What you need to know:
Ssenya Fish Farms consists of more than 60 fish ponds divided into brood-stock, nursing, research and grow-out ponds. They have two fish hatcheries with installed capacity of more than 500,000 catfish per month, 100,000 mirror carp per month and 200,000 seed tilapia per month.
The farm partly uses organic feeds which involve the formation of planktons by putting livestock droppings into fish ponds. They also use manufactured feeds sold in farmers’ shops, apart from the larvae and starter feed, the farm uses to feed catfish and carps. The farm has a mill and grinder for making feed.
Five miles out of Masaka City’s main business area, off Masaka-Kiwangala Road in Kajjansembe Valley is located Ssenya Fish Farms which is the brain child of Paul Ssekyewa and his wife.
How it started
It began humbly in 1980 with crop production and later took up beef and dairy production in 1983.
A year later, in 1984, he diverted to poultry and it began feeds milling in 1985, before going into fish farming in 1998 to date. According to Ssekyewa, his earliest attempt in fish production was aimed at getting fish for family consumption but right now Ssenya Fish Farms is one of the best and most trusted fish seed producers and private fish research stations in Uganda and in the region.
“The farm is a family business under Nalubowa, Lusembo and Company Estates Limited,” Ssekyewa says. “Four of us received training in fish seed production and fish farming and even if I am away from the farm there is always somebody to carry out the day-to-day management.”
Fish seeds production
Originally a professional accountant, who worked with Masaka Cooperative Union for more than 10 years, Ssekyewa has mastered the science of fish seed production and it is at Ssenya Fish Farms that farmers and farmers’ organisations go to purchase tilapia seed, catfish fingerlings and carps seed. The farm also trains young people interested in fish farming. “We offer hands-on training to fish farmers, fish farm managers and internship students from universities, tertiary institutions for hands-on exposure and research,” he told Seeds of Gold. Ssenya Fish Farms also produces larvae and starter feed for catfish and tilapia, apart from fabricating fish cages, hapas, harvesting nets, graders, water screens, scoop nets and they also supply cage materials on arrangement.
More activities carried out on the farm include conservation of depleted species. “In collaboration with other stakeholders, mainly international networks, some fish species are identified as endangered and facing extinction,” he says.
“We undertake to get them from the dangerous habitat where they face extinction, conserve them, and propagate them and where necessary find a safer place for them by perhaps introducing them into safer water bodies,” says Ssekyewa. He explained that in most cases fish species face extinction due to environmental degradation or due to predators.
Some fish feed on other fish types and they may reduce their populations or even wipe them out. He gave the example of the Nile Perch which feed on smaller fish. “The endangered fish species may be taken to water bodies that have no Nile Perch,” he said.
They also domesticate indigenous fish from the wild for introduction into the fish farming sector. They further carry out adaptation and propagation of fish species from far away countries such as China and others for producing seed to be passed on to farmers. “Some of those fish species have been sourced by the government, they grow very big, they have a good taste, and may weigh as much as twenty kilogrammes if well fed,” he said. They also plan and construct fish farms for other farmers.
When Seeds of Gold visited Ssenya Fish Farms there were some university students on internship taking lessons from Mr Ssekyewa as he took them from one fish pond to another. He was mainly talking to them about a more economical way of feeding fish. The farm partly uses organic feeds which involve the formation of planktons by putting livestock droppings into fish ponds. They also use manufactured feeds sold in farmers’ shops, apart from the larvae and starter feed, the farm uses to feed catfish and carps. The farm has a mill and grinder for making feed.
Size of the farm
Ssenya Fish Farms consists of more than 60 fish ponds divided into brood-stock, nursing, research and grow-out ponds. They have two fish hatcheries with installed capacity of over 500,000 catfish per month, 100,000 mirror carp per month and 200,000 seed tilapia per month.
“Selling tilapia seed, catfish fingerlings, powder starter feeds and student training students are some of our main economic activities,” Ssekyewa says. “But we also sell quality table fish to local, regional, and international markets.”
Types of fish
Their farmed species include African catfish (emmale). They support brood-stock and provide seed as well.
They supply Nile Tilapia-nilotica (engege) seed. “We produce mono-sex and mixed sex seed,” says Ssekyewa. “Other tilapia subspecies include tilapia-valiabilis, tilapi-esculenta, and sinidia tilapia.”
The farm produces seed for Carpio specularis, Mirror Carp (ekisinja). They also produce Barbus altianalis, Uganda Carp, (ekisinja), for which they conduct domestication and breeding trials. They produce Labeo victorianus, Victoria Carp (eningu) for which they also conduct domestication and breeding trials. They produce seed for Chinese Carps, Ctenopharygodon idella (Grass Carp), Hypophthalmichthys molitrix (Silver Carp), Aristichthys nobilis (Big head). For most of the above fish species Ssenya Fish Farm in collaboration with National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro) has been conducting adaptive trials.
Other fish species farmed at Ssenya Fish Farms include Semutundu (Bagrus docmack), Kasulu, (Mormyrus Kannume), Nkejje (Haplochromis), Enzeere (Schlibe Intermedius/butter catfish), and Enkolingo (Synodontis Victoriae).
Ssekyewa wants policy makers to consider fish as a renewable resource which he believes it is. “Government ought to make a deliberate effort to restock all water bodies,” he says. “There ought to be a constant fish demography assessment made in all water bodies to ascertain if there are enough fish stocks in every part of the water body so that where stocks are declining something is done to restock the fish,” he notes. He further says that in some cases what is needed to achieve this is stopping fishing in some areas for a period to give the fish time to reproduce and to grow.
He commended the government’s effort to control the use of fishing gear. “When the wrong fishnets are used they can trap immature fish which is wrong.” He also wants researchers to do more follow-up on how fish species from overseas countries are performing in Ugandan conditions so that in case there are any issues they can be fixed. He further wants the government to engage more in research to make fish farming more profitable by coming up with sustainable feeding methods such as fertilising fish ponds and looking more at natural food for fish.
Ssenya Fish Farms has some challenges however. Ssekyewa disclosed that they need more modern equipment for the intensive tilapia hatchery.
They need a climate smart modern water heating system. They are also struggling to get some essential equipment for water quality testing, high precision weighing scales, live fish counter and modern fish graders among other equipment.
The farm provides both casual and regular employment to some twenty people.