Bringing Norwegian expertise to build competence in aquaculture

Lake Harvest Group is Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest aquaculture producer, and their supply of protein is important in countries facing challenges related to food supply.  The company is a significant employer, directly employing 588 people, and indirectly employs many thousand in the downstream and upstream supply chain. However, there is lack of high-quality vocational training on aquaculture available. 

Building an online aquaculture program

Since 2019 Norfund has supported Lake Harvest Group with grant funding and Norwegian expertise and know-how to build an online aquaculture training program for their staff. This has laid the foundation for an aquaculture program at an academic institution in Zimbabwe. Currently, it is not possible for the industry itself to afford the development of training programs, but over time it may be commercially sustainable.

 Norwegian aquaculture expertise key for success

Using Norwegian aquaculture competence and know-how, private business and facilities, and existing education programs, Norfund has develop a modern e-learning platform and training program for tilapia farming. This has been based on BluePlanet Academy’s software developed for salmon farming in Norway. Collaboration and grant support to a local College in Zimbabwe, Blackfordby College, has been instrumental to start the process of increasing access to skilled workers in a growing aquaculture industry in Southern Africa. This has been done by introducing an aquaculture component in the diploma course and constructing fishponds at the College premises for practical training to accompany theory.

“It was a real asset having BluePlanet on site asking challenging questions on our procedures and how we operate in the hatchery”

Samatha Chibanda, Hatchery Coordinator, Lake Harvest, Lake Kariba Operations

 Competence development and developing a pool of skilled recruits 

The e-learning platform and training program developed by BluePlanet is a way of institutionalizing knowledge and ensuring quality assurance of the company’s Standard Operating Procedures. It consists of academic, practical, and operational modules on tilapia farming. The e-learning platform is now incorporated in the Lake Harvest Training Program available to all staff. The online version makes it easy to continuously improve and update content in line with industry best practices, for both Lake Harvest and the industry and for academic institutions. Going forward, the growing aquaculture industry hopes to see an increase in locally skilled workers. In 2022, 96 students at Blackfordby College have completed an aquaculture component of a diploma course. This has included a mix of theoretical and practical training. The result is that Lake Harvest Group and the industry have a pool of qualified resources to recruit from. Lake Harvest Group has also taken it a step longer, and a Graduate Trainee Program open for Blackfordby diploma students will assist the company in accessing local talent going forward.

 E-learning works despite connectivity challenges

Embarking on an online training program entailed high risk in terms of connectivity and possibility to access all content on the e-learning platform. It is clear from the initial evaluation that the technical infrastructure, both at Lake Harvest and Blackfordby College, is not yet fully in place for digital solutions. However, all partners do believe digital tools, also for training, will be a larger part of the future as most countries are changing rapidly into more digital societies.

“E-learning program has been key in building unity among employees and I have understood the economic impact on operations of feed and feeding”

Leonard Ushewokunze, Cage Attendant, Lake Harvest, Lake Kariba Operations

Employees at Lake Harvest Group that has been through the training program report that they see it as a high quality, helpful and effective program. They feel empowered, more motivated and that the program, looking at all parts of operations, is building stronger unity in the company. However, there is a need to continue roll-out of the program, and track progress and result to ensure best possible outcomes, and Norfund will continue to follow this closely.