Getting Africa hooked on fish farming
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CTA. 1996. Getting Africa hooked on fish farming. Spore 63. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/47324
Fish is a popular part of the diet in most ACP countries. It has long been termed 'the poor man's protein' and the overall demand for fish is increasing as populations grow and rising standards of living in urban areas lead to expectations for diets...
Fish is a popular part of the diet in most ACP countries. It has long been termed 'the poor man's protein' and the overall demand for fish is increasing as populations grow and rising standards of living in urban areas lead to expectations for diets which are richer in animal protein. Simultaneously, the availability of fish is declining as the developed countries meet their increasing appetites for fish by sweeping clear the traditional fishing grounds of artisanal fishermen in the tropics. The twin results are less food and less employment for many coastal ACP countries. To what extent could an increase in fish farming make up for the decreasing supplies from capture fisheries? Ocean fish stocks were long considered almost inexhaustible, but modern technology to find and capture fish has led to a four-fold increase in marine catches since 1950. According to the FAO, nine of the world's 17 major fishing grounds are in serious decline, and another four are under threat. From Morocco to Ghana the northwest African fisheries serving domestic markets have virtually collapsed. Senegal has started to take steps to curb foreign fishing boats but, as in many other coastal countries, the government is torn between a need for the revenue that foreign fleets offer and the desperate state of its 50,000 or so fishermen, who are having to brave longer and more dangerous trips m open boats only to brig back smaller catches. Ashore, communities that depended on drying or smoking fish and then trading it inland are also struggling economically. ACP island states in the Caribbean, and the Pacific and Indian Ocean, which have traditionally fished inshore species and tuna in deeper waters, are similarly confronted by hightech competition that sweeps their hunting grounds clean. World fish catches have been stagnant for five years. As major fishing nations try to recoup their investment in boats and fishing gear, competition for remaining stocks will inevitably increase and marine catches will decline even further. pineland waters have also been an important source of fish, especially in Africa's land-locked countries bordering the great lakes of the Rift Valley, around Lake Chad, in Lake Chilwa (Malawi), beside the internal floodplains of big rivers such as the Niger and Okavango (Botswana) and along the rivers themselves. In recent years, though, drought has reduced flows so much that rivers such as the Niger and Senegal have ceased to flood and the surface area of Lake Chad, once one of Africa's most productive inland fisheries has shrunk dramatically. 'Annual catches in Lake Chad fell from 100,000 tons to 20,000 tons in ten years, writes international fisheries consultant John Madely in the journal International Agricultural Development, 'The surface area of the lake reduced from 24,000 square kilometres in 1963 to 3,000 square kilometres in 1985. Catches from the river Niger fell from 13,000 tons ten years ago to 2,300 tons now. In Mali's Central Niger Delta catches have almost halved from 100,000 to 55,000 tons'. A further factor has added to the decline of some of those inland waters. The deliberate or accidental release of exotic species is widely believed to have had serious detrimental effects: the introduction in the late 1950s and early sixties of Tilapia zillii from Lake Albert into Lake Victoria has destroyed the endemic Oreochromis variabilis (Nile perch) fishery and the introduction of common carp in South Africa, has led to the decline of local species. Disappointingly, the man-made lakes such as Kainji (Nigeria), Volta (Ghana) and Kariba (Zambia-Zimbabwe) have not lived up to early expectations as major new inland fisheries. Can aquaculture compensate ? Fish provides 17% of the world's animal protein; in some countries the figure is as high as 50%. With the decline in marine and freshwater capture fisheries, could aquaculture meet the shortfall? pIn ancient times mankind domesticated selected species of livestock as excessive hunting led to the extinction of major prey species. Some people argue that what was achieved on land could be applied to the aquatic environment. Substituting culture for capture may appear to be a rational option and one with historical precedent but the promise of fish farming in sub Saharan Africa could be illusory. Aquaculture has a history extending over some thousands of years in Asia, especially in China. In more recent times it has been practiced successfully in Europe, the Middle East, and North an] South America. In sub Saharan Africa aquaculture is a relatively recent introduction, and it has so far failed to make any significant impact on fish production. In the 1995 FAO publication Dimensions of Need no African country is mentioned as a significant producer of fish through aquaculture (see