Fish farming booms in S Afghan province

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Xinhua) – The Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock has been supporting local farmers in southern province of Kandahar in raising fish to cater to the growing food demand in Afghan markets.

Aquaculture is a source of income, through which, farmers raise fish in enclosures – an artificial environment or the fastest growing area – to sell fish as food.

“Local farmers welcome government’s support for building fish farms in Kandahar. Afghanistan has no sea but raising fish in standard farms could respond to the fish demand in local markets,” Chief of a local fish farm Afghan Fish Company Fazl Ahmad told Xinhua.

In Afghanistan, there are various commonly farmed species, with the most famous salmon and halibut being raised in natural water-bodies or concrete enclosures of land.

Several thousand tonnes of fish are now being produced in Kandahar province, providing a high income of up to USD9.5 million annually. In Balkh, Herat and some other provinces of the country, tens of fish farms have also been built and utilised in recent years.

The provincial Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Department has helped farmers complete the construction of up to 1,560 fish farms, producing 1,500 tonnes each month in Kandahar province which was once the main hotbed of Taleban, according to Mohammadullah Noori, the Promotion Manager for the department.

Over 3,500 people directly and 4,000 others indirectly are involved in the farms, producing and selling fish meats to the neighbouring provinces such as Helmand, Farah, Ghazni, Nangarhar as well as the capital Kabul, beside inside Kandahar province, Noori said.

“The fish farms have been built under a complete plan, and the provincial Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Department has first built the Afghan Fish Company, with operational agencies in five provinces of the country,” Noori added.

The lowest farm capacity is half of an acre while the highest one reaches to 73 acres area, with up to AFN150,000 (some USD1,900) spent to bring up each acre’s fishes, according to the official.

Ahmad said insecurity was a challenge to the fish farming, although he was pleased with having 70 per cent increase in fish production in the past 10 years.

According to him, the climate of Kandahar province is suitable for fish farming and the Ministry of Agriculture has planned to expand aquaculture everywhere in the province.

The Afghan government has taken measures to invest in agricultural sector to further create job opportunities for people and to boost economy in the land-locked central Asian country.

A three-decade war had a devastating impact on Afghanistan’s agriculture on which over 80 per cent of the country’s population relies.