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Mario Pedini2 and Z. Shehadeh3
Senior Adviser (Aquaculture Development)
3Senior Fishery Resources Officer (Aquaculture)
Fishery Resources Division

1 Based on the first author's contribution to Fisheries and Aquaculture
in Sub-Saharan Africa: situation and outlook in 1996.
FAO Fisheries Circular. No. 922. Rome, FAO. 1996. 44p.



Aquaculture has not been a traditional practice in Africa and remains a new form of food and income generation, in spite of various efforts since the fifties. In 1994, Sub-Saharan Africa contributed less than 0.2% to world aquaculture production.
FAO has aquaculture production records for 37 countries for the period 1984-1994. Although in a global context of aquaculture development, Africa is the least advanced of all continents, aquaculture has developed well since the beginning of the 1990's. Regional production was estimated at 9,179 mt in 1984, rising to 39,364 mt in 1994 (Figure 1). Excluding the production of seaweeds and ascidians, aquaculture production in 1984 and 1994 amounted to 9,174 and 32,764 mt respectively. However, aquaculture statistics in Africa are not very reliable for two reasons: the relatively low economic importance of the sub-sector, and the lack of financial resources at institutional level to monitor developments and rural production.

The recent development of the sub-sector, under a prevailing poor development environment in the region, has not been homogeneous and only a few countries have registered significant increases in production. Of the 37 countries for which 1994 production records are available, only 5 countries (Nigeria, Zambia, South Africa, Madagascar and Kenya) produced more than 1 000 mt, while another 13 countries reported production ranging from 100 to 1 000 mt (Figure 2).


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In the period for which data have been collected, some countries made significant progress: Nigeria doubled its production; Zambia had a steady and much faster growth with a fifteen fold increase in production, due to the development of rural aquaculture based on tilapia-pond farming; South Africa increased production 13 fold, mainly through mariculture, although the rate of growth slowed down considerably after 1990; Madagascar showed a 17 fold increase in production, with very rapid development of carp culture in rural areas of the highlands and, recently, with the development of shrimp culture. These developments were catalyzed by two FAO-Government projects which mobilized the private sector. In Kenya, growth of aquaculture has been steady with a six fold increase based on carp, trout, tilapia and shrimps, and involving both rural and more commercial sectors.

Main Species

Species group data for finfish in 1994 show that the tilapias are the most important in terms of tonnage with some 13,300 mt in 1994 (Figure 3), followed by the catfishes (nearly 7,300 mt), and cyprinids (nearly 4,200 mt), with production of common carp rising rapidly.

For other groups, molluscs are currently more important than crustaceans in terms of tonnage, with a consistent increase in production from 37 mt in 1984 to 3,304 mt in 1994. In this group, which includes ten species, mussels are the most important, with 2,710 mt produced in South Africa in 1994. Oysters are cultivated in four countries. South Africa is the most important producer.

Some countries have also started shrimp culture. The group includes nine species of which four are freshwater. The main species is the tiger shrimp, Penaeus monodon, farmed in Madagascar, Seychelles, South Africa and Mozambique.

A recent development is the farming of Euchema, an important source of revenue for the coastal communities of Zanzibar. Another country involved in seaweed farming is Namibia, where Gracilaria is being grown. Seaweed production started to grow rapidly from 1989, stabilizing between 6,000 and 7,000 mt from 1990 to 1994.

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Production Value

In the period 1984-94, the value of aquaculture products increased from US$ 13.4 to US$ 75.8 million (Figure 4). The top species for 1994 were probably the tilapias as it is likely that a large part of the unclassified freshwater finfish consist of tilapias. However, and coming as somewhat of a surprise, the main group in 1994 were the catfishes, with a cumulative value of over US$ 22 million compared to slightly over US$ 21 million for the tilapias. Another important species is the common carp, with an overall value of US$ 6.7 million, followed by tiger prawn and rainbow trout valued respectively at US$ 4.4 and 4.3 million. The simple farming practices like that of Euchema in Zanzibar represented a significant contribution of US$ 1 million in 1994, and provided substantial employment and revenues to the women who supervise the culture of this seaweed.


Development issues

The review of aquaculture in Sub-Saharan Africa showed that there are still many countries with only incipient or erratic aquaculture production. Apart from the doubtful quality of the data on production, this demonstrates that only a few countries have actually given due emphasis to aquaculture. Very often, erratic production figures reflect inconsistent development efforts. Aquaculture development requires more rigorous programming, stronger institutions, and more sustained promotional efforts.