figure). Aquaculture includes production of aquatic plants, crustaceans, molluscs and fish in salt, brackish and fresh waters. Seaweed culture has been tried on the East African coast; a form of bait-feeding and trapping is the basis of the traditional Acadja system in Benin; crustaceans (shrimp) have been farmed successfully in coastal inlets in Mauritius, and South Africa has successfully bred sport fish (trout) and so-called coarse fish such as carp on a commercial scale. But, while FAO expects aquaculture output worldwide to double in volume by 2010, can African production contribute significantly to this expansion? Aquaculture is beset by many constraints in Africa and these must be admitted, understood and overcome before it can become more widely and successfully practiced. Soil and water are two constraints that limit aquaculture more than they do agriculture: whereas crops and livestock can survive, and even produce some small return, under arid conditions and in infertile soils, fish ponds require a minimum adequacy of water and non-porous soils that will retain it. Furthermore, evaporation in most parts of Africa is so great that aquaculture has to be planned to (and limited by) the extent of seasonal rainfall. In vast areas of the continent only one short period of rain delivers a relatively meagre fall of moisture and in some years that may be insufficient. Where soils are water retentive they may be hard and excavating them to establish fish ponds may be a laborious process. Seasonal production of fish, is possible provided that farmers are confident that they can obtain fingerlings each year to restock their ponds for the period when they have water. To-date neither government nor commercial hatcheries are sufficiently widespread to service these small holder needs. Gender has also proved a major, but often under-estimated, constraint to sustainable pond fish farming. The task of digging is invariably beyond the physical strength of all but the strongest and fittest men and yet it is often women who are attracted to small scale aquaculture. If the men are not willing to dig, aquaculture is a non-starter. If the men do invest their time and energy in digging they may then adopt a proprietorial attitude to the aquaculture enterprise and assume that while the women should take responsibility for all subsequent management, including stocking and feeding, they (the men) will help with the harvesting and take a large proportion of the value of the harvest. Human and animal predation are major causes of loss and discouragement while lack of training or lack of commitment to monitoring and management can result in rapid deterioration of water quality and disease or death of fish. Perhaps the greatest constraint on the uptake and sustainable development of aquaculture in Africa has been unreasonable expectations at policy level. It has been assumed that the main output of fish ponds would be fish, and other benefits have not been taken into consideration. As a result, when ponds have failed to deliver expected yields they have been deemed to have 'failed'. Fish farming has also invariably been the responsibility not of agriculture or livestock ministries and departments but of fisheries departments or, in the case of francophone countries, Ministere des eaux et forets. The policy makers and subject matter specialists of these 'fisheries' departments have often had a very uncomfortable relationship with clients who are farmers and not fisherfolk. In short, aquaculture has been seen and implemented as a specialized activity instead of being integrated within existing crop and livestock agriculture. Experience of aquaculture in Africa has been gathered by FAO, Aquaculture for Local Community Development Programme (ALCOM), ICLARM, by many African national government agencies and by various other agencies including CEMAGREF, GTZ, ODA and others. CTA was one of the main sponsors of the seminar The management of integrated freshwater agro-pisciculture ecosystems in tropical areas held in Brussels in May 1994 (see Spore 53 More to fish farming than fish) and the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling, the University of Sussex and the ODA have jointly published a very concise overview of the subject Fish farming in Africa: what's the catch? The consensus of opinion is that aquaculture has much to offer small holder farmers in Africa but that for them to benefit more fully a radical change of approach is needed to 'sell' the concept to farmers, to train and support them with extension services, and to ensure the infrastructural support that is necessary. Attempts to promote aquaculture during the colonial period in anglophone and francophone countries alike stressed the importance of technology, its development through research stations, and the extension of production techniques including the production of fingerlings. Although they failed in the 1950s, some government planners are still focusing on projects to rehabilitate old government fish farms; however most donors are unwilling to risk repeating mistakes and there is a growing awareness that it is necessary to understand the needs of small holders and to determine their motivations for constructing and managing fish ponds in