Forming a vast grid across the flat, dry countryside, Egypt’s aquaculture ponds sit side-by-side in designated fish farming zones.
Employing more than 140,000 people full time, the industry has boomed over the last two decades and continues to grow at a rapid pace, attracting new fish farmers like Abdel-Wahab Abdel-Hamid Mahmoud who left his job in the poultry industry after recognizing the market demand for farmed fish.
Through training fish farmers on “best management practices”, the Improving Employment and Income through Development of Egypt’s Aquaculture Sector (IEIDEAS) project aims to sustainably strengthen this growing industry by helping farmers to increase the productivity and profitability of their ponds.
"I have noticed differences through fish sampling like a better weight of the fish and increased number of fish in the pond. That will give me a good crop out of these ponds." - Abdel-Wahab Abdel-Hamid Mahmoud, fish farmer
Best management practices are guidelines based on the methods used by the most productive aquaculture producers in the country and industry stakeholders.
“I have faced some difficulties as I am just starting this project, it was new for me as a fish farmer and it was a real challenge,” recalls Abdel-Wahab, who is one of 1,800 fish farmers across five governorates to participate in the project to date.
“So it was good luck to have the training program along with starting my first project in fish farming,” adds the father of five from Abbassa.
The training course covers 10 key areas of aquaculture and is taught by local fish farmers who completed a two-week ‘training of trainers’ curriculum to learn how to teach others.
“What I have learned from the training is very useful: how to prepare the land, how to handle the fingerlings… how to calculate the required amount of food for the fingerlings, how to measure the water quality parameters. So that led me to better practices on fish farming,” explains Abdel-Wahab.
While he is yet to do a full harvest of his 10 ponds, Abdel-Wahab expects that he will have a profitable yield and has already noticed improvements in his fish stock.
“I have noticed differences through fish sampling, like a better weight of the fish and increased survival rates. I think that will give me a good crop out of these ponds,” he says.
“I have a good feeling, I feel successful from this experience and happy with these results, especially as I am just starting this year,” he adds.
Strengthening the industry will help to meet the growing demand for fish, which provides the Egyptian population with up to 38% of their animal protein and is an affordable source of micronutrients essential for good health. This is particularly important as 20% of the population is estimated to be living on less than $USD1 per day.
“These results will help me to give my family a better livelihood than before by getting a better income… I am planning to continue my aquaculture business and also looking to expand the business,” he says.
The expansion of small and medium sized business like Abdel-Wahab’s creates new employment opportunities and is a key objective of the IEIDEAS project, which aims to create 10,000 new jobs throughout the industry, which will benefit up to 50,000 household members.
The IEIDEAS project is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and is implemented by WorldFish in partnership with CARE and the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish.