By Our Reporter
The 4th edition of the Jinja Fish Festival that took place last Sunday at Kingfisher Resort, Jinja was a massive success bringing together people from all walks of life.
Revellers included fishermen, holiday makers, slay queens from Kampala and Jinja, tourists, families, fish lovers, policy makers and other stakeholders along the fish value chain.
The event was organized with funding from Germany Federal Development through their Responsible Fisheries Business Chains Project based in Jinja under the theme; “Celebrating Sustainable Fisheries.”
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There was a showcase of the different fish species that Uganda is endowed with, with fish exhibitions of different species from L.victoria, Kioga and Albert.
Restaurants from Kampala and Jinja showcased their Cooking skills with exciting fish menus ranging from Andhra Fish Fry, Indian fish menu, roasted fish, steamed fish, deep fried fish, fish fillets, fish kikalayi, to local fisherman’s fish menu of Kibelo and modo modo that gave revellers a variety to choose from.
There was knowledge exchange and business opportunities available through various exhibitions that included back yard fish farming ( Aquaponics), recycling/cutting glass bottles into useful household items like lamp shades, candle holders, beer and water glasses, ear rings, chimes among others.
Recycled Plastic Waste products and items that included, plastic bottle lights, table mats made out of bottle tops, art pieces, cooking briquettes made out of waste, fishing gears, fish feeds, fish by products like Mukene porridge, samosas, cakes, Nile perch oil and more were some of the items that excited revellers.
Music performances from one of the leading artists in Uganda Dr. Jose Chameleon, Sakata band, a leading band in Jinja, Sandra Sanja kept party goers on their feet. Kids play area and boat rides gave revellers value for their money.
“Jinja Fish Festival is not only a lifestyle food event but it’s also a good platform where people come to learn, network, party and end the year in style as we celebrate sustainable fisheries, through all the performances and exhibitions, we encourage people to eat more fish, stop Plastic Pollution, care for the water and environment so as to conserve the fish resource,” said Bakora Moses Mujuni, a GIz consultant and part of the organizing team for the festival.
Also during the festival, Uganda fish exporters
appealed to the government of Uganda to sign a pending trade protocol with Chinese administration to enable them fully access Beijing market with less limitations.
The Chinese government last month said it had waived all tariffs by 98 percent of imports from 10 least developed countries including Uganda.
Mr. William Tibyasa Mwesigye, the program officer at Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association (UFPEA) says that if the pending trade protocol which was drafted more than two years ago is signed by both countries, Ugandan traders will be able to export fish products without facing challenges that other competing countries are going through.
“Those benefits which have been offered to us [by China] will not be maximumly exploited if we do not sign that trade protocol,” Mr. Mwesigye said during a GIZ founded fish festival hosted in Jinja on weekend.
“I implore our government to fast track the signing of that protocol, such that we can harness the Chinese market and have its people enjoy the benefits of the quality products from Uganda,” Mwesigye added.
In 2020, Uganda exported $64.9M in Fish products making it the 38th largest exporter of Fish Fillets in the world.
In the same year, Fish Fillets was the 8th most exported product in Uganda.
The main destinations of Fish exports from Uganda are the European Union, Middle East, some parts of Asia, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
This means Uganda exports up to 70 percent of her fish products to European Union.
Onboarding the Chinese market, will see Uganda earn more than USD1 billion annually, according to Mr. Mwesigye.
The trade volume between the two countries in 2021 amounted to 1.07 billion U.S. dollars, registering a 28.5 percent increase, against the shock waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Mwesigye said that UFPEA, the umbrella organization that brings together all industrial fish processors in Uganda is among the entities that are benefiting from GIZ sustainable fisheries projects.
He says the association has received financial and capacity building support and that this has equipped them with skills to meet both acceptable local and international fish protocols.
“Today, there is no single fisherman who supplies our factories that engages in fishing illegalities. So the factories are not buying any fish that is below the size of 50 centimetres and we are trying so hard to ensure that we promote sustainability through responsible fisheries,” Mwesigye said.
He says they receive technical and financial support to ensure that they undertake self monitoring with their factories.
“We provide information materials to our fishermen and training to ensure that we sustain the fisheries resources and this will ensure that the fishermen and everybody that’s involved in the supply chain gains from the benefits.”
Funded by GIZ, the weekend festival that was hosted at Kingfisher Resort Hotel at the shores of Lake Victoria, attracted researchers and experts from government organizations like National Fisheries Research Institute and private sector players who sensitized participants on acceptable fishing methods and how best to improve on their aquaculture practices.
Ashraf Kamya, a research scientist with the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI) said fish is a healthy protein meat contributor to all people irrespective of their age groups.
He appealed to lake users to strive to protect fish breeding areas within the large water bodies, which can lead to production of high quantities of fish for both local consumption and export.
Mr. Kamya said most fish species in Ugandan fresh water bodies face extinction by mostly the man driven activities on the lakes.
“How does fish survive? Fish has something that it feeds on. It feeds on other components. How do these components come into the water so that fish can feed on them? There are a lot of developments ranging from hydro generation, domestic extraction of water, transport and then pollution that are causing the disappearance of these organisms in the ecosystem that fish depend on” Mr. Kamya said.
He said there’s a need to develop a more ecosystem based approach on fish and biodiversity conservation within the lakes.
Stephen Mlote, deputy Secretary General for Planning and Infrastructure of the East African Community said the fisheries and aquaculture subsector is still constrained with challenges ranging from illegal fishing, poor quality fish feed and fingerlings, to limited investments among others.
“Let us all of us fight these vices,” he said.
Mlote pledged on behalf of EAC to join the respective governments to support the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization which is the regional specialized institution on matters related to fisheries and aquaculture.
This, he said, would spur sustainable fisheries.
He commended GIZ for supporting such a creative platform where innovations and ideas on sustainable management are shared, and for recognizing the role of small-scale fishers and fish farmers.
The other groups that participated include LVFO, Directorate of Fisheries Resources, NAFIRRI, Federation of Fisheries Organizations Uganda, Katosi Women Development Trust, and Uganda Fisheries and Fish Conservation Association.
The Association of Fishers and Lake Users of Uganda (AFALU), Source of the Nile Fish Farm also participated.