Livestock Research for Rural Development 27 (2) 2015 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Socio-economic factors affecting the successful implementation of aquaculture projects in Zimbabwe; a case study of Chivi District

Robert Kudzanayi Gono, John Muzondiwa, Ireen Chihanga1 and Petronillah Rudo Manhondo

Midlands State University, Department of Livestock and Wildlife Management,
P Bag 9055, Gweru, Zimbabwe
1 Department of Livestock Production. P O Box 164, Chivi, Zimbabwe


The objectives of this study were to investigate the socio-economic factors which affect the successful implementation of rural fish farming projects and to come up with possible interventions. 81 participants were randomly selected from the 513 farmers involved in fish farming projects in 16 wards of Chivi District. Structured questionnaires were used to collect data to identify the major socio economic constraints and priorities for fish farming improvement. Data was analyzed for the common viability challenges encountered by fish farmers, causes of project failure as well as the possible interventions that could be made to improve on the surviving projects.

The farmers were willing to engage in rural aquaculture production although there are challenges such as water shortages, theft, low production levels and scarcity of feeds among other challenges. Water shortage was ranked as the major cause of projects failure, followed by feed shortages. It is suggested that there is need for the government to support rural aquaculture projects in terms of capital resources geared towards research on aquaculture, resuscitation of silted small reservoirs in the area, capacitating extension service providers in the public sector with adequate knowledge and revitalize institutional structures.

Key words: Africa, rural fish farming, security, water supplies


Throughout the centuries fish has been an important component of the population’s diet in many parts of the world (Brown 2003), providing approximately 16% of the animal protein consumed by the world’s population (FAO 1997). Fish catches increased rapidly over the past hundred years due to improved technology, which provided more powerful engines and sonar equipment. This led to over fishing and then caused a worldwide decrease in wild stocks. The need to increase fish production by farming became therefore an urgent matter and many countries are now in the processes of laying out strategic development plans for aquaculture (Klinger et al 2012). The term ‘aquaculture’ covers all forms of cultivation of aquatic animals and plants in fresh-, brackish- and saltwater and sustainable fish farming is the successful production or rearing of fish in a controlled environment for subsistence or commercial purposes, without causing any long term negative impacts to the resources (Aquaculture Zimbabwe 2011).

Aquaculture is now responsible for an ever-increasing share of global aquatic food production, which has increased from 3.9 percent in 1970 to 31.9 percent in 2011 (FAO 2011).Some of the most important advantages of fish farming include the following: a) fish provides high quality animal protein for human consumption with provision of essential amino acids and of omega-3 fatty acids which can help lower blood pressure, heart rate, and reduces the risk of death from heart disease , b) farmers often integrate fish farming into the existing livestock and crop production activities on farms to create additional income and improve water management, c) fish growth in ponds can be controlled: the farmers themselves select the fish species they wish to raise and d) there is the effective use of marginal lands that are too poor, or too costly to drain for agriculture which can be profitably devoted to fish farming.

Small scale fish farming in Africa is a rather recent activity. The effective initiation of aquaculture in most sub- Saharan African countries was in the 1950s under the impetus of various colonial administrations (Smith 2009). Most of these were aimed at colonial landowners for the production of sport or food fish. The newly independent governments did not give aquaculture a top priority and as a result most aquaculture initiatives suffered long periods of decline of one to several decades depending upon the country. Virtually all new activities in the sector were initiated by foreign donors and dependent upon international financing (Smith 2003). There has been very little or no input from national governments to support new projects and aquaculture funding today still remains a minor priority.

Despite the recognised failure of the majority of these foreign led development projects to produce sustainable development of the aquaculture sector, many lessons are being learnt today. In some cases, most notably in Cameroon, Madagascar and Zambia, new strategies based on the concepts of community management, participatory research and development and farmer field schools have evolved (Mohamed 2001).

Zimbabwe does not have a strong tradition of aquaculture, although the concept was introduced as early as the 1950s through stocking dams in the Vumba area with trout (Balarin et al 1997). It is an emerging primary industry in the country with a strong regional presence and a good prospect for future growth. Amongst the lower income groups, the per capita consumption of fish and fish products is only about 3.2 kg compared to 12.7 kg in the region (FAO 1997). Most of the rural population cannot afford to buy fish and as such are severely animal protein deficient and consequently malnourished.

