It’s harvest time in Lejone, a small village nestled in the mountains in southern Africa, more than two thousand meters above sea level.
The produce is not grain or fruit, but rainbow trout – the bounty of an undulating river at the foot of the peaks of Lesotho.
Fishermen drag nets full of trout on a floating platform.
The fish are killed and put on ice, the first step on their journey to dinner tables in neighboring South Africa.
The settlement is home to one of Lesotho’s two professional fish farms – pioneering ventures in the poor landlocked kingdom.
Stephen Phakisi, 59, launched Katse Fish Farms with two partners in 2005.
Today he chuckles at how the trio jumped into the business with a paltry knowledge of some of the unknowns, including the best food to fatten fish quickly.
“For five years it was totally uneconomical,” Phakisi said.
He recalls how he once found a school of fish dead and belly up in the water, while another time a full load of imported fingerlings died 16 hours from Cape Town.
Today, the company is profitable, with an annual production of 800 tons of fish, which sells for about $4 per kilogram.
It delivers to a few local restaurants, where the trout is usually fried in butter for a few minutes and served with a side dish of kale and chips or rice.
But most of the production ends up on the shelves of high-end supermarkets in neighboring South Africa, where a one-kilo vacuum-packed bag can cost up to $50.
‘Head and Bones’
Trout farming in Lesotho has grown on another of the mountain country’s most famous exports: water.
South Africa gets much of its water from its neighboring country, which has dammed several of its waterways over the past three decades.
The dams have widened riverbeds, creating inlets and basins ideal for trout farming.
Katse Fish Farms is located more than 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) above sea level on the Malibamatso River, upstream from the massive Katse Dam reservoir that supplies South Africa’s capital Pretoria and its largest city, Johannesburg.
Fish farming currently accounts for less than 0.1 percent of Lesotho’s $2 billion GDP.
The locals say they have always eaten salted, sun-dried freshwater fish. And young boys sell fresh catch to passing motorists.
But as dam construction continues, the country has the potential “to become the regional leader in aquaculture,” according to the Lesotho National Development Corporation.
In this country of just over two million people, which is among the poorest in the world, few seem to be benefiting from the water boom so far.
“We sell water to South Africa, but we don’t have water for our homes,” said Joshua Sefali, a village leader in Lejone.
Many of the village’s stone thatched houses have no mains water or electricity.
Large areas of the country were flooded after dams went up.
Some people lost their homes and access to farmland, for which they received only a small compensation.
Machaka Khalala, 31, said she received about $165 when the field where she used to grow maize and spinach was flooded.
Now she earns a living selling ‘fat cakes’, a local donut.
But that is often not enough to make ends meet.
Cap on her head, Khalala found herself among dozens of people queuing in the cold, bucket in hand, on a mountain road.
Here, Lesotho’s other fish farm hands out scraps every week — “the heads and spine,” Khalala said.
Using genetics to support sustainable aquaculture: results of 20 years of rainbow trout farming
© 2022 AFP
Quote: Mountainous Lesotho finds gold in trout farm (2022, Oct. 18) retrieved Oct. 18, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-mountainous-lesotho-gold-trout-fish.html
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