The possibility to transfer appropriate aquaculture packages is greatly influenced by water availability in particular, as well as by climatic variations. In recent years, attempts have been made with the assistance of the international community to utilise the potential of small water bodies in sub-arid and arid areas (e.g. Burkina Faso and SADC countries). These initiatives hold good potential for the future in view of the water surface available in these areas, although further efforts are still required to consolidate the packages and to disseminate this approach. As water conservation schemes in rural areas become more common, aquaculture should expand as an associated practice.

Aquaculture extension has tended to be specialised and not integrated with agricultural extension, hampering the capacity to disseminate aquaculture information. Public funds for extension services have been scarce due to the low economic importance of the sector. It is essential to upgrade the professional preparation of staff involved in aquaculture extension and its organization, as well as staff involved in running public fish farms and seed production centres. This is made difficult by the lack of adequate facilities/institutions for aquaculture training.

Another important issue is the heavy reliance on external assistance for aquaculture development , even for aquaculture research projects. Project achievements have generally been short-lived and unsustainable for several reasons, including insufficient project duration, the very weak institutional context in which these projects are implemented, the changing priorities of donors and governments, and limited follow-up capabilities.

In most countries under consideration, formal credit is not generally available for aquaculture development. Rural farmers have very limited capital for investment in new practices which many of them would also consider risky. Although formal credit would probably

be used mostly by farmers who understand credit schemes, capital is also necessary for building and operating aquaculture facilities as well as for establishing support services for aquaculture development. Extension services could facilitate access to credit by assisting farmers to prepare requests for loans, but should not be involved in loan recovery activities (collection of loan payments).

Until recently, aquaculture development projects in Africa have seldom taken into account small entrepreneurs, who may undertake a more commercial form of aquaculture to supply urban or local markets. These entrepreneurs have often been ignored in externally assisted development projects which predominantly targeted the rural poor or subsistence farmers. However, the growing urban populations in Africa also need protein supplies and the private sector in peri-urban areas can be more easily mobilised to supply these markets through aquaculture (generally benefiting from more readily accessible inputs and attractive prices). Interestingly, in recent years, more progress in aquaculture has been made in those countries where entrepreneurs and progressive farmers have been systematically involved.

An associated issue is the supporting infrastructures required for aquaculture development. Although public sector infrastructure exists for seed production and demonstration (a recent review made in 13 major aquaculture producing countries of the Region pointed out the existence of more than 200 stations), these are either very old or inadequate for seed production. Expansion of aquaculture is hampered by the distances involved in transporting seed to the scattered aquafarmers, and the lack of vehicles and funds to distribute seed. In at least two of the most successful countries, Madagascar in particular, the privatization of seed production has been a major breakthrough in expanding production. This implies a need to rethink past strategies regarding seed production and to redefine the role of governmental stations.

Aquaculture is still a new concept in Africa and specialised institutional set-ups are still extremely weak. In this context, external assistance continues to be essential for further development, but it should be more carefully planned and designed with longer time frames in order to establish strong bases for sustained development. At the rural level, efforts should be pursued to obtain a better integration of aquaculture with the prevailing agricultural practices of small-scale farmers, with due emphasis on more participatory approaches. In general, there is also a definite need to better integrate financial, economic and social


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considerations in designing and implementing projects and packages. Projects aimed at more commercial/investment oriented aquaculture, for seed production and supplying urban markets with food fish, should be implemented with supporting credit schemes.

Prospects for increased production

The contribution of aquaculture to fish supplies (only 0.7%) and food security, based on available statistics, is still modest although considerable potential exists in terms of land and water across the Region. It is estimated that less than 5% of this potential has been utilised. Six countries account for 90% of total production (32,700 mt). Expected difficulties in ensuring adequate fish supplies should favour aquaculture in a number of local markets, as prices of fish will increase. Despite this potential, the development of aquaculture is still hampered by a number of economic, social and institutional constraints which will have to be systematically assessed and mitigated. The concern expressed with regard to food security in the Region will probably lead to renewed emphasis on aquaculture development. Major and co-ordinated support from donors will be required to establish sounder bases for such development over the next 15 years.

In order to increase fish production, governments in the Region are likely to emphasise the strengthening of capacities to manage capture fisheries on a

sustainable basis, and the elaboration of more appropriate frameworks for the development of aquaculture.

Achievement of sustainable increases in aquaculture production require that emphasis be given to: (a) integration of fish culture with agriculture: using family level technologies applied in schemes which contemplate water storage practices, including micro-irrigation and small ponds; encouraging aquaculture in irrigation networks and integrated rice-cum-fish culture, and in farming systems in general as appropriate, (b) encouraging investment-oriented aquaculture by progressive farmers in peri-urban areas, and (c) aquaculture-based stocking and stock enhancement in small and medium-size water bodies, focusing on reservoirs and eventually on medium size lakes and river floodplains, using local species, and including the development of cage culture.