Principal of COVAB Professor John David Kabasa poses for a group picture with the different Safe Fish Project stakeholders
The SafeFish Project held a stakeholders’ buy- in workshop on 15th August, 2019 at Grand Global Hotel, Kampala to launch its activities on the development of Bacteriophage cocktails as disease bio-control agents to improve aquaculture productivity, food and nutrition safety in Ghana and Uganda.
The project meeting brought together various stakeholders such as; fish farmers, policy makers, legislators, science Professors, Academia, media personnel, investors, and scientific researchers who shared views on the use of natural enemies of bacteria to improve the food, nutrition and economic security, most especially through aquaculture.
The Principal Investigator of the SafeFish Project, Dr. Jesca Nakavuma spearheaded the discussions and shared with delegates the overview of the project. She informed them of the project partners in Ghana, UK, and Uganda, with the final beneficiaries being inland fisheries sector in Uganda and Ghana, fish consumers, fish farmers, and line ministries in fisheries and aquaculture.
Dr. Nakavuma additionally informed delegates that there are challenges in fish farming such as; inability to access quality feeds and seeds, and diseases which arise leading to the over use of drugs and chemicals, hence resulting into issues of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), and yet, these can be addressed by natural enemies of bacteria.
“We engage in some practices to address challenges of diseases, and similarly, there are practices in aquaculture that may influence disease outbreaks, however, the solution by the SafeFish Project is use of bacteriophages which are natural enemies of bacteria. These are abundant in nature and they affect only specific bacteria which they are targeted to attack. Fortunately, these also attack drug resistant bacteria and they don’t attack animal and plant cells, and so, animals and humans are safe,” stated Dr. Nakavuma.
Dr. Nakavuma also affirmed that the mapping of bacterial pathogens of farmed tilapia in Uganda and Ghana, and the development of phage products will improve fish health management, ensure safe fish production and improved fish farm productivity.
The project team was congratulated upon achieving such a health promoting worthwhile grant by the Principal- CoVAB, Prof. John David Kabasa, who officiated the scientific event. Prof. Kabasa later highlighted to delegates about the increase on demand of proteins which will rapidly increase by 8 times in 30 years to come, since fish is a source of proteins.
“The pathogenic molecules disrupt the quantity of fish and quality of fish products, and therefore, there’s need to consider the environment for production to increase the quantities, and we need a frame work to govern these molecules,” added Prof. Kabasa.
The Commissioner – animal health in Uganda, Dr. Rose Ademun, who is also the Chief Veterinary Officer urged delegates to earlier report fish diseases locally before they are known internationally, affirming that it is important to locally have national data on certain issues before it flows on the international scene.
“When researching about diseases, it’s important to be sensitive of our economies and there’s need to report to the Chief Veterinary Officer who has the authority to inform the world, so that we protect our economy. Research on fish and fish feeds should be coordinated and regulated,” affirmed Dr. Ademun.
Dr. John Walakira from NARO-NAFFIRI gave delegates a talk on Fish Health Challenges and Management- Prevalent fish bacterial pathogens and diseases; famers’ practices. He informed delegates that 20 years ago, there was little documented information on fish diseases, but there was an increase in fish health management from 2008 to date.
He additionally informed delegates of the non- infectious factors that bring about fish illnesses, to mention but a few which include; nutrition, pollution, issues of water quality and also infectious diseases which affect fish farmed products. Dr. Walakira however informed delegates that there is the establishment of biosecurity systems through the fish value chain approach to minimize the risks of fish pathogens.
Dr. Samuel P. Wamala later discussed the use bio-control agents in animal health, in which he highlighted to delegates that there are phages infecting and killing bacteria of which some are commercial phage products which are actually very effective, and that bacteriophages are alternatives to the use of antibiotics in growth promotion, pathogenic reduction and disease prevention.
On highlighting the existing policy issues in fisheries sector Dr. Maureen Mayanja encouraged delegates to take keen interest in fisheries policies to achieve a balance between the social, environmental, ecological, and economical factors, and to have the gaps in aquaculture intensified and addressed.
The SafeFish project is a European Commission- African Union Commission funded project which aims to develop bacteriophage cocktails as fish disease bio-control agents for improved aquaculture productivity among tilapia farmers, and for economic and social development by addressing food and nutrition safety in Ghana and Uganda.