Namibia, compared to other countries, is among the driest countries in the world, but yet holds massive potential for the development of aquaculture.
The Government of Namibia, under the Ministry of Fisheries has embarked on a national plan to develop the aquaculture industry in which they have established research stations in key areas in the northern, north-eastern, south-central parts, and the west and southern coast of the country.
This has facilitated many Namibians within the regions access to not only information, but also to fish, which can allow them to conduct the actual fish farming.
In addition, Agribank has availed loans for aquaculture activities, are which crucial in supporting the industry.
Namibia is very fortunate to have a traditional farming background, which should make understanding aquaculture practices easier.
From my personal experience there is a very keen interest among Namibians to pursue this new farming industry, which holds very great promise for the future.
Like all farming, fish farming has its risks. However, if conducted in the appropriate manner, it can be extremely rewarding.
In light of this, we are faced with a number of challenges which have been gradually reduced by efforts of the Namibian Government and University of Namibia through various research breakthroughs and infrastructure development.
One of the key accomplishments was the erection of the feed plant in Onavivi (Ombalantu, Omusati Region).
With feed and fish available at subsidized prices, this provides a grand opportunity for interested farmers within the regions to participate with more ease in this new growing industry.
However, if all the investment and efforts are not used to their full potential it will result in great national losses and stifle the future of aqua-culture in Namibia.
One of the fish species that holds the greatest prospects in the northern regions is the African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) which is most prevalent and a suitable fish to culture, although there are other local fish species that also have potential.
Although catfish doesn't command the highest demand and market value amongst most aquaculture species, the African catfish is a natural inhabitant of the flood plains (oshanas) and rivers of Namibia as it adapts well to conditions that are inhospitable to the majority of other fish species.
It also poses no invasive risk to the environment since it is a naturally occurring species. Interestingly enough though, this potential fish species is cultured internationally in massive volumes, particularly in Asia and then exported to the rest of the world (China, Thailand, Vietnam to say the least) and yet they originate from Namibia and other African countries.
The African catfish is said to be one of the most robust and fastest growing culture fish in the world.
In addition, the recent floods have resulted in large catches of premature juvenile African catfish which are being harvested throughout running waters and standing water of the Cuvelai basin in the northern regions.
Interested farmers can thus seize the opportunity to capture the smaller-sized fish and farm them to larger sizes which may yield-higher market value.
Harvesting the live fish and transferring them to other enclosed water bodies can serve as a means to preserve them for later in the year when they are no longer occurring abundantly in the market and are openly accessible in nature.
Other fish species that can be considered, based on the distribution indicators from the recent floods in Omusati and Oshana regions, are Tilapia rendalli (in the Ogongo and Ombalantu areas), Orechromis andersonii (already being farmed), Schilbe intermedius (Butter barbel), Barbus trimaculatus and Barbus poechii.
Another aspect one can look into is that historically before hatcheries (places where eggs are artificially incubated) were created for aqua-culture, fish farmers collected fingerlings (baby fish) from the wild and cultured them in cages and ponds.
The fish were fed various agriculture waste and by-products along with some of the known naturally occurring foods that are known to be part of their diets depending on the type of speciess being cultured until they reached market size.
This is a practice that could be used in Namibia especially during the current flood season where many small fish are captured for direct consumption.
As it currently stands this can play a vital role in helping interested farmers to develop fish- farming practices based on practical experience and relate them to existing environment conditions which they currently occur in.
Usually the most challenging factor is identifying the appropriate diet for the various types of fish that fortunately can be referenced from the Ministry of Fisheries and previous research.
The current rainy season has come with its challenges but has provided an opportunity for Namibians to engage in fish farming practices while there is an abundance of water bodies through the regions and fishery resources.
The global trend throughout most of the world has shown that aquaculture is an industry which is on a constant growth curve while natural stocks have either stabilized or dropped.
Thus, with our soaring unemployment and food security problems that plague the nation, there is dire need to make full use of the available resources and engage in aquaculture.