INTRODUCTION: The Chinese proverb ‘if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, but if you teach him to fish you give him food for life’ clearly emphasizes the importance of fish production in any area as long as people live there. Production of fish in Zangon Kataf Local government area has been based mainly on production from nature, that is the rivers and streams in the area. The way of life of the people of any area and their feeding habits have impact on fish production in the area.
Most of the settlers are peasant farmers who have however very little interest in fishing since they did not inherit from their fathers as some of them argue. Fish indeed serves as a cheap source of protein for the people, the adoption of aquaculture as a means of increasing its production is not common rather they depend to a large on imported frozen fish. A quick look at fish selling points in the area particularly in the local markets attest to this fact. Statistics by the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations (F.A.O) indicates that fish demand in Nigeria has been on the increase since 1990 to date. There is therefore the need for increased fish production to meet up with population growth and higher demand for fish. The findings reveal that being tropical, Nigeria has virtually uninterrupted year round environmental conditions for uninterrupted growth of fish and other aquatic organisms.
Water temperatures are optimum, annual rainfall is adequate to optimum in more than 95% of the land area water availability is optimum to suitable. Other relevant factors essential in fish production identified, are the slope of the land, the texture of the soil and even socio – economic factors such as availability of inputs and a ready market that are optimum. Zangon Kataf falls under the geographical area known as the north central or middle belt having all the factors mentioned above. Rainfall is the main source of water supply to the rivers and streams running across from one settlement to the other.Fish species commonly captured from the wild are that of Clarias, Tilapia, Alestes, Synodontis and occasionally Malapterurus electricus. These are known to be acceptable to the consumers. As earlier stated, F.A.O statistics shows that there is a growing demand for fish each year in Nigeria, central bank statistics shows that local production is not adequate.
It is therefore, very important that complementary fish production be adopted or be improved upon to meet up with the present challenges. Prospects for fish culture abound in Zangon Kataf L.G.A. There are suitable sites such as the stream beds in the area, the flat / gentle land or sloppy land of the area around the rivers and clay soil farmlands which are presently being used for farming crops in the area, other essential factors have been stated earlier in this paper. Seasonal ponds can be constructed at the stream beds and clay soil farmlands which become water logged during the rainy season, while all year round ponds are made close to the rivers to ensure water supply. Due to the poor economic power of most of the natives, constructing earthen ponds will be a much cheaper practice than building concrete/ plastic ponds as it is the case in most small scale fish farms in the country.
Fish culture practices are usually the same worldwide, the farmer freely decides or selects on which to adopt based on the situation around him / her. The farmers in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area can successfully practice monoculture in which only one species is cultured. The species mostly preferred by the consumer is Clarias because of its flesh and taste. So the farmer stands to gain a lot financially when he/ she decides to culture this species. With much enlightenment farmers can engage in polyculture.
With increased demand for food, integrated farming is a step in the right direction. It ensures maximum utilization of available limited resources thereby reducing wastage. It also makes food available all year round while also making the farmer self reliant. The vast clayey water logged farms may be dug into ponds particularly during the rainy season to farm fish and rice [fish cum rice]. Both products can then be harvested at the same time, that is when the rice is Harvested. One form of integrated farming that will be viable in Zangon Kataf area fish cum- pig Farming. Zangon Kataf LGA falls in the middle belt and pig farming is in deed very common. Pig is a highly prolific animal and its combination with fish increases economic efficiency, also its ecological efficacy as wastes, residues and left over from the kitchen, aquatic plants are often used as food. Its wastes can be used as fertilizers and as source of food.
There are problems that have hampered the production of fish in Zangon Kataf local government area both from the wild and fish culture. The seeming lack of interest of the settlers of the area has been a major set back. Most of the farmers will rather engage in crop production than in fish. In a situation where their fore fathers did not pass on fishing as an occupation or hobby to their children, it is difficult for the people to create interest in this sector. That is not to say that they do not eat fish but most of the fish supplied is imported, the over – dependence on this fish imports has its attendant problems. It makes the people more reluctant to involve themselves in any form of fish production not to mention the loss in nutritional value of the imported products.
The capture of fish from the major rivers in the area is dominated by migrant fishermen coming mostly from the neighboring towns of Kano state. These fishermen have established settlements close to the fishing sites and come mainly during the dry season, that is the “of farming periods between the months of December to April they move back to their homes when the rains set in to farm crops. However fish production is still low since the fishermen are few compared to the size of the river. Most of the fishing gears used are the aged – old gears they learned to use from their predecessors, these are the hook and line, fish traps made in form of baskets, calabash/ gourd and a few use cast nets, occasionally set lines are used. The quantity and size of fish captured is partly determined by these resulting in low productivity. The majority of the people in the area are rural dwellers generating low income mostly from the sale of farm products.
The cost of construction, obtaining seed and feed e.t.c is rather expensive for these farmers. The problem of security is also a major concern in this area. Most farms are not secured with fences or any other forms of security so poaching is a common occurrence which will be a great set back for any farmer that will engage in fish culture. The problem is further heightened for farmers that will not be able to farm close to their houses, since most farmlands are away from their homes. Another challenge for this sector is lack of awareness which seems to be the deciding factor for starting fish farms in the area. A lot of farmers lack basic information of fish culture which can arouse their interest to be involved. For some, inadequate information passed to them has killed their interest on such matters, information such as water for culture must be changed daily or every two days, concrete ponds must be built and the likes. The art of farming fish seems too demanding then and so some were discouraged.
Fish production in Zangon Kataf LGA has been low mainly due to under utilization of the water resources available in the area for such purpose. The water resources are used for other purposes such as irrigation, washing, bathing and the likes with little or no attention paid to fishing. The lack of interest in fishing as an occupation or hobby hampers fish production from the wild.The majority of the dwellers are living under the poverty line, this is common to most of the over one hundred and forty million Nigerians. They are confronted with the problems of meeting their basic needs of food, adequate shelter, clothing, minimum nutritional requirements and of course health.
The increasing demand for food, fish inclusive due to increase in population places a demand on the dwellers to improve the sector. The adoption of low input extensive fish cultures particularly integrating fish and livestock systems will greatly help the resource poor farmers. This will provide the protein requirements of the people while increasing their marginal profits for a better standard of living. -Fish farmers should form groups that can access financial grants from government or other financial institutions.
Such collective efforts can also be adopted by small communities who now use this funds to culture fish or be used to -purchase or manufacture fishing boats and other fishing gears that can be used by the farmers/ fishermen even if it will be on loan basis. Agricultural extension workers and all persons concerned should engage in extensive enlightenment on the benefits of fishing and fish both from the wild and fish cultures. This will go a long way in arousing the peoples interest in the sector. These extension workers will be in a good position to correct the suspicions on fisheries generally.