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Community-Based Fish Culture in Seasonal Floodplains and Irrigations Systems - Partners - Mali

The Malian component of this project involves a collaboration between WorldFish, the Africa Rice Center (formerly known as WARDA) and the Aquatic Resources Research Program (Programme de Ressources Halieutiques) of Mali’s national rural economy research institute (Institut d’Economie Rurale).

Mopti, Mali, Africa

Research Context
The droughts of the 1970-80s impoverished most rural households living in the Sahelian regions of West Africa, and in many cases families were forced to send some of their members to live and work in cities.  Since then, rural Malians have struggled to rebuild and diversify their livelihoods.

In the 30,000 km2 area of the Inner Niger River Delta in Mali, the critical resources making livelihood diversification possible are the residual waters retained in mares which enable agriculture, provide pasture and create fish habitat during the dry season.  Fish culture has a very limited history in Mali, however, the extensive flood plains that traverse this country provide excellent, untapped opportunities for both extensive and intensive aquaculture in floodplain depressions (known as mares).

Research Objectives and Approaches
The project’s objectives were to encourage local stewardship of fisheries resources and improve water productivity through introduction of extensive pen aquaculture in mares. 

Based on a study of local livelihoods, institutions, and ecological conditions in two candidate communities of the Inner Niger River Delta, the CP-35 team selected the community best suited for the project. Then the team engaged with stakeholders to explore sources of conflict between mare resource users, and how any conflicts associated with the project could be addressed.

Having gained widespread community support for the project, the CP-35 team collaborated with a community to establish a trial pen aquaculture pilot site that would be entirely managed by the local community. This involved extensive sensitization and focus group discussions with local stakeholders in order to determine any risks involved. Aquaculture pens were cited so as to avoid conflicts with other mare resource users. 

Pens were constructed using locally available netting and poles, and were stocked with Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) fingerlings (each weighing roughly 35g) from a the local IER-run hatchery.  In order to test the optimal stocking densities in this type of production system, the 75 m2 pens were stocked at 1.5 fish/m3, 3 fish/m3, and 4.5 fish/m3 densities. These trials are entirely extensive in nature (without addition of inputs), and the stocking cycle is expected to last between 28-32 weeks (depending to a certain degree on the duration of the mare water levels).

Results – Decreased conflict and increased production in mares
The productivity of the different pen aquaculture trials will be determined upon harvesting during this year’s dry season, however, the impacts on all local livelihoods has already been remarkable. 

Farmers note the absence of conflicts due to livestock browsing and less indiscriminate foraging by livestock in the mare. Meanwhile livestock herders note the diminished extraction of vegetation from the mare by farming households. All of these behavioral changes are noted by the community to have had positive impacts on water quality and quantity, which is important for all livelihoods.

Additionally community members have noted the sharp decrease in poaching during the closed season. Based on an extrapolation from last year’s fishing catch data, this change in behavior is anticipated to result in a doubling of the total fish biomass landed during the collective fishing event this year. As two-thirds of the fish had previously been caught by poachers prior, the households participating in the collective fishing event can expect a five-fold increase in fish catches.

Regional NGOs and governmental agencies have expressed significant interest in this approach for increasing fish production and improving mare resource governance. This research team is now seeking funding to scale up operations throughout the Inner Niger River Delta and beyond to floodplains in Burkina Faso and Niger.