Catfish farming is a branch of agriculture that is grouped under aquaculture. It is the manipulation of freshwater body to achieve desired result in raising catfish species to a marketable size.
Catfish farming began in Nigeria in the 20th century with the establishment of a catfish farm at the experimental station in Panyam Jos, a state in North Central Nigeria. The influence of this branch of agriculture grew to prominence in the 90s due to certain factors:
- It can survive harsh climatic and water conditions
- It can be cultivated in almost every part of the country (Nigeria)
- It is widely acceptable by Nigerians
- And it can be processed either for domestic or export use
Sequel to this, commercial catfish farming began to grow and develop at an exponential rate in some geopolitical zones, mainly South-West, North-Central and some parts of South-South Nigeria. Cities like Kaduna, Ilorin, Jos, Ibadan, Ijebu-Ode, Epe and Ikorodu are well-known for catfish farming. However, there is more to catfish farming in Nigeria than what we presently harnessed. Below are the prospects of catfish farming in Nigeria:
It Can Reduce Deficit in Food Supply
The need for aquatic products, most especially fish, is growing daily as our population constantly increases. Elementary agriculture teaches that catfish lives in freshwater which abound in Nigeria. This means catfish can be cultured throughout the country to reduce deficit in proteinous food supply. Nationwide culture of catfish will make the product available throughout the country and also in neighboring West African states.
It Can Help Nigeria to Earn More Foreign Exchange
One of the ways to reduce our annual deficit in balance of payment is to increase our export over import. This can only be made possible if all hands will be on deck to increase our capacity in the area where we have comparative advantages over other competing nations. Due to abundant availability of freshwater resources all over the country, Nigerian catfish farmers can produce more than enough catfishes for domestic consumption if the freshwater bodies are adequately harnessed. The excess production can be exported to earn foreign exchange and to balance our annual deficit in our trade with other countries.
It Can Generate More Jobs
Multiplier effect of growth in catfish farming can enhance job creation in Nigeria. Development of catfish farming will support the growth of certain ancillary industries and organizations like construction industry, transportation industry, processing industry, education and research institutions. Each of these ancillary sectors can create millions of jobs for the unemployed population in the country. For instance, catfish feed can be grown locally. Example of some of the catfish feed ingredients that can be grown locally include maize, groundnut, cassava and soya meal. The mentioned ingredients form the bulk of catfish feed. Need for some of these farm produce will enhance the development of crop farming whereby jobs are provided for people in that aspect of the economy. Job generation mentioned here is not limited to crop farming alone; it will also boost the construction industry whereby able-bodied youths will be needed to provide labor for the growing industry.
Education and research institutions will also be promoted in that more students will be admitted yearly to study courses like aquaculture, water resources management, food science, business administration, international marketing among others.
Stimulate Industrial Development
Abundant production of catfish will surely stimulate the growth of industry in Nigeria. It has been observed that no country can attain economic sufficiency without the growth of its industrial sector. Mass production of catfish in Nigeria will steer the growth of processing industry like canning and drying industry, feed mill industry, fish oil factories as well as hide and skin processing factories. According to experts, fisheries in Nigeria have great potential but are poorly managed, thus contributing little or nothing to the economy. Nigeria as a country can take a clue from Vietnam, one of the leading producers of catfish in the world today.
Improve Standard of Living
One of the advantages of catfish farming over other aspects of aquaculture is that it can be done on a part-time basis. It is not uncommon to see catfish farmers involved in other businesses either in public or private sector, thereby increasing the stream of income for the practitioners. Increased income will lead to higher standard of living and wealth creation. Wealth creation will lead to more job creation.
Reduce Dependency on Crude Oil Resources
Recent crash in the price of oil in the world market is a big lesson to a country like Nigeria that depends so much on exportation of crude oil for its economic prosperity. As a matter of fact it has been speculated that oil price will go down further to about $20 per barrel, which could mean a lot to the Nigerian economy. Diversification of Nigerian economy, especially in the area of aquaculture will reduce our dependence on oil products. More consumers of Nigerian oil resources are now discovering oil in their own territories, leading to reduction in demand for our oil. A good implementation of catfish development plan will enhance economic stability in the country.
Reduce Social Vices
As mentioned earlier, the multiplier effect of catfish farming development will lead to creation of millions of jobs for the youthful population who are known for societal vices especially in the absence of gainful employment, bearing in mind that an idle hand is the devil’s workshop. Widely spread vices throughout the geopolitical zones of the country are as a result of unemployment. The intensity of these vices depend on the rate of unemployment in each region; for instance North-East is worst hit by high rate of unemployment, little wonder that the region has a higher percentage of terrorism compared to other regions in the nation.
A government that wants to govern successfully will not neglect this aspect of the economy which promises prosperity and peace for the nation. A well-implemented catfish development plan will do this nation a great benefit. It is high time we looked ahead and saved our dear nation from economic messes we are in. Long live federal republic of Nigeria.