Wa­ter project spawns fish­eries in­dus­try

Sunday Express - - Business Journal -

THE Le­sotho High­lands Wa­ter Project (LHWP) has not only cre­ated one of the great­est wa­ter en­gi­neer­ing works to fa­cil­i­tate wa­ter trans­fer to neigh­bour­ing South Africa, but it has also in­spired lu­cra­tive com­mer­cial fish farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in the high­lands of Le­sotho.

Two for­eign sup­ported com­pa­nies, High­lands Trout and Katse Fish Farms (KFF) have set up com­mer­cial fish­ing farms on the reser­voir of Katse Dam, which is be­lieved to be Africa’s sec­ond largest dam.

The two fish­ing op­er­a­tions have a com­bined an­nual pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity es­ti­mated at 1.3 mil­lion tonnes of Rain­bow Trout, which is mainly pro­duced for the ex­port mar­ket, with a small per­cent­age of the prod­uct con­sumed lo­cally.

Be­ing an ex­port com­mod­ity, trout is be­lieved to gen­er­ate a sig­nif­i­cant amount of ex­port rev­enue for Le­sotho, al­though it was not im­me­di­ately clear as to how much is gen­er­ated.

Ac­cord­ing to Mahlo­mola Sit­sane- the Hatch­ery Man­ager at High­lands Trout, the com­pany cur­rently pro­duces about 750 tonnes of trout per year.

He said the es­tab­lish­ment of the com­pany, which em­ploys more than 80 Ba­sotho re­cruited from vil­lages around the farm, was pri­mar­ily in­flu­enced by the high de­mand for Rain­bow Trout in Ja­pan, cou­pled with suit­able habi­tat con­di­tions in the high­lands of Le­sotho, where trout oc­curs nat­u­rally.

These con­di­tions in­clude fresh wa­ter, low tem­per­a­tures and ad­e­quate amounts of oxy­gen in the wa­ter.

Ex­plain­ing the op­er­a­tions at the farm, Mr Sit­sane said im­ported trout eggs are hatched and grown through dif­fer­ent stages un­til they are ready for the mar­ket.

When the young fish reach a cer­tain size, they are trans­ported to nurs­ery cages or farms in the dam and later into growout cages. They are then fed on a high­pro­tein pel­let diet im­ported pri­mar­ily from France and South Africa to a lesser ex­tent. The fish can take up to 18 months to be ready for the mar­ket, with each weigh­ing about two kilo­grammes

En­vi­ron­men­tal care is crit­i­cal in en­sur­ing that op­er­a­tions do not neg­a­tively af­fect the qual­ity of wa­ter as well as the sur­round­ing area.

“If we fail to com­ply with this re­quire­ment, we risk los­ing the per­mis­sion to op­er­ate in the dam be­cause the wa­ter is a prod­uct on its way to South Africa and there­fore the qual­ity should not be com­pro­mised,” Mr Sit­sane told Busi­ness Jour­nal, adding they reg­u­larly have to reg­u­larly re­lo­cate their fish farms (cages) to min­imise the build-up of fish drop­pings in one area.

He fur­ther ex­plained that to min­imise wa­ter pol­lu­tion, dead fish are col­lected from the bot­tom of the dam for use in the pro­duc­tion of or­ganic ma­nure.

Mr Sit­sane said one of the ma­jor chal- lenges af­fect­ing their pro­duc­tion in­clude high tem­per­a­tures and at times too much wind, which dis­turbs wa­ter thereby dis­tress­ing the fish. When this hap­pens, the rate of growth and de­vel­op­ment of the fish may be af­fected.

Mofeli Leoma, the farm man­ager at KFF, said their prod­uct was ex­ported to the West­ern Cape, South Africa, from where it was dis­trib­uted to dif­fer­ent re­tail­ers in­clud­ing the or­ganic food stores in that coun­try. The farm cur­rently pro­duces about 600 tonnes of trout fish per year.

Mr Leoma also ex­plained that the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties were ben­e­fit­ting from the project.

“Apart from pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ment to over 30 peo­ple work­ing on the farm, the farm also sets aside part of its prof­its (about 1.5 per­cent) for com­mu­nity de­vel­op­men­tal projects of their choice,” he said.

He added a trust fund was es­tab­lished for the man­age­ment of sav­ings to be used for com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment projects, through ad­min­is­tra­tion by a com­mu­ni­ty­based steer­ing com­mit­tee.

The Le­sotho High­lands Wa­ter Project (LHWP), which is fa­cil­i­tat­ing the Trout fish farm­ing projects is a multi-phased project to pro­vide wa­ter to the Gaut­eng re­gion of South Africa and to gen­er­ate hy­dro­elec­tric­ity for Le­sotho. It was es­tab­lished by the 1986 Treaty signed by the govern­ments of Le­sotho and South Africa.

This project en­tails har­ness­ing the waters of the Senqu/Or­ange River in the Le­sotho high­lands through the con­struc­tion of a se­ries of dams for the mu­tual ben­e­fit of the two coun­tries.

Phase One of the LHWP, con­sist­ing the Katse and Mo­hale dams, the ‘Muela hy­dropower sta­tion and as­so­ci­ated tun­nels, was com­pleted in 2003 and in­au­gu­rated in 2004. Phase II of the LHWP is cur­rently in progress. It con­sists of two sep­a­rate but re­lated com­po­nents: wa­ter trans­fer and hy­dropower gen­er­a­tion.

The wa­ter trans­fer com­po­nent of Phase II com­prises an ap­prox­i­mately 165m high con­crete faced rock fill Dam at Poli­hali down­stream of the con­flu­ence of the Khubelu and Senqu (Or­ange) Rivers and an ap­prox­i­mately 38km long con­crete­lined grav­ity tun­nel con­nect­ing the Poli­hali reser­voir to the Katse reser­voir.

Other Phase Two ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude ad­vance in­fra­struc­ture (roads, ac­com­mo­da­tion, power lines and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion, and oth­ers) and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial mit­i­gat­ing mea­sures.

The hy­dropower com­po­nent of Phase II, which is cur­rently un­der fur­ther fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies, may in­clude a pumped stor­age scheme, con­ven­tional hy­dropower such as the ex­pan­sion of the ‘Muela in­fra­struc­ture or new green­field sites.

Its ex­act form will be de­ter­mined on com­ple­tion of the fur­ther fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies un­der­way while Phase Two is ex­pected to be sub­stan­tially com­plete by the end of 2024.

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