The FAO Aquaculture Newsletter

April 1997. No. 15

Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture Service, Fisheries Department, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Rome, 00100 Italy

Tel: 39-6-52254795 Fax: 39-6-52253020. E-mail:


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Fish fry market in Bangladesh


Mario Pedini and Z. Shehadeh
Aquaculture in Sub-Saharan Africa: Situation and outlook

André Coche and Mario Pedini
Establishment of the Aquatic farming systems information network for Africa

Lieven Verheust
Alcom's surface Water Body Database for SADC

J. Balarin, A. Chiswa and R. Evans
Commercial fish farming poised to take off in Zimbabwe

Francois Noël
Wealth Ranking: Mozambique

Manuel Martínez-Espinosa
Expert Consultation on small-scale rural aquaculture

Projects and other activities

New FAO Publications


Fisheries and aquacultural projects in southern Africa have experienced a period of transformation during the 1990s. In previous decades, typical fisheries project activities included: training change agents in proven improved technologies; developing government infrastructure to assist in the diffusion of these technologies; and providing logistic support to carry the message to the intended beneficiaries. Rural communities were awash with governmental and non-governmental agents representing a broad spectrum of enterprises, offering rural dwellers a shopping list of innovations.

However, long-term adoption rates often were less than anticipated. Purported proven technologies did not take into consideration stakeholders’ priorities. Recommended management practices did not fit beneficiaries’ needs, such issues as cropping strategies, harvest schedules and input requirements frequently did not take into account the limitations of the whole family economy. Moreover, the prerequisite expanded government infrastructure required to provide these services put increased strain on already over-taxed government finances. Transport and message delivery systems, established with donor funds, exceeded by far provisions made in agency budgets.

Nonetheless, the justification for enhanced output from aquatic resources remained valid. Rampant malnutrition and expanding food insecurity made high-quality fish harvests more and more important.

With the advent of the 90s and the imposition of structural adjustment into many national programmes, the typical project approach required a major overhaul. Donor dollars were in rapid decline. Many countries were faced with trade deficits and inflation. Governments could no longer afford to provide the full array of agricultural services to farm families. Only modest extension support, at best, could be provided to rural communities. Rapidly down-sizing agencies meant fewer and fewer agents were available to meet the demands of an ever-increasing population.

Furthermore, in southern Africa the droughts of the early 90s put heightened stress on agricultural systems and already limited water resources. Farming families did not have the luxury of squandering meager water supplies; multiple use and re-use were necessities. Water became an ever-important political commodity, with individuals and communities competing for diminishing resources.

Within this context, the FAO-executed ALCOM Programme experienced a similar metamorphosis. From its origins in the late 1980s as a Swedish-funded aquacultural project (Aquaculture for Local Community Development), ALCOM evolved into a smallholder aquatic resource management programme in the mid-1990s, operating with joint Belgian and Swedish support.

ALCOM’s approach to technology transfer acknowledged the difficulties in extending rigid "packages" of proven technologies. Potential adopters must have the latitude to form basic knowledge into actions that fit their specific circumstances. Hence, the key to adoption is to identify technological guidelines suitable for a wide range of beneficiaries, each with their own priorities. To do this, one must have a good understanding of farmers’ socio-economic environment, identifying common denominators which facilitate adoption. In fact, the diffusion/adoption process is not so much one of addressing technical issues; it is much more one of addressing human issues.

When technological guidelines have been identified that complement farm operations, the dilemma remains: how to transfer these messages to beneficiaries with shrinking extension services. While formal governmental information channels impart knowledge on general agricultural production to rural communities, these conduits are less available for specialized technologies inherent in water control and fisheries production. Informal information networks provide a more sustainable circuit of feedforward and feedback, where farmers themselves and traditional community organizations form essential links in the information chain. Identification of these informal mediums requires, again, considerable awareness of the social dynamics of the communities, comprehending how the people and their resources mesh.

For southern African farmers, adoption of fisheries and aquacultural activities happens when these provide synergy with other agricultural and water management endeavors. Water to sustain life takes precedence. If this same resource can be used to produce a high-value food, there is a higher probability the production technologies will be adopted. As a nonconsumptive water use, the inclusion of fisheries and aquacultural activities in diversified farming systems makes sense and fits well with smallholder’s priorities.

John F. Moehl,Jr.

ALCOM Programme Coordinator