WATCH: Multi-million rand fish farming industry thriving in the mountains of Lesotho

The Katse Fish Farm in Lejone Village, Lesotho. l SUPPLIED

The Katse Fish Farm in Lejone Village, Lesotho. l SUPPLIED

Published Oct 20, 2022


Durban – Just over 500km west of Durban, just south of the Maloti mountain range, lies the small yet thriving fishing village of Lejone, which currently exports its multi-million rand harvest to South Africa.

But their harvest isn’t the usual grains, barley or rice – it’s fish, specifically rainbow trout, a breed perfect for farming in the Lesotho Highlands water.

Every harvest, the local fisherman from the village haul nets full of trout, kill them and pack them on ice before transporting them to South African retailers.

Katse Fish Farms, located in the Lejone village, is one of two professional fish farms in the country.

It was launched by Stephen Phakisi, 59, together with his two partners in 2005.

Around 2 000m above sea level on the Malibamatso River, upstream from the Katse Dam reservoir, which supplies Pretoria and Johannesburg with water, lies Phakisi’s operation.

Just under two decades later, the three men have tapped into a multi-million dollar industry, with annual output of 800 tons of fish, which is sold at about $4/kg (around R74).

But the rise to the top was not easy, Phakisi recalls. On many occasions it seemed that their business venture was on the brink of failing.

"For five years, it was totally uneconomical," Phakisi said in a report by AfricaNews.

He said when they entered the business, the three of them had little knowledge of exactly what they were getting into.

Today, they sell close to R60 million worth of trout annually, most of which goes to the South African market, where a vacuum sealed pack sells for around R500/kg.

The Lesotho Highlands. l LESOTHO-INFO.CO.ZA

But the trout farming industry did not come out of thin air; it was born out of another one of Lesotho’s main resources: water.

Lesotho provides South Africa with a large amount of its water supply.

Lesotho has dammed many of its waterways over the last three decades, which have in turn widened riverbeds, creating inlets and basins and subsequently, an ideal farming ground for trout.

The country’s fish farming industry has the potential "to become the regional leader in aquaculture," its National Development Corporation said.