You are here

African catfish farming in Belarus

Western countries draw forces to the borders of Russia and Belarus, but at the same time receive deadly blows in the back. It would be worth paying attention to security in their own countries, considering the flows of illegal migrants from Asia and Africa. However, Africans are not that scary as the news often tells us. Our correspondent Anastasia Benedysyuk met with Africans who came to Belarus not for free social benefits but to work and earn money.

Ruzana Theron:
Well, in general, this is mainly my dad who does this work but when he's absent I have to pitch in sometimes.

Ruzana Theron does not call herself Cinderella since she has lived next to these cute animals since her childhood. Piglets, chickens and sheep...

The parents of Ruzana, Antoinette and Matais, moved to the Pruzhany district of Belarus by chance. They now joke that their honeymoon has lasted for 23 years.

Antoinette Theron:
We moved in 1994. In South Africa at that time we already had overcrowded hypermarkets and supermarkets. But here in Belarus, when we arrived (I remember it was Tuesday, June 3) shops were empty. During these 23 years the country has been developing and I am just happy when I see these shops and roads.

Matais Theron:
When I look back, I guess it was scary. That was a challenge to start everything from scratch.

To start everything from scratch, the Africans had to get a business visa. So they got an idea to breed sheep and drafted a business plan. Matais grew up on a farm in Namibia and decided to continue his father's business. Today, the flock of four hundred sheep is not the only property of Matais. He also has piglets and chickens now. Moreover, this is not the end of his business plans.

Matais Theron:
Maybe I would like to have raspberries too. But we should take into account the demand. There are certain plans regarding fish and greenhouses.

For many years the African has used the tractor Belarus on his farm. The reliability is above all. By the end of 2017, by the way, Belarus plans to open an MTZ assembly plant in Africa. MTZ's share in the African market is now growing rapidly. Africa has 60% of the world's arable land. Equipment is needed to build roads, bridges, hospitals. Already in July, Belarusian tractors and dump trucks will be exported to Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Southern Sudan. This was agreed in Minsk during the first Belarusian-African business forum.

Igor Brylo, Deputy Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Belarus:
Of course, we are interested in trade with the African continent. It is necessary to supply to Africa dried milk and baby food - these are our main positions. We can also supply beef and sausage products.

Valentin Rybakov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus:
Providing industrial production in African states means both added value and job creation. In agriculture, this is ensuring the food security of the state.

As a result of the business forum the Belarusian Development Bank and the African Export-Import Bank opened a credit line for $150 million. These funds will be spent on the purchase of Belarusian goods and technologies.

Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Export–Import Bank:
This is the continuation of our dialogue, which started in 2016. Then we agreed that we would facilitate the financing of trade between Belarus and African countries. The total potential of such financing was then estimated at $800 million. The agreement that we will sign is the first step towards this goal. These first $150 million will mainly be spent on purchase of Belarusian equipment for the developing African market.

African countries export fruits, coffee, and nuts to Belarus. Belarusian safari, eggs, meat, and skin. From black African ostriches to African catfish - these are all Belarusian business ideas. Entrepreneurs in the agrotown of Milovida have been breeding exotic fish for 1.5 years.

They feed the fish every three hours, and make water tests numerous times. And this is their advantage. After all, in Africa, the catfish lives in a natural environment which is not pure.

Andrey Korshun, director of a farm for breeding African catfish:
We now are perfecting the technological process. We have a contract with Polessky University. This is feed from Zhabinka combine, because there is no feed for catfish in Belarus.

Now modernization is in full swing at the farm. Shops are being built: one for incubation and the other for commercial fish.

Andrey Korshun:
We plan to reach somewhere 50 tons a year.

Anastasia Benedysyuk, correspondent:
The African catfish is the only fish that has both lungs and gills but almost no bones. So it is much more profitable for transportation. It is likely that under favorable conditions the African catfish, grown in Belarusian water with Belarusian air, may appear on someone's table in Africa.

Back to the Theron family: their house is former headquarters in the military town of the Brest region. National African spirit has already permeated these premises. There is even a separate "African" room. On the wall you can spot tree bark from Namibia, a bow and arrows from antelope horn... Children in their family speak several languages ​​at once. They even studied music in Belarus.

Antoinette Theron:
In Africa, only the richest can afford to plant birches but we have a whole plantation here. We are rich!

Another guy from Africa, this time from Nigeria, is Viсtor. He is studying IT in Belarus. He says we actually have much in common and the language barrier is not a hindrance. The weather is the only hindrance.

Victor Miracle James, a student at the Yanka Kupala State University in Grodno:
I like it very much in Belarus. Especially in Grodno. This architecture... Nowhere in the world have I ever seen this. People are all good. And the cuisine is interesting, but I just cannot get used to sour cream.

Victor loves pasta. He is a student after all. In the university cafeteria, he tried Kholodnik (cold beetroot soup also called Svekolnik). In Nigeria soups are a national dish. As a true programmer, he is in love with modern gadgets. He films many things about Belarus and posts them immediately.

Belarus and the countries of Africa are thousands of kilometers apart. Different continents and time zones. But language is what brings people closer together.

Antoinette Theron:
Belarusian words? Bulba (potatoes), chlopcy (lads), cybulia (onion)...

Benedict Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Export–Import Bank:
I was in Belarus a year ago and I plan to return in July: bring there more sun and get acquainted with the potential of various regions of Belarus.

How Africans live in Belarus