Aquaculture development in Africa: Current status and future prospects

The contribution of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to global aquaculture production remains insignificant but is increasing significantly. Between 1998 and 2007 there was a four-fold increase in production from 43,000 to slightly over 183,000 tonnes. The average yearly growth (APR) was 14.45 percent. This was due to the emergence and intensification of private sector led small and medium size enterprises and the expansion of large commercial ventures, stimulated in some cases by growing public support and the inflow of foreign capital and expertise. International awareness and interest in aquaculture spawned by the NEPAD Fish for All Summit in 2005 and implementation of the FAO Special Programme for Aquaculture Development in Africa (SPADA) also contributed to this development. The management practices of some of these undertakings are vertically integrated, environmentally responsible and socially acceptable. The operations adhere to standard sanitary operation processes and the entrepreneurs are adopting strategies to safeguard producers and consumers. Products from some of the enterprises are subject to labelling and certification.

The bulk of the production (93 percent) is from freshwater and is predominantly the culture of the indigenous and ubiquitous species of tilapias and African catfishes. In 2007 catfish contributed about 49 percent of the total production, and interest in the culture of the species for domestic markets, intra- and inter-regional trade and exports overseas is still growing in several countries. Mariculture contributes only 2 percent of total production quantity and 5 percent of total value but is an emerging and promising subsector. New production systems (for example, cages and tanks previously untried or unproven in the SSA) have been introduced, accompanied by the refinement of existing production systems. The tank system has application in a number of conditions, and it has a strong teaching aspect, as well as the capacity to serve multiple functions, including holding fish for sale or processing. Much of the production in Nigeria is based on the tank system. It is estimated that employment by the sector per country ranges from 18,000 to 30,000 jobs and in vertically large-scale farms, a high proportion of the employees are women. Integrated aquaculture, including rice-based aquaculture systems, is presently practiced in only a few countries but has great potential at the rural small-scale farmer level to contribute towards sustainable livelihoods by strengthening the ability of farmers to respond to threats in their environment, improve their resilience and reduce vulnerability to shocks, as well as increasing food security.

Several governments are recognising that important roles for the state include facilitating, coordinating and adopting reforms to improve business environment that is not directly linked to aquaculture but has spill-over impacts on the sector. Some countries are divesting expensive infrastructure and undeliverable services; others have adopted aquaculture-specific policies and developed framework strategies providing a vision and roadmap to guide development. A few governments have provided soft credit lines in agricultural development and commercial banks, but access to affordable credit, seed and feed of sufficient quantity and quality, and land ownership or secure access to common property resources are major constraints to the expansion and/or intensification of production. The characterisation of species, selective breeding and the production of low-cost diets are the focus of research in a few centres. In the target countries under SPADA, on-farm participation in research using model farms and private enterprises is resulting in rapid diffusion of technologies through farmer-to-farmer pathways. Generally, extension services are weak and inadequately resourced. There is an urgent need to improve the individual services and also strengthen the links between research and development.

There is increased private-sector involvement in the production and delivery of inputs (seed and feeds) and the manufacture and supply of aquaculture equipment in some countries. At the same time, producer associations of one form or another are present in several countries at both the national and local levels and are playing a catalytic role in the sector, in terms of information flow, exchange of experience, and agenda and priority setting. The establishment of operational clusters of farmers is contributing to efficient delivery of support services, ensuring economies of scale, reducing transaction costs and improving competitiveness. In other instances, clustering of farmers but especially of farms has been a deliberate outcome of zoning areas for aquaculture based on the biophysical and socio-economic parameters of the given site.

The emergence of a fledging marketing component in the industry of some countries is contributing to improving the value chain of aquaculture. However, poor infrastructure and insufficient facilitation are two major constraints to the distribution of aquaculture products both within individual countries and for inter-regional trade. To meet consumers’ demand for “ready-to-prepare” products, artisanal fish dressing industries are emerging at farm gates and markets. Value is also added to the products through freezing, drying and smoking, including the preparation of cool-smoked catfish fillets for export to Europe.

The top aquaculture producers in SSA include Nigeria, Uganda, Madagascar, South Africa and Zambia. There are several reasons why aquaculture has had spectacular growth in these and a few other countries during the past decade. They include the adoption of good governance, emphasis on capacity building to create the critical mass in strategic and targeted subject matter, emphasis on research and outreach, and the provision of credit. However the greatest catalyst is the promotion of private sector-led aquaculture development, which has been manifested in these lead countries by investment in sound management, establishment of efficient commercial fish hatcheries, judicious choice of limited species, the development and use of aqua-feeds and new production systems, and the emergence of strong and dynamic producer associations and service providers.

As the sector develops and activities intensify, aquaculture will face several challenges such as: a growing demand for access to capital; the need for sufficient quantities and quality of seed and feeds; the severe competition with other resource (land/water/feed) users, and the need to strengthen the basis for aquaculture management, including the overall governance of the sector. However, with the stagnation of both marine and inland capture fisheries production, expanding markets and services, growing urbanisation, increased opportunities for private-sector development etc., the possibilities for increased growth are enormous, and there are indications that the APR of 14 percent witnessed during the past decade could be maintained in the medium term.


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Global Conference on Aquaculture 2010

The conference was organised by FAO, the Thai Department of Fisheries and NACA and held in the Mövenpick Resort and Spa, Phuket, Thailand, 22-25 September. The conference was the third in a series of aquaculture development conferences, following on from the Conference on Aquaculture in the Third Millennium held in Bangkok 2000, and the FAO Technical Conference on Aquaculture, held in Kyoto 1976.