Smallholder fish farmers cry foul over regulatory fees

Smallholder fish farmers cry foul over regulatory fees

MASVINGO, May 4 (The Source) – Fish farmers in Masvingo say the industry is under threat from high regulatory fees which are demanded by different government departments.

“Most of the dams are constructed by the local community under food for work or with assistance from non-governmental organisations. Local farmers set up ponds near the dams for fish farming activities but government departments then come to impose levies on that little poor farmer,”  Jonathan Charambira, a fish farmer and chairperson of Sekenende Fish Farming Cooperative told a meeting to address the issue in Masvingo recently.

The levies were taking the bulk of the income from the farming, he added, leaving farmers with no money for personal or business development.

“We pay $20 per year to ZINWA for using water, and it does not end there. Department of Parks and Wildlife comes in demanding a further $200 to $2000 per year for permits from that same farmer who constructed the weir on his own,” said Charambira.

The farmers also have to pay $135 for a licence to breed fish annually, he said.

“We are advocating for policies which can protect us so that we grow our business,” said  Charambira.

The project co-ordinator for European Commission Fisheries and Aquaculture, Sibonginkosi Mungoni, told The Source that they have identified issues affecting small-scale fish producers.

“We have looked at the different pieces of legislature that are available that have an impact on the operations of an aquaculture farmer and from there we have identified gaps which, if addressed, would maximize benefits to the smallholder farmer can benefit,” Mugoni said.

“We look at the production cycle, the inputs that are available for the farmer, are they affordable, and to date we have realised that they are not. What is government doing to make them accessible and affordable?”

Most farmers do not have infrastructure or fridges to store their fish or simple packaging materials and government needs to make these services affordable to the farmers, she added.