Revival of trout farms in Swat valley
By Arshad Yusufzai
MILITANCY not only destroyed tourism in Swat in 2005, the
flourishing business of trout valued at around Rs44 million,
also suffered irreparable losses over the next two years
The 18 fish farms and four hatcheries of trout almost went
out of business as tourists stopped visiting the Swat valley
and most hotels closed down due to insecurity.
The cold-water trout is considered by many as the most
delicious fish. It was not only a major source of income for
fishermen, hoteliers and others in Swat, but a factor in
promoting hotels and tourism as tourists coming to the
scenic valley were often keen to try the delicacy.
Although private trout farms were operational in Bahrain,
Madyan and Kalam since late 1980, it was in 1994 that the
government decided to support the business. Of the estimated
162 tons trout produced in 2005, 37 per cent or 60 tons came
from Swat. Other trout producing places are Chitral,
Kohistan, Kaghan, Dir and Shangla in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and
Azad Kashmir and Balochistan.
However, the yield in Swat dropped to 40 tons in 2007 and
trout business from 2007-2009 came almost to an abrupt stop
as lawlessness took hold in Swat.
Muhammad Saeed told this scribe that his spring trout
hatchery in Madyan was the largest trout farm in the
country. “I was in this business since 1988 and had 309,000
Rainbow Trout worth Rs12.5 million when the Taliban poisoned
the 50 ponds of my farm on September 27, 2005. I cried as I
saw my fish dying,” he recalled.
According to Saeed, his efforts to seek compensation from
the then MMA government were nearing success when the
compensation bill of Rs8.6 million was approved, but the
money never arrived. “Before other fish farm owners and I
could be compensated, the MMA government left office on
completion of its term. I held many futile meetings with
high-ups in the current provincial government, but all in
vain,” he lamented.
Down but not out, Saeed is reconstructing his hatchery with
support from the Provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation
and Settlement Authority (PRRSA) and is hoping to start fish
business again by September this year.
In a bid to revive the trout business in Swat, a joint
initiative by the PRRSA and Early Recovery of Agriculture
and Livelihood Programme (ERALP) supported by the Italian
government was launched in February 2010.
Project director of the ERALP Sanaullah Khan said the first
phase of the post-militancy reconstruction work was nearing
completion when the devastating floods struck in 2010. “We
supplied construction material worth Rs10.8 million and
technical support to fish farm owners in the first phase of
the rehabilitation programme. The second phase consisted of
providing eggs, incubators and feed, but the floods came and
destroyed everything,” he added.
Any hopes of revival of trout industry in Swat were washed
away by the unprecedented floods. Some 14 farms were about
to be restored under the USAID- funded firms project for
Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) before the overflowing
Swat River destroyed 11 of them. Six of the remaining 11
farms were severely damaged.
Damages to fish farms were so severe that many owners lost
hope of restarting their business. However, their confidence
was restored when PRRSA and ERALP damage assessment teams
Rasheed Khan, president of the Swat Trout Farms Association,
said that he had lost 3,000 kg of rare Rainbow Trout when
militants destroyed his farm. “My efforts to rebuild the
farm were severely hampered by the floods. I lost all hopes
of restarting the business when unbelievably a team sent by
PRRSA met me just five days after the floods on August 1,
2010,” he said.
Khan added that PRRSA was helpful in reconstruction of fish
farms. “My restored farm is already functional. I got
125,000 eggs, six incubators and 23 bags of feed from PRRSA.
The baby fish are growing faster than I had expected,” he
He expected his first batch of trout to be ready in six
years for sale by the end of May. “With the local feed, the
fish took 20-24 months to reach the desired saleable size
and weight. With the American feed, my fish have already
crossed the fingerlings stage of three to four inches in
four months. The foreign feed is working like magic,” he
The ERALP project director Sanaullah said that 22 farms
including four hatcheries at Madyan and Bahrain were in
different stages of construction. He said work on four farms
in Kalam could not be started as the area was inaccessible
after floods. “Five farms are already housing the fish in
different stages. Initially we distributed 285,000 fine
quality eyed ova, 18 incubators and specially formulated
fish feed, all imported from the US. Later we gave 75,000
more eggs,” he explained.
Sanaullah claimed the imported eyed ova were of better
quality and were cheaper than the locally available trout
eggs despite transportation costs. “The babies from these
eggs take up to 12 months to reach the desired market size
and weight. This is due to the fine quality of fish and feed
imported from the US,” he said.
The ERALP also trained farm owners and workers. “The purpose
of the trainings was to educate them about the ways to
produce more and better trout,” Sanaullah said. The PRRSA,
ERALP and STFFA are expecting produce of five tons trout in
2011 and hopefully 184 tons by 2013 from the upcoming 22
farms in Swat.
Courtesy: The DAWN