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African aquaculture: development beyond the fish farm

Building public private sector partnership to enhance the productivity and competitiveness of aquaculture in the ECA region
Project leader
Malcolm Beveridge
1 Jan 2012
31 Dec 2013

Development of African aquaculture needs a whole-industry approach.Aquaculture’s unrealised potential

Despite global hunger declining, the number of people going hungry in Africa remains high with 30% of people reported to be undernourished in 2010. Fish are an important source of food for many African people, providing around 18% of their animal protein, but with a growing and rapidly urbanizing population and capture fisheries largely reaching their limit, many African countries are now looking towards aquaculture to supply an increasing demand for fish.
Although the potential of aquaculture to reduce poverty and hunger has been recognised in Africa, growth in the sector has up-to-now been limited, providing less than 2% of fish production. In Eastern and Central Africa, the slow growth has been caused by a number of limiting factors, including a development focus on poor  farmers, a lack of focus on the entire fish value chain (feed, seed, processing and marketing), as well as weak governance and policy environments.
Under a project funded by the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), the WorldFish Center, alongside four partner organizations, is looking not only at fish production, but also beyond the fish farm to help enable the aquaculture industry in the region to reach its potential to reduce poverty and hunger. This project makes a contribution to the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish.

Connecting the links

By focusing not only on farming fish, but also on other operations that are vital to a more productive industry (feed, seed and marketing), this project is aimed at improving production, accessibility, profitability and consumption of farmed fish.
Through a participatory approach, WorldFish is working with Fisheries Research Institutes in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the Source of the Nile fish farm in Uganda and other commercial farms in Kenya and Tanzania, to bring together and address the issues limiting the broader aquaculture industry.
With a focus on the three linked value chains for production of feed, seed and fish, these issues will be addressed through collaborative research, helping the industry to adopt more efficient, equitable and profitable technologies, and enabling information to flow within and between the different chains. African catfish and tilapia have been chosen as the two most important cultured species to focus on.
The project intends to:
  • Improved understanding of the aquaculture value chains
  • Improve fish seed production through production guidelines, genetic improvement and optimal seed sizes for farmers
  • Promote use of more cost-effective commercial feeds by fish farmers
  • Improve fish production, e.g. through development of better tank-based catfish farming technologies
  • Enable equitable development of regional capacity to participate in aquaculture value chains.
  • Improve marketing through: development and promotion of value added products (e.g. smoked fish) targeted at poor consumers and trials of ICT-based market information systems.
  • Improve environmental management of aquaculture, especially that of cages.
  • Disseminate information on technologies and practices for all aquaculture value chains.
As the aquaculture industry develops in central and eastern Africa, to ensure that it remains sustainable in the long-term, project partners will ensure that technologies are considered not only in terms of productivity and profitability, but also for their impact on the environment.

Issues of governance

Members of the aquaculture industry in East and Central Africa have also faced barriers to production and marketing from the current policies regulating the industry. To address this, following a review of the policies affecting the aquaculture industry (such as those for land tenure, access to water, duties and taxes), recommendations will be made to improve the legal and institutional framework.

Meshing the results

This project will help to improve the profitability and production of fish aquaculture in East and Central Africa by addressing the current barriers to development across the industry as a whole. This will be achieved through improved policy, adoption of more efficient practices and technologies, building the regional capacity for development and providing ready access to information. By looking beyond the farm, to mesh together the needs of the different value chains, the industry as a whole, and the people who rely on it for food and income, will profit.