May 2024 1st edition

Fish farmer swims upstream thanks to government funding

Written by Gabisile Ngcobo

Kenalemang Thekiso is thrilled to have received funding from the government to expand his aquaculture project.

The North West Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (NWDARD) armed Thekiso Aquaculture Project with R1.6 million worth of equipment  that boasts seven ponds, a state-of-the-art solar system, and feed to cultivate Nile tilapia fish.

The fish operation is run on a 1 000-hectare community property association land.

The entrepreneur started his business in 2018 with a few tilapia fingerlings believes that the government grant will take his project to new heights.

Thekiso discovered his love for farming fish in 2017 when he rescued fish that were in a dam with muddy water.

“I grabbed all of them and I put them in a duck dam and I gave them bread. I started breeding and selling them for R80 each and I think I made about R9 000. I have never looked back.”

Thekiso began applying for government funding to kick-start his business. He was initially sponsored with two tunnels where he planted vegetables and two ponds. 

“I started with just 2 000 [tilapia] fingerlings and they survived and grew. It takes about six months for them to be fully matured and then you can start harvesting,” he told Vuk’uzenzele.

The Klipgat-based project used to grow their tilapia from two small ponds, which they still use to supply locals with the fish.

Thanks to the support that he received from the NWDARD, he now plans to sell the 8 000 tilapia to large retailers once they are at a harvestable size.

Managing the fish market

“The fish market is not too difficult to manage. The fish cannot be stolen and do not require much food. The most important thing is to make sure they have enough clean water for backwashing. Once the water becomes dirty, you must add fresh water and that's all you need to do.”

As a cattle farmer as well, Thekiso has been a victim of stock theft and has watched his herd dwindle from 50 to 25.

“I’ve lost a lot of money and that's why I decided to concentrate on fish and it has been a good business so far. I am so happy with the government’s support and it shows that they care for their people and farmers.”

He plans to utilise nutrient-rich aquaculture water to grow crops, as part of the second phase of introducing aquaponics on his farm.

The farmer, who currently works with his wife and younger sister, is hoping to hire two more employees that are permanent.

His ambition is to expand his business, make a profit, employ more workers, supply the local market, and export his fish.

“It is very rare to find people who harvest fish where we come from, it is mostly in Cape Town. I can tell you one thing, people like and eat this fish. Even in Botswana and Namibia. It is very nice and affordable too.

"It's also about food security and that is the most important part,” he concluded.  ¥

The North West Department of Agriculture and, Rural Development can be contacted on 018 389 5724 or visit

For more information about Thekiso Aquaculture Project call: 072 517 0759.

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