The ab­sence of the Fish Fund is hurt­ing the fish­ing sec­tor

By: MUSA MU­GOYA

Fish­eries re­sources are among the most sig­nif­i­cant pro­duces in Uganda not only in­form of liveli­hood but also as they pro­vide em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties to more than 1 mil­lion peo­ple di­rectly and about 3 mil­lion peo­ple in­di­rectly. Un­der the Agri­cul­ture Sec­tor De­vel­op­ment Strat­egy and In­vest­ment Plan (DSIP) fish is con­sid­ered among the first 10 agri­cul­ture com­modi­ties to be pro­moted for ex­port.

The fish­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in Uganda are mon­i­tored and con­trolled by the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, Fish­eries and An­i­mal In­dus­try un­der the De­part­ment of Fish­eries Re­sources which is not only re­spon­si­ble for car­ry­ing out the pro­mo­tion, sup­port and guid­ance of the sec­tor, but also to re­tain re­spon­si­bil­ity for set­ting and en­forc­ing the stan­dards and reg­u­la­tions for prac­tices per­tain­ing to fish­eries.

The De­part­men­t’s work is also sup­ple­mented by the Dis­tricts Lo­cal Gov­ern­ments and the Beach Man­age­ment Units which act as com­mu­nity in­sti­tu­tions with a co-man­age­ment func­tion to de­vel­op­ing, con­serv­ing and sus­tain­ing the fish­eries re­sources.

Fish pro­duc­tion is car­ried out in two dif­fer­ent ways; wild fish­ing and aqua­cul­ture. These modes of pro­duc­tion have been faced with a num­ber of chal­lenges which in­cludes but not lim­ited to; in­creas­ing en­croach­ment, over fish­ing or over-ex­ploita­tion; the ban­ning of the ex­por­ta­tion of fish orig­i­nat­ing from Uganda to Eu­rope by the Eu­ro­pean Union be­tween 1997 – 2000 due to the poor qual­ity of processed fish that was be­ing ex­ported to the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket; low pub­lic in­vest­ment in the sec­tor among oth­ers.

De­spite the lim­ited fund­ing, the sec­tor has strug­gled to reg­is­ter enor­mous achieve­ments. For in­stance, in FY 2014/​15, 19,020 tons of fish was pro­duced fetch­ing the coun­try USD 178.79 m re­flect­ing a growth of 12.72 tons and US$ 22.42 m from the 16,874 tons that were pro­duced in FY 2013/​14 and fetched only US$ 146.05 m thereby putting the sec­tor’s con­tri­bu­tion to about 2.5% and 12.6% of the na­tional GDP and agri­cul­tural GDP re­spec­tively.

In the next FY 2016/​17, the bud­get es­ti­mates as per the re­port of the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee on Agri­cul­ture on the Na­tional Bud­get Frame­work Pa­per FY 2016/​17-2020/​21, in­di­cate that the need to pro­mote aqua­cul­ture through es­tab­lish­ment of aqua­cul­ture parks and con­trol of the new breed of wa­ter weed (Kariba weed) amount­ing to Ugx 15.635 bn and Ugx 4 bn re­main un­funded pri­or­i­ties in the sec­tor’s bud­get. This is a re­flec­tion that the sta­tus quo may re­main un­chal­lenged un­less the funds are pro­vided.

While mak­ing a min­is­te­r­ial state­ment on 6th Sep­tem­ber 2012, in re­sponse to the Ques­tion on the es­tab­lish­ment of the Fish­eries Fund by Badda Fred, Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment for Bu­jumba County, Hon Ruth Nankabirwa, Min­is­ter of State for Agri­cul­ture, An­i­mal In­dus­try & Fish­eries in­formed the House that the Min­istry of Jus­tice and Con­sti­tu­tional Af­fairs guided the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, An­i­mal In­dus­try and Fish­eries on the es­tab­lish­ment of the fund that it is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance to is­sue a statu­tory in­stru­ment for the es­tab­lish­ment of the fund which it failed to do.

She added that al­though aqua­cul­ture has the po­ten­tial to in­crease fish pro­duc­tion in the coun­try, it re­quires gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion to sup­port pro­duc­tion of qual­ity fish, feeds and equip­ment. It is note­wor­thy, that al­though the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Par­lia­ment amended the Fish Act, Cap.197, to pro­vide for plough­ing back of funds re­ceived from fish­eries li­cens­ing ac­tiv­i­ties to be used in fish­eries man­age­ment and de­vel­op­ment, still the re­sources are min­i­mal hence be­ing un­able to spur in­creased pro­duc­tion.

The fail­ure by Min­istry of Fi­nance to es­tab­lish the Fish Fund con­tra­venes the con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sions. First and fore­most, the fund is pro­vided for un­der Ar­ti­cle 153(2) of the Con­sti­tu­tion; The rev­enues or other monies re­ferred to in clause (1) of this ar­ti­cle shall not in­clude rev­enues or other monies; (a) that are payable by or un­der an Act of Par­lia­ment, into some other fund es­tab­lished for a spe­cific pur­pose; or (b) that may, un­der an Act of Par­lia­ment, be re­tained by the de­part­ment of Gov­ern­ment that re­ceived them for the pur­poses of de­fray­ing the ex­penses of that de­part­ment.

And Sec­tion 22(a) of the Fish Act; any fees re­ceived by the Chief Fish­eries Of­fi­cer or un-au­tho­rised li­cens­ing of­fi­cer from the is­sue of li­cences and per­mits and other fish­eries ac­tiv­i­ties un­der this Act shall be re­tained by the De­part­ment of Fish­eries Re­sources in a Fund es­tab­lished for the pur­pose, in ac­cor­dance with the Pub­lic fi­nance and Ac­count­abil­ity Act, 2003 for pur­poses of de­fray­ing the ex­penses of that de­part­ment and for the ef­fec­tive de­vel­op­ment and man­age­ment of the fish­eries sec­tor.

If es­tab­lished the fund is ex­pected to fill the fol­low­ing fi­nan­cial gaps in the sec­tor; sup­port of aqua­cul­ture de­vel­op­ment in the coun­try; sup­port fish­eries li­cens­ing; sup­ple­ment fish­eries’ li­cens­ing en­force­ment ac­tiv­i­ties; and pro­mote the sub-sec­tor in do­ing re­search.

The fish­eries sub-sec­tor has grown to be­come one of the main sources of non-tra­di­tional ex­ports for the coun­try. It also pro­vides an im­por­tant source of liveli­hood and em­ploy­ment for more than three mil­lion peo­ple in the coun­try hence the need for in­creased pub­lic in­vest­ment in the sec­tor.