KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda
As a young boy, Lazarus Ruzindana’s remembered his father hand-digging a small pond near their home in the sloping valley village of Nyakiju, Muyumbu – located in the Kabale District of Uganda. He had packed the pond with stones and clay and during the rainy season, it became a humble oasis for raising fish – not intensively, but in balance with vegetable, grain and livestock production. Fish provided diversity on the farm, and helped maintain protein levels for his family during the politically and economically unstable times following independence.
Lazarus grew up and only received a grade-six level education; however, he mastered the ABCs of integrated agriculture, and in 2005, began drawing from the ripples of pond inspiration to supplement his family’s diet and income – transforming the pond from his childhood into an innovative aquaculture system.
Aquaculture is the farming of fish, mollusks, crustaceans, and aquatic plants, that requires the farmer to add feed, and perform other interventions to increase species production. The practice can take many forms. From large-scale systems that often require greater inputs (feed and fertilizer) and spit out negative effects, like the spewing of waste effluent into waterways, to small-scale systems that make more efficient use of existing resources. Integrated aquaculture can convert plant and animal waste into high quality fish protein, and yield pond mud for use as fertilizer to improve soil quality on crop land.
With a system of five ponds (each about 50 meters squared), that were slowly hand-dug through the community effort of people living in Nyakiju, Lazarus is amongst approximately 2000 other small-aquaculture farmers in Uganda (FAO, 2013). He produces about 1500 kg of the Nile tilapia and North African catfish per hectare to feed his family and sell direct to the community. He also supplies other fish-producers in the region with the ‘frys’ (young fish). It’s nearly a closed system at Lazarus’s farm. He grows and harvests the food, a combination of dried green leaves and corn, and only purchases blood-clots from the local butcher in Kabale to include for protein. The waste effluent is harvested by community members and dried for use as fertilizer in gardens.
Today Lazarus’s approach of small-scale aquaculture offers an oasis of potential for addressing high rates of malnutrition and protein deficiencies in Kabale and beyond. According to the Kenyan author, Wangari Maathai, “Anemia caused by a deficiency in iron takes the lives of twenty thousand sub-Saharan African women each year, and half a million children die because of an inadequate supply of vitamin A. Both nutrients are found in fish” (2009).
The Kigezi Healthcare Foundation (KIHEFO) believes that who better to propose solutions to the hunger – than local citizens like Lazarus?
Lazarus is a member of one of KIHEFO’s many ngozi support groups in rural Kigezi. His initiative is valued by other group members, and the broader community at large for the economic and health benefits it contributes to the village.
KIHEFO aspires to help Lazarus, and his community, to continue growing and expand the fish farming business (building infrastructure for increased production and market) which will also be able to employ more community members, who will also benefit from working, and ideally, start small-scale fish ponds of their own.
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