the  farm sells  1kg of tilapia or cat fish at  UGX. 12000 per kilogram  and has the capacity to produce  180kg every week for retailers. The farm has 12 ponds and 2 breeding ponds for tilapia.

"We used to buy the feeds costly yet the protein levels are as low as 30% with  impurities and other unwanted material.We used to buy 1kg of fish feeds at UGX 2800-3000 from Kajjansi. This was increasing the cost of production but we recently resorted to making our own feeds," Mr. Ssentongo said.

Ronald Kimaliyo , the Farm Manager IG Invest Uganda Ltd specializing in Cage fish farming  at Busana, Buikwe on River Nile said they have managed to produce  over 140 tonnes of fish monthly. He  said the farm breeding practices includes sex reversed and non reversing technologies in the hatchery.

.“ We have 19 ponds, 14 draw-out points, two nursing points and three breeding points. Fish farming is profitable if you put in much. The farm sells about 200kgs per week to Uganda's neighboring countries".

     A cross section of  fish cages at  IG Invest Fish Farm 

The Farm manager noted that  fish farming is a profitable venture if well managed.

“We have good managers and we have established a feed plant so it is always easy to do business and supply fish and feeds”, he went on to say that:

“The advantage of fish farming is that it does not require medication. These are animals you stock in water, feed them and get the output. The market   is there from around and across the   country but our main export country is Rwanda,. We sell our fish to DR Congo, Rwanda and around.”Mr. Kimaliyo said.

He however noted that the major challenge of fish farming include the poor feed quality, insecurity from neighbours and thieves which raise the cost of production. The other challenge he said were predators(snakes, frogs and birds) that penetrate the cages.

Some of the workers sorting and packaging fish at  IG Invest Fish Farm


Report Compiled by:

Jane Anyango

Communication Officer,

College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Makerere University

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