The ripple effect in terms of job creation if the opportunities in the burrow pit turned lakes are harnessed will be very great. Apart from the prospects of sand dredging for the construction industry, its operation can lead to the use of boats. This means that some of our youths will have to learn how to repair and mange water vessels as well as supply their parts. Many more outlets to sell fish feed and allied products will spring up. More farmers will also go into managing hatcheries. Consultants in fisheries like the writer will also stand to benefit from this boom. The time to act is now. These burrow pit owners and people who live around flood areas now have an opportunity to go into flood water harvesting and aquaculture.
The Lake Nwaebere Basin of Imo State University Owerri if properly dredged and harnessed can prevent the perennial flooding as well as provide the fish need of Imo State. The basin during the peak of the rains overflows into IMSU Staff Primary School. This annual overflow is because the so called dredging of the basin has not been properly and professionally done. A dredging that does not evacuate the mud, sand and debris from the lake is an exercise in futility. Imo State University has continued to crawl under paucity of funds. Adversity and necessity should instigate her to innovate and not lament. The funds to properly dredge the lake might not be readily available, but since the Niger Delta Development Commission has built a hostel for the school around the Lake Nwaebere Basin, they can be encouraged or approached to fund the dredging of the lake. The option of private public partnership can be explored also. A dredged Lake Nwaebere can also provide options for hospitality and tourism. A well designed lake resort will in turn be a huge revenue earner. A school like IMSU is sitting on gold but for now, state allocation which is funded largely through Federal Allocation via petrol-dollars has blinded her. All the rain water from Akabo, through Orji and Works Layout filter into Lake Nwaebere which has been blocked by sand. The lake also has a commercial deposit of sharp sand and plastering sand. The dredging of the lake can also energize the university to do further research on fresh water farming and mechanization. This will in turn strengthen her Agricultural Departments to scale the hurdle of Nigeria University Commission accreditation. Unfortunately, prospects like this are hardly tapped, in the abundance of water says Bob Marley, the fool is thirsty!
One of the challenges of fish farming in this part of Nigeria is the high cost of fish feed. A bag of fish feed sells between four to five thousand Naira, depending on the brand. Catfish which is the commonly reared fish because of its easy adaptation to artificial pond, consumes feed high in protein. A feed that is high in protein however, is not just enough, it must also have the fish or meat aroma to lure fish to eat it. The high protein content of fish feed is largely responsible for the high cost of fish feed. This situation makes it look as if fishes are being killed to feed fish. This has been arrested through feed formulation with local cereals and other high proteinous non animal raw material. This still has not lowered the cost of feeding.
The truth still however remains that catfishes can be fed using locally sourced raw materials. A serious farmer who is passionate about this and understands the concept of balanced diet can formulate fish feed. The emergence of earthen ponds in the South East is welcome news. This is so because earthen ponds help to naturally clean the water caused by pollution resulting from use of local fish feeds which do not float or bind effectively. A combination of the locally formulated feeds with the conventional feed can be done. The first three or four months of rearing can be done with the conventional feed. Garri balls made with hot water that was steamed with crayfish dust or meat and blood meals from the slaughter houses is a very good feed for catfish. This combination can help boost the weight of the fish. That a feed does not float, does not mean the fishes will not eat them. Fishes will hardly resist garri balls that have been boosted with crayfish or meat aroma.
Farmers should learn to be patient in fish farming. Most farmers are in a hurry to stock fingerlings and sell them later as table size in four months. Fishes that are allowed to stay for twelve months are much bigger. The beauty of a fish is its large size. A large sized fish is usually irresistible to a buyer. Fishes cultured in artificial earthen pond feed less, grow quicker and are less resistant to diseases. The Government can help fish farmers by establishing fish farmers’ cluster farms. These farms if equipped with a market will also go a long way to encourage small scale farmers to engage in fish farming and as well as create a market where all the small scale harvest are pooled together to form a large cluster of harvest. An earthen pond of four feet deep and 1.5 meters width and length can accommodate between 50-60 fishes. And a combination of the Dutch Claries species and the Heterobranchus species was made possible in the pond by the author. The average weight of the fishes in the pond after one year was between six to eight kilograms. These fishes will sell at about two thousand five hundred Naira each. Therefore, anybody aspiring to be a fish farmer can actually start small and grow from there. Not all soils in the South East can retain water. The cost of constructing concrete tanks can be avoided by digging underground tanks which will be later plastered without using blocks. In a research carried out by the writer, an earthen pond which was not able to retain water was made to retain water after plastering the sides or walls of the pond and leaving the base unplastered. This is far cheaper. The water in such ponds does not need to be changed often.
The growth in human population can be a bad news to the environment if adequate laws are not made by the Government to stop the subsequent effect of environmental degradation and misuse of resources. Human growth fuels increased demand for raw materials. Almost all raw materials have a by-product that can be converted into other uses or recycled. Government cannot do everything, especially the establishment of industries. The onus however, lies on her to make the adequate laws, policies and build infrastructure that will stimulate investment while also protecting the environment.