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Village fish project nets jobs

Written by Albert Pule
It’s a fishy business that is bringing sweet success to members of the Phetwane Aquaculture Scheme in the dusty village of Phetwane, south of Polokwane.

The cooperative produces tons of fresh fish every week, which they sell to markets and communities and have created jobs for the locals in the process.

“We supply the Goseame Open Market with seven tons of fresh fish per week,” said the cooperative’s chairperson Philip Magane.

The cooperative employs six people full-time and 101 on a seasonal basis.

The Phetwane Aquaculture Scheme started after farmers pooled their resources in 2010 to start a fish farming scheme for the entire village.

The cooperative started off with just two ponds and a handful of fish. After a number of attempts to get more land to build additional ponds, the cooperative finally got 48 hectares from Chief Mokgoma Matlala of the Mohlalaoane village.

There are four ponds each carrying 98 000 fish, which means 392 000 fish are produced every three months. The cooperative farms three different types of fish - catfish, carp and tilapia.

According to Magane, the journey has been filled with challenges. Faced with a lack of equipment, packaging home, slaughter house, financial muscle and the necessary skills to farm fish, the road to success seemed far off.

The cooperative then approached the Department of Agriculture for funding and received R2 million, which was used to buy the necessary equipment.

Magane said there was a big demand for the fish they produced. “Neighbouring villages queue at the small packaging house when it’s time for harvest,” he said.

The cooperative also has a partnership with Tompi Seleka College of Agriculture, which sees lecturers giving members of the cooperative lesson in fish breeding, fish feeding, identifying diseases in fish and growing fish.

“We’ve got a good relationship with the college and they offer refresher courses to our members,” he said.