From afar, the Sustainable Fish Farm Enterprise situated in Kaibar, a residential community outside the Barnersville Estate, seems difficult to tell whether it is a farm. One would assume that the plastic tanks filled with water are samples of failed pools experiment for kids.
But what is seen from afar as pools are exactly fish ponds built by Alfred K. Borbor, who holds an undergraduate degree in management. Alfred embarked on fish farming after failed attempts to secure a job in his field of specialization. The internet played a key part in his decision.
“I strived to get a job. So I asked myself, ‘what I can do to empower myself, instead of sending applications here and there?’ I started researching on the internet. I came across a couple of things and the one I found suitable for me was Fish Farming,” says Alfred.
“I found it very interesting to see a white man digging the earth; I began to consider the standard of living in Europe and that of Liberia. Obviously, there are more opportunities on that side of the world than here. So I asked myself, ‘what is stopping me from doing something like this; if a white man can do this why can’t I do the same?”
According to the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LIGIS), one in every three young people in the labor force is unemployed in the country. Half of young Liberians are working, but the quality of employment is often low, which does not allow the youth (and the country) to make the most of their economic potential. Youth unemployment and underemployment also represent a major cost to Liberian society in economic, political and societal terms, says LIGIS.
After his online discovery, Alfred, in 2019, embarked on an adventure to fight his way out of unemployment. He converted a portion of the six acres he owned into earthen ponds, where he began raising tilapia that he sourced from another fish farmer. But with insufficient information about fish farming out in the public, Alfred took advantage of the internet to school himself on the basis of fish farming.
Alfred has added 5 plastic ponds with 1000 capacity each to the earthen ponds that he started with. The young farmer anticipates a harvest size of 360 to 400 kg in the coming days.
Also, responding to questions about the attitude that has brought his establishment to such height, Alfred attributed the growth of his farm to patience, willpower to learn new things, and hard work.
Fishing is an essential activity for food security and economic development in Africa, meeting 22% of the protein needs of 200 million people – a fifth of all Africans – and sustaining 10 million others. But the continent urgently needs to develop its aquaculture sector to offset the current stagnation in wild catches and avoid having to increase fish imports.
Occupying 9 million square kilometers or 31% of the total continental land area, sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), according to FAO, is well suited for fish farming.
However, Liberia’s aquaculture sector is still at its embryonic stage, with all sections along its value chain including feed production, inputs supply, extension services, and market linking, all mostly inactive.
This has left farmers like Alfred improvising everything to keep his fish farming dream alive. High cost for feed and lack of support from delegated authorities are major challenges he says he faces.
Amid these constraints, Alfred has looked out for an alternative feed approach.
“I went back online to do further research and I was able to do the Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) and so, through the process, I started to look for what could be possible as a recipe for being able to meet up with the standard diet for tilapia,” he says.