order to devise and fund projects with greater chances of sustainability. Where population densities are low, as in Luapula Province, Zambia and northern Malawi, there are limited opportunities to sell fish, but if the people like fish they dig ponds and raise fish for themselves. In contrast, in western Kenva, where population density is high and there is a dynamic local economy, there is a good market for fish and so ponds are dug specifically to generate income. Land tenure can be an important factor and where Bonds are built as an asset security of tenure is essential. Women can be discouraged from becoming pond owners, either because custom denies them land tenure or because on divorce, a woman is expected to return to her family home, abandoning her fixed assets of ponds. Legislation is now changing traditional land tenure practice in some countries in response to modern economic and development pressures in urban and rural areas alike, and if governments wish to encourage rural development, including aquaculture, the process will have to be accelerated. Where land access is assured, soil is suitable, and water sufficient, farmers can be persuaded to adopt aquaculture if all the potential benefits of ponds are explained. Some of the benefits may well exceed the value of harvested fish alone. The Songhai Project centred in Porto Novo, Benin, a non-governmental organization, and ICLARM in Malawi have both demonstrated the synergistic effects of integrating fish ponds with crop and livestock small holdings. The ponds can produce sufficient fish to sell if they are well managed and the fish adequately fed but, even if the quantity of fish is no more than that needed for household consumption as a 'relish' to add to the diet the water stored in ponds can be utilized after harvesting the fish to irrigate selected crops and thereby extend the growing season. The nutrient-enriched mud in the drained ponds is a valuable fertilizer for vegetables and fruit trees. And some of the surplus crop trimmings, over-ripe fruit and livestock manure can be used to fertilize the ponds, encourage plant growth and indirectly feed the fish. By-products such as rice bran may be used as a direct feed. The yield of fish is largely determined by the level of feeding. Integrated crop live stock fish systems are very flexible and offer opportunities for optimizing a range of raw materials that is available in many rural areas. Whereas unfertilized, poorly managed ponds yield only 50-200kg/ha/year, ponds which benefit from agricultural waste feeding and good stock management can yield up to an astonishing 5,00010,000kg/ha/vear. Few farmers may achieve such high levels of production, but many could grow over 1000kg/ha/year; since 200kg/year can supply a family's needs, the surplus would provide welcome additional income. Actual yields will depend on many other factors than feeding alone: species stocked, local seasonal temperature and farmer management expertise, for example. The level and quality of extension support and farmer training will have a direct effect on farmers' management abilities. One of the first attitudes that must be changed among farmers is that it is enough to have a pond full of water and the fish will look after themselves. Many small holders in Africa keep their livestock on a scavenging self feed basis and realize the value of their animals only when they feel the need to slaughter for the house or for sale. Fish will not thrive under such a management regime and require more and regular monitoring and management. To conclude Africa is a relative newcomer to aquaculture compared with most other regions of the world and lack of experience, mistaken objectives and policies have led to many disappointing failures. However, farmers in several African countries are developing their localized expertise and several aquacultural specialists have commented favorably on their progress and potential. FAO estimates that by the year 2000 demand for fish in Africa will outstrip supply by 1.7 million tonnes annually. It is clear that there is no way by which fish farming can make good this shortfall or even have a major impact in such a short time. There is, in addition, the growing shortfall in African production of cereal grains and other food crops. Wherever governments are committed to addressing the food needs of their people in terms of quantity and quality of food produced locally, a priority could be to support the grass-roots development of an integrated agriculture/aquaculture policy. This would include extension, training of farmers, commercial fingerling production and distribution and improved market access for farms. The rewards would include overall improved food production and increased employment, income and nutrition. FURTHER READING 1 Fish farming in Africa: what's the catch ? Published by ODA, London 1994 2 Fish farming in sub-Saharan Africa, case studies in the francophone countries proposals for future action bye Lazord, Y Lecompte, B Stomol ondJ Y Weige Distributed by AGRIDOC Internotionol, BDPA, 75738 Poris 15, FRANCE 3 Spore No 38 Integrating fish farming in Africa 4 Proceedings of seminar The management of integrated freshwater agro-piscicultural ecosystems in tropical areas CTA