He is a former soldier of the Kings African Rifles and by all means a very principled and hard working man. At 70 years, Mr. Apollo Ezati, a farmer from Lamila village in Terego district is not about to slow down. He aims to make sure his children and their children always have something to fall back to in life. Despite Terego district having no traditional fishing grounds, Mr. Ezati decided to exploit the abundant water resources of his village to start a fish farm. He started the enterprise in 1990, but the main breakthrough came with the registration of his group to access services under the NAADS programme.
“I have been doing fish farming for a long time. However when NAADS rolled out to our district, I eagerly joined. They helped me acquire knowledge to improve my ponds through several trainings in fish farming. After this they also took me for a tree nursery course in Kawanda. With their support I have started tree and fruit nurseries and opened up apiary sites. Ezati, who relies on his extended family for labor, said he has been given 200 improved beehives by NAADS to add to his income generating activities.
He now owns 10 fish ponds with 1000 Miira caps, 8000 Tilapia in 3 ponds and 1300 Catfish. “Catfish is much more popular and grows very big. Each fish can weigh three kilos after 8 months. Each kilo costs about sh4000, so I can earn up to sh15.6m after eight months. My problem is getting fish food. To get food supply from Arua is a lot of money and I also have problems transporting the fish for sale in Arua. Now I sell most of the fish here at the source,” he says. According to Ezati on average, depending on the stocking, he earns between sh6m to sh8m per pond per season and can harvest up to three times a year.
Tilapia takes up to six months to mature, Cat fish takes 8 months while Miira cap, which he imports, from Israel takes 8 months. While Ezati has no proper book-keeping records on how much he earns from his ponds, estimates place his earnings at over sh100m annually. “The market is available, people buy very fast but because I don’t have transport to take to Arua town, they come here and I sell the fish at a cheap price. As they come to buy, some also get interested in the trade and I train them to dig the ponds and start fish ponds.
As a model farmer, I have managed to train more farmers about fish rearing I have dung up about 48 such ponds in various parishes as stock farms,” a visibly proud Ezati informed us.
While Ezati is capable of buying his own transportation, his focus is on paying school fees for all the children in his extended family, alongside training them in fish farming such that they can be capable to take over the enterprise after him.
“I get the money but I have many children and grandchildren and am paying their school fees. Am happy that I have improved the production capacity of my farm and maybe this year, I will be buying a vehicle,” he said.
He has also diversified into tree and fruit seedling production, courtesy of NAADS. Currently he has 20,000 seedlings that he sells at sh4,000 each earning him approximately sh80m annually.
Mzee Ezati’s grandchildren are his greatest allies in his farming and trade. The youngest one, Joya Onet, is in primary seven at Kijomoro primary school and speaks fluent English. His ambition is to complete school and plan their family business much better than his grandfather. “I want to do what he is doing but do it even much better. He is now old and wants us to follow what he is doing, which is a good thing. But if I am more educated than him, I will earn more money than him in agriculture,” he said.