Problem Statement

Fish farming as an aspect of aquaculture is an integral component of the overall agricultural production system in Zimbabwe.The recommended minimum animal protein consumption rate is 12.5kg per head (FAO 2012). For now the unsatisfied demand of animal protein will continue to be met through importation, unless policy actions are geared towards improving domestic production by providing solution to factors militating against aquaculture in the country. Attempts have been made by the Government in conjunction with Non Governmental Organisations (NGO) to promote rural fish farming projects. Of the total fish farming projects established in Chivi District since 2011, 82% of these projects have failed, and mostly at implementation stage. The surviving 18% of these projects are not economically sound. Donor funding has ceased leaving out these farmers in the struggle to continue with the projects.


The government together with Non Governmental Organisation and the community has invested a lot in terms of financial, labour and infrastructure towards aquaculture but the projects are failing. Fish ponds have been excavated and are in place. They are fully stocked with fingerlings. Hatchery ponds have been established and stocked with brood stock to enable replenishment of ponds after harvests. There is need to address the challenges and come up with some interventions to enhance aquaculture productivity.


The objective of this study was to identify the socio-economic constraints which have affected the successful implementation of rural fish farming projects in Zimbabwe using the Chivi District as a case study, and suggest areas for possible intervention.

Materials and methods

Study area

Located 150km from Gweru, along Gweru-Beitbridge road, the study area is called Chivi. It lies in the Masvingo Province of Zimbabwe. The geographical coordinates are S0200 5.1 0 and E030o 12. 0. The climate varies from dry to semi arid, with two main seasons; the summer season extending from November to April which is wet and warm, and winter, which extends from May to September, which is generally cool and dry. The temperatures range between 20 and 40oC. Rainfall ranges between 300 to 600 mm per annum. Most of the farmers are smallholder farmers with limited land size, practising mixed farming, i.e. crop cultivation, horticulture, animal husbandry and aquaculture.

The district is characterized by shallow soils with inherent fertility. The District comprises of sweet-to mixed veldt with predominantly medium height perennial grasses and a high proportion of annuals in tree bush savanna. Bush encroachment is evident with a lot of invader weeds which are not palatable and constitutes a poor veldt.


To generate information essential for the successful implementation of aquaculture projects suitable for rural areas in Zimbabwe, a data collection survey was carried out in the Chivi District to identify the major socio economic constraints and priorities for fish farming improvement and extension interventions. Since the whole region was not covered due to logistic problems, the Chivi District was selected for the survey. Information was solicited from respondents by administering a well-structured questionnaire, and Participatory Rural Appraisal methods (PRA) relevant to rural aquaculture production. Eighty one (81) households with some experience in fish farming were randomly chosen and interviewed. The questionnaire used in this survey was structured in a way to establish the background of sampled farmers and fish production practices and constraints. Information collected included the historical information about the farmer, pond sizes and utilisation, feeding, marketing, disease challenges etc.The illiterate farmers were assisted in filling the questionnaires after explaining the rationale of the survey.

Data collection

Simple random sampling was used to select the 81 farmers from 57 fish farming projects out of a total of 513 farmers practicing fish farming in the 17 wards of Chivi District. The selected farmers were interviewed and a structured questionnaire was completed. Information collected included the household demographics, age, gender, reasons for adoption of fish farming project, pond sizes, feed resources, health management, production systems, number of ponds owned, production level, management skills and type of constraints and farmer recommendations on how to improve fish farming amongst other things. For each sampled site, farmers were briefed about the objective of the study before starting the interviews and data collection on these community projects.

Information was collected based on the characteristics of fish production systems, management and farming support services provided by the Ministry of Agriculture/ Livestock Production and Development and Non-Governmental Organizations. Visual appraisal of the fish types was undertaken for identification and corroborated with a checklist. The data is presented using descriptive statistics, i.e., mean, range, frequency and percentage. Chi-square was used to determine if there were significant differences or not between observations.

Analysis of data

The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS 1998) Version 17 (Payne et al 2009) computer software was used for entry and analysis of quantitative data to generate descriptive statistics (means, standard deviations and range) on socio economic characteristics of respondents and production records and problems encountered by farmers. Qualitative and quantitative data analysis techniques were used to evaluate information collated on aquaculture from the target area.

