Fish farming takes off in Craig Town
For some 20 years, Anthony Bennett of Craig Town, south St Andrew, has reared 'pet' fish as a hobby, and so three years ago when The Competitiveness Company sought to introduce ornamental fish farming in the community he was one of the first persons to join up.
Having leased a section of land from family members, he has partnered with Marcelino Blackburn to breed a range of exotic ornamental fish for the export trade.
"We want to build this farm where we can go into export. Everyone that come inside this area they love it and cannot believe what is going on down here; that we are doing so well, to the amount of fish that is currently on the farm," Bennett shared.
His extensive knowledge is obvious as he fields questions during a recent visit by a team comprising representatives of the United States Agency for International Development, the agency which funds the project, and employees of The Competitiveness Company which is the implementing entity.
"Right now we are specialising in five varieties of fish because it is a numbers game for export, and when you try to specialise in too many varieties you cannot make those numbers because you going to have little of every fish.
"The market don't ask for little of every fish, it asks for a large number of any fish that you are exporting; exotic ones like rosy barb, tiger barb, you have some convict cichlids and you have the angelfish. Basically, you can just stick to angel because you have so much variety, and that is one of the fish that sells itself," he explained.
MAKING STUDY PROGRESS
Since venturing into the exotic ornamental fish trade some two years ago, Nordia Henry has been making steady progress, having 580 angel and 200 gourami on show.
After completing the training course, the mother of two has devoted a lot of time to the new venture which she admits is "working out all right".
"I had a shop first and I scrap it and put up the fish house and still have time to do me little juggling - sell me orange and banana," she shared.
Henry's father, Winston, expressed delight at the entrepreneurial insight she has acquired since getting involved in fish farming.
"It is a lot of work but she get a lot of knowledge, she is motivated and interested in something valuable," he offered.
Meanwhile, Dr Beverley Morgan, head of The Competitiveness Company, disclosed that the benefits to participants extend well beyond what is taught in the classrooms.
She noted that with many of the participants from communities aligned to either the Jamaica Labour Party or People's National Party, some amount of tension and suspicion tends to permeate the initial meetings.
However, as the sessions progress there is an eventual thawing, with the working relationship often leading to friendship.
According to Morgan, it is the sense of empowerment derived from the realisation that they are in fact bona fide business people contributing to the country's foreign-exchange earnings, from activities within their own communities, often their own yards, that really provides a fillip for their self-esteem.
All this from a simple activity so many people have for so many years taken for granted and treated as a hobby - rearing pet fish!