Using the knowledge and skills from her Australia Award, Tubake Thobejane is spearheading improvements in the fledging aquaculture industry in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. She is an Aquaculture Researcher in Limpopo.
The South African aquaculture industry has steadily increased in size over the past 15 years. Due to its subtropical climate and water resources suitable for warm, freshwater aquaculture species, Limpopo has the potential for a thriving aquaculture sector.
While studying for her Masters of Science (Research) at James Cook University, Tubake conducted research on feed formulation and feeding management for redclaw crayfish aquaculture in Queensland. She worked closely with the aquaculture farmers, and acquired participatory research skills that she could apply back home. “My study assisted me in research related to the farmers’ surrounding environment, before launching a research program in my home province of Limpopo,” she said. She believes that the growth of the aquaculture industry in South Africa will contribute significantly to job creation, poverty reduction, gender equality and empowerment, economic activity and the sustainable use of water resources to benefit local communities.
When Tubake returned to South Africa in 2013, she collected information on the potential of aquaculture in Limpopo. She identified gaps in this economic activity by posing similar questions to the farmers in Limpopo that she had posed to the farmers in Queensland, and presented the findings of her research at the Limpopo Provincial Extension Conference as a first step in her research.
Tubake is focused on raising awareness of aquaculture in Limpopo as part of a joint initiative of Limpopo’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the national Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. She has already visited farms in five districts. When she visits communities that are involved in aquaculture or that have the potential to start aquaculture farms, she not only provides general information about methods of aquaculture that can improve their production, but also identifies individual challenges and provides advice. “Many farmers are unaware of methods to improve production such as restocking and employing good husbandry practices to avoid inbreeding,” Tubake said. She encourages farmers to share their experiences and to exchange knowledge and success stories.
As the first person to undertake aquaculture research in Limpopo’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Tubake is confident that these initiatives will benefit aquaculture farmers in the province, and improve their production. She also believes that her project has a positive impact on gender equality, youth and people living with disabilities. “Unfortunately, the farmers did not document the improvement in their production, but based on feedback received, they believe that they are now more informed on general management practices in aquaculture, and more than 20 farmers in Limpopo believe that their production has improved,” she concluded.
Tubake plans to launch a research study in the near future to evaluate the impact of the Department’s interventions, as well as the improvement in production of the local farmers and their contribution to the economy.