Table 1. Demographics of  respondents#




Age of respondents in years






























Marital status


















Household size















#Mean household size=6.06


Personal and socio-economic characteristics of respondents

Household size was 6.06 and about 56.8 % of respondents in the study area were 41 to 60 years of age (Table 1), meaning that mostly the elderly are the ones involved in aquaculture projects. Most of the respondents were married which is an advantage in case the other spouse is not around to manage the fish ponds. All respondents attained some formal education with the majority having attended secondary level. It also reveals that the majority of the respondents had less than two years experience in fish farming meaning that the projects are relatively new in the area. One third  of the respondents purchased fish stock from other wards where hatcheries stocked with brood stock have been established to replenish production ponds after harvests. The reasons to start aquaculture projects were to generate income, for household consumption, easy to rear and not prone to major diseases and as a way of improving livelihoods. Fish also serve as a source of protein to the family. Most of the respondents did not sell the fish the reason being that the stocks were threatened by poaching and due to premature harvests due to the persistent droughts experienced in the province with others arguing that there is no ready market for fish. One third of the respondents sold fingerlings and adult fish mainly to the local community at an average price of USD2.50/kg.

Table 2: Association between fish production and stated variables



Chi-square value

p value





Marital status




Educational status




Farmer training




Fish farming experience




Conflict resolution




Fingerling production




Table 2 shows that there is a significant relationship between education status and fish production. The education level of respondents, therefore, influences the level of fish production. There is also an association between experience in fish farming and the level of fish production. Marital status, gender and farmer training have no association with the production level of fish. It also shows that there is no association between fish production and conflict management. There was a positive association between fingerling production and fish production.

Figure 1. Major challenges encountered by smallholder fish farmers

Of the major challenges encountered by farmers in aquaculture production. 23.5% of the respondents considered poaching as the major challenge encountered by fish farmers in Chivi. After poaching, stunted fish growth and water scarcity were other major challenges 

Inadequate capital resource

Of the total respondents, 16% have mentioned that they have inadequate capital resources to enhance the productivity of aquaculture projects. Although they have received support from Non Governmental Organisation such as Aquaculture Zimbabwe, 14.8% of the respondents indicated that the level of support received was insufficient.

Production levels

Table 3: Mean mass of fish and fingerlings disposed over the last 12 months


Harvested (kg)

Sales (kg)

Adult fish






Of the total fish harvested, most was consumed locally. The average harvest of 99.2 kg obtained from an average pond size of 1000m2 is below the expected yearly yield of 1.8-2 tonnes for a pond size of 1000m2 (Tokrishna 2000). Poor production levels were maybe as a result of too high stocking densities. The mean number of fingerlings stocked was 14 per square meter which is way above the recommended stocking density of 8-10 fingerlings per square meter. One third of the respondents also indicated that they feed ponds with kitchen wastes of which the nutritive value was not known.

Figure 2. Major causes of project failures

Water shortage was ranked to be the major cause of project failures in the district (Figure 2), followed by lack of capital inputs such as feeds . The water sources which were once perennial are now seasonal due to excessive siltation as well as persistent droughts experienced in the area. Where there are perennial water sources, there are conflicts on water use between different water users such as crop irrigators within the communities. Although most of the respondents provide security at the project sites, one third indicated that the security provided is ineffective thereby causing high risks of theft.

Availability of extension services

Most of the farmers received extension and technical advisory service on fish production. However, many did not receive any technical literature or information from extension staff and they stated that they usually refer to NGOs or other farmers from other project sites. There is need, therefore, to build the capacity of extension staff towards fish farming. The extension staff presently is trained generally on livestock production rather than specifically on aquaculture production.

Fish health

Only 0.02% of the respondents have encountered disease incidences in the area but the diseases were not identified.

Availability of land for future expansion of the project

Two thirds of the respondents indicated that they had adequate land for future expansion of aquaculture projects. However, many do not have land due to the restrictive nature of the communal land tenure system. Those who have land may have been allocated the land for pond construction but might have failed to excavate all the ponds pegged at the site due to labor constraints.

Future membership

Of the non-participating members interviewed half of then showed willingness to join aquaculture projects if given the chance.


Demographics and socio-economic characteristics of respondents

The age profiles of the respondents show that generally there were more elderly people than the young in the area. This could be because most of the youngsters provide migrant labour in neighboring countries such as South Africa. As a result most of these projects are run by the elderly who cannot meet the physical challenges and demands of pond excavations, construction of canals or even provision of security. This has affected the projects in terms of labour input; for example, at Nyamakwe Irrigation in ward 16, five fish ponds of 1000m2 were pegged and only two have been excavated. Failure to excavate the expected number of fish ponds may also be due to competing responsibilities of farmers, for example, the same farmers who should excavate ponds are the ones who should look after his/ her livestock and also be involved in crop production which is also labour intensive. This is contrary to the findings of Mandima (2009) who carried out a similar research in Mutasa district where it was observed that fish farming projects were adopted because availability of labour was envisaged.

