More to fish farming than fish
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CTA. 1994. More to fish farming than fish. Spore 53. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/49474
international seminar in May 1994 in Brussels that was organized by CTA and the Belgian Royal Academy of Overseas Sciences with the collaboration of the FAO
A long-established Asian system of agricultural production offers solutions to two of Africa's most intractable problems: decline in per capital food production and declining soil fertility. It is the integration of crop, livestock and fish production; agro-pisciculture. The various forms of the system and their application in African conditions was the subject of an international seminar in May that was organized by CTA and the Belgian Royal Academy of Overseas Sciences with the collaboration of the FAO. The Brussels venue attracted participants from China, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand, all countries with many years (sometimes centuries) of experience of fish farming practices, and from African countries where pisciculture is a more recent introduction and where good progress is being made. Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, C\F4te d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe were all able to share experiences and there were experts from several EU countries, and from the International Centre for Living Aquatic Resource Management (ICLARM). Fish is a popular food almost everywhere in Africa but marine catches are falling while production from inland waters has reached, and perhaps passed, its peak of production. FAO estimates that by 2000 demand for fish will outstrip supply in Africa by 1.7 million tonnes annually. It is apparent that farmed fish cannot be expected to make good the shortage, yet agro-pisciculture offers many benefits, some of which may well exceed the simple value of the fish harvested. The water stored in farm ponds can be used to extend crop production into dry seasons, thereby increasing total production and attracting premium prices for out-of-season produce; increased production also provides by-products for feeding livestock; livestock manures added to ponds feed aquatic plants and animals that in turn feed the fish; and finally, the mud that accumulates in ponds can be used to provide fertility to crop land, particularly for fruits and vegetables. Just as the integration of trees into crop and livestock production on farms (agroforestry) has provided benefits that reflect a synergy between the various elements, similarly agro-pisciculture can be seen to offer farmers more than just fish as an extra farm crop. Fish farming was introduced to several African countries in the 1950s and early 1960s, but after a short period it failed. If agro-pisciculture is to succeed now, it must avoid the omissions and mistakes of the past, which include too great an emphasis on fish production and expectation of high yields of fish; the lack of assured fingerling supplies for farmers to restock ponds; ineffective training of farmers in the integration of fish ponds into their existing farming systems and other socio-economic errors. Now, FAO is actively promoting agro-pisciculture in the SADC countries through the Aquaculture for Local Community (ALCOM) development programme while CIRAD is active in much of francophone Africa and ICLARM in Ghana and Malawi. Many West African countries (anglophone and francophone) are also benefiting from the demonstration and teaching of integrated agro-pisciculture at the Songhai Centre, Porto Novo, Benin. The Songhai Centre is an African NGO and has two sites where the system is part of a range of sustainable, low-input food production techniques developed, in or modified for, African conditions. What is remarkable about agro-pisciculture is not that it produces large amounts of fish: in fact, the yield of fish may be quite modest. Much greater benefits come from the contribution that the pond water and mud make to maintaining soil fertility and increasing yields. Also, the increased consumption of fish, fruit and vegetables improves the quality of diets and can also add to incomes if surplus production is sold. The proceedings of the seminar will be published in due course and their availability will be announced in Spore.