This rapid adoption of aquaculture, however, poses a dilenma.The increasing number of fish farmers in the province and the changes in the structure of the public sector raise the question of whether the public sector will be able to provide adequate information to these farmers
The introduction of fish farming is one thing, but ensuring fish ponds are properly managed and farmers receiving satisfactory benefits is more complex. Management of ponds depends on the local farming system; what inputs are available, can they be used as pond inputs, how much is available and when? Answers to these questions are not the same for all farmers and cannot be captured in one simple extension message.
The official extension services are of course not the only source of information for farmers. Farmers also exchange information between themselves. This information exchange may be much more important than the official channels for improving the management of the ponds.
During the month of March, ALCOM carried out a study in Eastern Province with the aim of determining the importance of various information sources. The study identified where farmers get information, what kind of information is provided through these channels and the quality of this information. The full results of the studyto be available in the near future, will be used to streamline further extension activities.
In this area two years ago, ALCOM introduced fish farming. in this area. Now sixteen farmers have operating fish ponds, and this number is growing rapidly. Since land is valuable, ponds have to compete with vegetable gardens for available resources, and it is increasingly important that they are properly managed and producing profitable crops of fish.
The fish ponds in Mgeta are located close to the farmers' houses. Most farmers also keep animals, especially pigs, in enclosures near their homes. Animal and vegetable by-products, available at the homestead, ensure inputs are close to the pond site and accessible to the fish.
Fish growth is good in most ponds, with some individuals reaching over 200 grams in six months. These promising first harvests have encouraged fish farmers to expand their fish culture operations and motivated other to start.
Fingerlings are being sold by private farmers. This has eliminated a major obstacle for farmers to start: the unavailability of fish s eed experienced in many other areas. The fish farmers in Mgeta have organized themselves in fish farmers groups which meet once per month. Ideas and experiences are exchanged during these meetings. The ALCOM staff use these meetings as a forum to discuss aquacultural issues.
Fish farming is now expanding rapidly in the area. The fact that two thirteen-year- old boys have constructed their own fish ponds gives reason to believe that fish farming has a future in Mgeta and that it attracks members of all segments of the local society.