Women in aquaculture: Benedicta Peter-Ugheoke
Not content with merely transforming an abandoned fish farm into a thriving catfish-farming cluster, Benedicta Peter-Ugheoke is also an aquaculture trainer and consultant who has helped encourage many female Nigerians to join the sector
Briefly describe your aquaculture career
I studied fisheries at the University of Benin, Nigeria. I’m now a consultant, and master trainer in aquaculture at the Nigerian Agricultural Enterprise Curriculum (NAEC). As a student I was passionate about aquaculture – all I kept discussing was fish farming, which eventually paid off after I graduated. Establishing a relationship with USAID MARKETS II [a US government-funded programme to support small farmers in Nigeria] and Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND)foundation provided a wider sphere of influence for me. Training farmers across the Niger Delta states has been a fulfilling experience.
What inspired you to start your own fish farm?
As an aquaculturist and fish processor searching for where to start my fish farm, I came across an Ondo State government-owned former fish farm that had been abandoned for 20 years and was available for lease. No one wanted it because of decay the resources required to make it functional, but I took the lease and revived it. Today, others have joined and it’s now called Adegbemile Fish Cluster. The farmers produce mainly catfish there, but also some tilapia, and it generates both direct and indirect employment in the region.
How easy was it to revitalise the old site?
The place had grown wild, with big trees and all sorts of reptiles. It was like going into a forest to start up a fish farm. The remains of the ponds were extremely large but barely a foot deep. I made the ponds smaller and deeper, digging down to 1.2m, and have made lots of repairs over time.
How many tonnes of catfish do you produce a year and what are the major production challenges?
I started with one pond and the capacity to produce six tonnes annually, but today I have expanded to 90 tonnes per annum. Initially I was able to fund the project with personal savings and loans from families, but having to expand to 90 tonnes per annum has not really been easy.
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