Free webinar series fuels Africa’s aquaculture sector

Fisherwomen hold a catfish harvested from their pond in Cameroon. Photo by Randall Brummett.
Highlights

WorldFish partners with leading African aquaculture magazine to produce a free webinar series to educate small-scale fish farmers on best practices. The development of a sustainable, inclusive fish farming sector promises to deliver food and nutrition security while providing economic opportunities.  

A series of webinars hosted by Aquaculture Africa Magazine—with support provided by WorldFish—are helping to link smallholder fish farmers in Africa to the global aquaculture community.

Aquaculture in Africa is an important complement to capture fisheries, key to improving local fish supply and food and nutrition security. As many low- and middle- income countries cannot produce enough fish to meet increasing demand, they often rely on costly foreign fish imports. Aquaculture is seen as a growing industry that can increase domestic fish production and food sovereignty while providing income opportunities.

To shape the sector’s inclusive development, Aquaculture Africa Magazine's free webinar series brings together fish farmers, researchers, practitioners, government ministers and civil society to explore best aquaculture management practices.

Each webinar is devoted to a specific topic, from fish feed formulations to water quality management, followed by a question and answer session where farmers, researchers and aquatic food workers can engage directly with experts in the field.

“The goal of the webinars is to increase the availability of information. I believe access to information should be free for everyone, and it’s integral to expanding the aquaculture sector across the African continent,” said Etienne Hinrichsen of Aquaculture Africa Magazine.

Aquaculture Africa Magazine positions itself as a digital information hub and a multimedia networking channel for smallholder farmers. It was forced to transition from a print magazine to a fully online presence following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—which has only expanded its reach as the number of subscribers grew.

While COVID-19 upturned the global economy and threatened progress on food and nutrition security, it also forced organizations to engage more in online communications and connect with a greater diversity of voices.

The webinars are one example of the success of online networking—they often have over 1,000 attendees, with an average 75 percent of participants registering from Africa and 25 percent from other parts of the world.

“We’ve identified Aquaculture Africa Magazine as a significant platform to disseminate information and link African researchers and farmers to the wider global aquaculture community,” said Colin Shelley, a project leader at WorldFish. “Through the webinar series, we’re promoting research and innovation to a wider audience and transferring knowledge to assist the sector’s development.”

Co-sponsored by Aller-Aqua and Skretting, both fish feed manufacturers, along with the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH), the webinar series aims to establish a sound knowledge base amongst fish farmers and facilitate connections.

Knowledge is power: Equitable access to information key to a strong aquaculture sector

 Trainees learn to test water quality of fish ponds in Abbassa, Egypt. Photo by Sara Fouad.
Trainees learn to test water quality of fish ponds in Abbassa, Egypt. Photo by Sara Fouad.

Access to training materials for farmers is often inaccessible in remote areas, and online information sessions are helping to bridge the gap. Farmers can tune in from their mobile phones to learn about the latest developments in aquaculture technology and obtain professional advice.

Alongside its webinar series, Aquaculture Africa Magazine also hosts virtual training sessions targeted at small-scale fish farmers seeking new knowledge and assistance in farm operations.

“Development experts often talk about why aquaculture isn’t growing as fast as predicted in parts of Africa, and the focus tends to be on a lack of inputs like fish feed and seed. While these are real issues, I think information access is the biggest barrier: people don’t have access to information, and when they do get information, they don’t know how to use or apply it,” said Hinrichsen.

Shifting online, therefore, is intended to remove some of the constraints to small-scale farming operations and guide the sector’s inclusive growth. While there are still issues pertaining to unreliable internet connectivity and data usage, WorldFish researchers are working to improve digital literacy and leverage information and communication technologies to foster a well-informed aquaculture community.

“Knowledge is power, and the webinars have empowered me to better conduct my research. By attending the webinars, I was able to gain knowledge on other activities in aquaculture, especially the efforts to cope with the impacts of climate change,” said attendee Flower Msuya, a Tanzanian marine biologist and chairperson of the Zanzibar Seaweed Cluster Initiative.

Online information hubs like Aquaculture Africa Magazine ensure all stakeholders, including researchers and smallholder fish farmers, can obtain the necessary relevant information any time they are connected—the webinars are posted and made available for later viewing, which can be watched whenever a mobile signal is obtained.

Rodrigue Yossa reviews sustainable and locally-available ingredients suitable for fish feed formulations during an Africa Aquaculture Magazine webinar. Photo supplied by AAM
Rodrigue Yossa reviews sustainable and locally-available ingredients suitable for fish feed formulations during an Africa Aquaculture Magazine webinar. Photo supplied by AAM.

In one such webinar, Practical Understanding of Aquafeed Formulation, researchers explored innovative solutions to boost the sustainable production of aquaculture fish feed. Fish farmers in attendance were able to learn of the science behind feed formulation and the optimal ingredients to feed fish.

“Because fish feeds still represent 40-70 percent of the production costs in aquaculture, a better understanding of the ingredients by the feed producers and farmers may contribute to the reduction in feed cost and an increase in net-profits,” said Rodrigue Yossa, WorldFish’s Lead fish feeds and nutrition scientist.

By placing the emphasis on free information, like aquaculture feed formulations, and regional cooperation, Aquaculture Africa Magazine has facilitated partnerships and information networks throughout Africa and beyond.

WorldFish, for its part, is using the partnership to spread the word about aquaculture development in Africa and support the dissemination of quality information to fish farmers—with the aim of ramping up local aquatic food systems for improved food and nutrition security and sustainable livelihoods.