Funded by the European Union and developed against the global backdrop of plummeting wild marine fish stocks, the Project could become a major alternative fish resource for the country if rolled out as envisaged, they say.
The fish that the project is focusing on is Tilapia mossambicus. Jokingly dubbed “Karoo perlemoen”, it is in fact the Nguni cow of the aquaculture industry: indigenous, robust, disease-free, vegetarian and excellent-tasting.
Extolling these virtues, Graaff- Reinet smallholding, the co- founder of the project, Stellenbosch-based aquaculturist Glen Thomas, said the Karoo‘s plentiful sun was what had sparked the idea for the project.
“You need warmth to farm this fish – and we have a lot of sun here, of course, even in winter.” And ironically, it is the dryness of the Karoo that produced the opportunity for the project, he noted.
“Because of the dryness, there are a lot of water storage points on farms, from reservoirs to irrigation dams. These water bodies present a tremendous opportunity to introduce a new employment-generating set of economic activities to the region, one which is particularly well suited to the gentle hand of a woman.”
The envisaged female beneficiaries, the wives of Karoo farm labourers, most of whom are unemployed, will manage the fish on the different farms and also work in a processing plant, empowering them and, at the same time, creating a substantive BEE vehicle for the farmer.
Thomas‘s partner Stephen de la Harpe, who grew up in Graaff-Reinet, said the satellite project was based on an existing pilot project with 20 000 tilapia fry which they had been running on his smallholding.
“The premise of the new project is that the brood stock will be kept here but the fry will now be transferred to a large number of participating satellite farms. They will be grown to full size, about 150g, in hundreds of different water bodies on these farms, and will then be sold back to us here and we will process and market them. It will be economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.”
The EU has already injected about R1-million into the project and local economic development consultant Kerry van Harmeulen said plenty more funding was available if the scheme could be properly developed.
De la Harpe said he and his team realised that this was the make-or-break phase for the project. “We now have six months to come up with a bankable plan which shows the EU that we can make this project fly on a massive scale.”
Source: The Herald