Major constraints in fish farming

The major challenges encountered by smallholder fish farmers include poaching, water shortage, stunted fish growth, predators and feed shortage. This concurs with Coche (2008) who identified the major constraints, such as limited water availability; high cost of commercial fish feeds; slow growth of local tilapia species; prevalent illegal fishing in small reservoirs and poaching in fish ponds; fragmented fisheries administration and limited Government funds for research and extension support.. Research institutions in aquaculture research are weak and their resources are very limited (FAO 2011). Budgetary trends show that the government focuses more on supporting the production of food crops such as maize and wheat, with little allocation to livestock production.

Feed shortage

Commercial fish feeds are generally very expensive (USD 0.8/kg) and they are poorly distributed within the country. As such, they are only available in large cities. In addition to being expensive, the rural farmers will have to pay out additional transport costs to deliver the feeds to the farm gate. However, there are locally available fish feed alternatives such as brewers grains, kitchen wastes and livestock manure. Their erratic supply and insufficient quantities versus the demand make them unreliable to feed fish in ponds. All respondents indicated that they cannot afford to purchase commercial fish feeds. Shakouri (2003) also highlighted that the manufacturing of specialized fish feed was very limited due to minimum production of fish feed ingredients such as maize and soya bean and therefore, there was need to enhance the production of these raw materials. Gifty et al (2012) also suggested that the problem rather appears to be high input cost, specifically, feed cost due to the importance of feed in the relatively intensive system of tilapia pond culture. This result corroborates the opinion of Blow and Leonard (2007) who suggested that the availability of high-quality locally produced feeds at competitive prices in sub-Saharan Africa was a constraint in pond aquaculture.

Stock theft

Although most of the respondents ascertained that they provide overnight security at their fish farming project sites, one third of them have confirmed that the security provided was not effective. There were reported cases of fish theft in the area with the thieves using seine nets to wipe out all the fish including fingerlings. This proves that the security systems put in place are generally not effective. There is therefore need by the farmers to send their members for basic security services from leading security companies or to encourage them to join the local police force in voluntary capacity to enable them to have arresting powers..The communities would need to collaboratively determine measures for pond security with the most optimal management of time in order to enhance fish production in the area.

Water shortage

Among other constraints identified as causes of project failure of some fish farming projects and as threat to surviving projects, water shortage was ranked as the predominant factor. There are plenty of silted dams in the area which can be recomissioned to increase their water holding capacity. The government needs to resuscitate silted dams and construct medium sized reservoirs. The potential use of water from underground water sources is an effective way of enhancing water availability in aquaculture projects ; however, there is additional cost associated with pumping underground water.

Opportunities that can be exploited

Availability of ground water

Although there are persistent droughts experienced in the country, Zimbabwe has favourable climatic conditions with water area spanning over 3910 km2 (Aquaculture Zimbabwe 2011). There is available ground water in the district from rivers and small reservoirs; however, some of these small reservoirs require sand abstraction to mitigate water shortages.

Availability of non conventional feeds

Although almost all of the respondents have indicated that they cannot afford to purchase commercial feeds, there is an opportunity for non conventional feeds such as kitchen wastes, livestock manure, crushed maize and brewers’ grains that can be utilized as fish feed. There are government institutions in the district such as hospitals and boarding schools where kitchen wastes can be obtained provided there is transport. However, there is need to carry out extensive research on the nutritive value of these feeds.

Availability of breeding ponds and production ponds

Restocking the fish ponds after each harvest becomes easier due to the availability of brood stock in the district. Most of the fish ponds are located in irrigation schemes and most of these irrigation schemes have electricity which enables pumping of water from the water source.

Fish health management

Diseases were not noted to be a common occurrence in the study area. However, the greater challenge was the loss of fish through predators like fish eating birds (e.g. kingfishers); frogs and reptiles and people.


From the survey, it appears that the farmers are not facing market challenges. The market for fish is available and buyers are willing to buy fish. The local demand for fish outstrips supply in the area and on average a kilogram of fish is selling at USD 2.50. Most of the fish ponds are located within a radius of 2-5km from the main tarred road which enables fish to be quickly transported and sold to markets outside the District.


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Received 11 December 2014; Accepted 23 January 2015; Published 4 February 2015

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