Following the keynote address presented to the Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FISON), in Awka, the Anambra State capital penultimate week, stakeholders, brainstormed on the possibilities of setting up the first Fisheries University in Nigeria.
According to the keynote speaker, Professor Oyedapo Adewale Fagbenro of the Department of Fisheries and Aqcultural Technology, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria’s aquaculture production from 2000 made significant contribution to fish supply. Nigeria’s population of about 170million caused a high demand for fish, which has positioned it on a much stronger market-driven path, resulting in increased commercial production. Aquaculture production has shown a remarkable 20% increase in growth per annum for the past eight years (2005-2013) mainly in small to medium enterprise and a few large- scale intensively managed catfish farms. Consequently, the country today has one of the most significant and strongly growing aquaculture (mainly catfish and Tilapia) sectors in Sub-Saharan Africa and the market has been a key factor in driving growth.
It must be pointed out that the commercial aquaculture industry exclusively depends on compounded feeds. As a result, there has been a rapid increase in the number of fish feedmills in Nigeria which are either owned privately 70% or owned by community based cooperative societies/associations (20.3%) and government/public parastatals (8.7%)
Professor Fagbenro stated that as at 2015, both intensive and semi-intensive systems which involve input of supplementary and complete feeds (accounting for up to 40% to 60% of production costs respectively) have produced 630,000 tons of fish species based mainly on Tilapia and Clariid catfishes using farm mad and commercial pelleted feeds.
Fagbenro said the role of the public sector remains minimal although some government in sub- Saharan Africa are willing to make an effort to encourage commercial aquaculture for fish production in rural communities. But, this is rarely a priority, while citing poor record keeping, absence of institutional credit facilities, non –governmental research support, poor pond management, farm integration , and lack of quality fish seeds as some of the limiting factors against Aquaculture in Nigeria. Others include absence or no-market, poor farm settings ,and poor farm and facility design, poor business plan lack of technical expertise, employment of unqualified staff, absentee owners, lack of managerial skill, all of which cause of failures in the agriculture sector in Nigeria.
He postulated that instead of Nigeria importing over half a million metric tons of frozen fish valued at one billion US dollars annually, (making the country the largest importer of frozen fish in Africa), Nigeria can substitute with domestic production to create jobs, and reduce poverty levels in rural areas where 70% of the population live, and ease the balance of payments on forex.
The erudite scholar further argued that Nigeria can actually save the huge amount of money spent on importation annually and invest same in Aquacullture.
Earlier, in her welcome address, the chairperson of the local organizing committee of FISON-ANAMBRA 2017, Prof Lucy A. Nwuba said that this year’s, conference keynote address, “Aquapreneurship in Nigeria: Lessons for Africa Aquaculture” is a topic that requires an Aquaculturist with knowledge of new partnership for Africa development (NEPAD) whose current moves is on policy framework and reform strategy for fisheries and aquaculture in Africa, giving that Nigeria is enormously blessed with the potentials to produce fishes of diverse species.
Professor Nwuba noted that these would yield a variety of benefits which include, livelihood, nutritional and food security, employment, export and increased foreign currency as well as conservation of biodiversity value of global significance.
In his own paper, Pesident of FISON, Dr Olajide Ayinla, spoke on “Harnessing the fisheries and Aquaculture value chain for economic transformation in Nigeria”, which happens to be the 2017 conference theme. He pin-pointed the challenges or constraints in Nigeria’s fisheries and Aquaculture industry to include, absence of social infrastructure in rural communities, finance and credit issues in fisheries and Aquaculture development, poor incentive and scarcity of major inputs at economic prices, poor ommunication and information sharing, especially on new technologies and adaptations, to weak marketing system of small scale subsector and environmental sustainability challenges.
Dr Ayinla said defective and unreliable national data on fisheries and aquaculture production, absence of reliable developmental plan for short term, medium and long term with input of stakeholders in fisheries and aquaculture industry, absence of an in-country research agenda that is responsive to the needs of fisheries and aquaculture sub sector are some of the issues to be considered by stakeholders.
He recommended strategies for improving fisheries and aquaculture value chain in Nigeria to include increasing the number of appropriate skilled workers to be trained for employment at all levels of fisheries and aquaculture business value chain, direct training for existing fisheries and aquaculture operators, dissemination of appropriate guidelines and regulations among stakeholders, formulation, training and operation of fisheries and aquaculture resource committees, participation of private sector in fish meal production with identified public sector i.e. NIOMR , among others.
The two lead discussants of Professor, Fagbenro’s paper Dr G.R. Akande of the Nigeria Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research, Lagos and Professor Suleiman Sadiku of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, both agreed that training in fisheries and aquaculture subsector is key, and that a program to catch them young is already in place with the successful introduction of fisheries and Aquaculture into secondary school’s curriculum, and that it is very important for the government to setup the Fisheries University in Nigeria .
High point of the five day conference was the conferment of awards to deserving members of FISON. Those honoured are Professor Adebisi Balogun (Distinguished Fellow 2015/2016) and Dr. Adegoke Agbabiaka (Most Outstanding Council Member 2015/2016).
Mrs Adedapo Okeowo, bagged long service award for 23years of dedicated service to FISON while Dr Charity Oche was honoured with long service award for 15yrs of meritorious service to the society.
In a communique issued after the conference, FISON resolved that harnessing the fisheries and aquaculture value chain is the panacea for Nigeria’s developing economy and as such called on both the Federal and State Governments to provide the enabling environment, infrastructure (power, good roads, access to single digit interest rate credit facilities, etc) in order to enhance the growth and development of the fisheries and aquaculture operations.
The society further urged the Federal and State Governments to fast track efforts to get the country certified for export of her capture fisheries and aquaculture products to enable investors have access to foreign market for the requisite foreign exchange earnings.