The uncertain future of a big promise
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CTA. 2000. The uncertain future of a big promise. Spore 87. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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Remember those slogans from the 1970s? 'Fish farming for all' and 'Fishing is good for you and fish is good for you' were the enthusiastic messages of family fish-farming campaigns. Small-scale fish rearing was easy, or so we thought then, and a...
Remember those slogans from the 1970s? 'Fish farming for all' and 'Fishing is good for you and fish is good for you' were the enthusiastic messages of family fish-farming campaigns. Small-scale fish rearing was easy, or so we thought then, and a simple way to feed a family. And so, encouraged by the FAO and development agencies, African farmers set about digging holes in the ground, filling them with water and putting in the fish but in vain. There is much more to feeding a family than throwing a few tilapia into a pond. Fresh water fish farm production in sub-Saharan Africa, tonnes per country. FAO, 1998 'There is no such thing as easy fish farming!' proclaim the indignant research duo of Jérôme Lazard and Olivier Mikolasek, in the livestock department of the French Centre of International Cooperation in Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD). 'At each level you will find models which do work, from the family pond to an industrial size complex, from extensive to intensive. But the ones that work well are all shaped to fit into the local natural, social and economic environment. It just does not work to throw tilapia into a hole full of water.' In a simple system where there is no proper feed, no proper sexing (with species like tilapia, young female fish should be excluded, since the males will grow better) and no predator, fish will find a way to multiply. They will, however, remain too small to appeal to the consumer. Africa is rife with models of fish farming which have failed in recent years. Most family fish farms lasted until the hurried departure of extension workers. Models of intensive large-scale fish rearing have also flopped badly, because of inappropriate design and poor follow-up in training and investment, as witnessed by the failures of fish lakes in Ébrié and Aghien in Côte d Ivoire, Banfora in Burkina Faso, Brazzaville in the Congo, to mention but a few. Some large projects have continued, but only with the support of large forestry companies such as Improbois in Adzopé (Côte d Ivoire) or mining companies like Comilog in Bakoumba (Gabon) or Bamburi Cement (Kenya). They have equipment such as bulldozers and pumps permanently on hand and have the trained staff required for operating semi-intensive models of production. Getting the right size Nestling between the excess fragility of small family operations and over-ambitious large-scale projects, mid-scale suburban and peri-urban plants are offering a more hopeful perspective, with their focus on commercial sales. Jérôme Lazard: 'The plants have several fish ponds of a few ares (about one-tenth of an acre) each; they are populated with tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), a predator (Hemichromis fasciatus), mixed with catfish (Heterobranchus isopterus) or Heterotis niloticus, and fed with whatever feed is available locally such as slaughterhouse waste, chicken droppings or brewery sediment this is what works best'. In varying forms, integrated or not, extensive or intensive, fish farming has developed spectacularly in Madagascar, Kenya and Zambia, driven by small entrepreneurs. The FAO has underlined this trend in its recent reports on the state of world fish farming. Nigeria could well be added to this list, although even this country, a phenomenonal producer on the African scale, looks tiny with its 15,000 tonnes of fish compared with China s 25 million. In all, African fish farming represents about 0.2 % of world production. More protein and profit per hectare than rice or vegetables, but easy it is not A recent study in Côte d Ivoire, where peri-urban and rural fish farming is starting to catch on, has shown that successful models of artisanal fish farming has a higher return from the land than irrigated rice or market gardening. These new entrepreneurs are spearheading the growth of this sector, but they still need support, training and information. As the participants in a recent CTA study visit on fish farming in Malawi (see Spore 86) noted, much remains to be done before one can talk seriously of this being a sustainable sector. At this point in time one cannot talk at all of self-sustaining or endogenous fish farm production, especially in West Africa. To attain such levels, fish farmers need a basic set of technical skills and must have the means to invest. Above all, they must not be isolated. What peri-urban and rural fish farming needs to become a competitive sector is a veritable breeding ground of fish farmers. There should be synergies and exchanges between fish farmers and agricultural farmers, plus steps towards specialised services (such as fish nurseries) and a modicum of sector organisation, in the form of professional associations. Is that just another fishing story? To know more: The state of world fisheries and aquaculture. FAO, Rome, 1998. ISSN 0429-9329. Also on the FAO website: http://www.agricta.org/Spore/spore87/www.fao.org/fi/ See Links for detailed information sources Hydrobiological aspects of fisheries in small reservoirs in the Sahel region E Baijot, J Moreau & S Bouda, CTA, 1997. 252 pp. ISBN 92 9081 138 2 CTA number 828. 80 credit points.
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