Perspectives from the FAO Regional Office for Africa


John Moehl
Regional Aquaculture Officer FAO Regional Office for Africa, Accra, Ghana

Interest in aquaculture across the region continues to grow and there is increasing activity in both the private and public sector. One of the major implications of this growth is a re-assessment of the public sector's capacity to support aquaculture. During the boom years of the 1970s and '80s, when aquaculture projects were sprouting up every where, the public sector provided extensive support to aquaculture development, principally with donor funds.


africa22bis copy.jpg (42950 byte)

Research and extension were common areas receiving donor support. Other less common support mechanisms were subsidized feed costs and government assistance for pond construction. The latter could take the form of free hand tools or even heavy equipment made available to farmers for pond construction; either free of charge or at a low cost. A prominent form of government intervention was through the establishment of fish stations. These were alternatively seen as focal points for extension, hatcheries (often providing free or subsidized seed), demonstration centres, training sites or research facilities. Hundreds of stations were built around the Region; a large part of them is abandoned today.

Governments can no longer rely on donor funds to support aquaculture and their own budgets have few reserves to provide subsidized inputs or maintain expensive facilities. The trend today is one of downsizing and merging, with several countries attempting to even privatize such activities as research and extension. The days of flourishing local government hatcheries with their team of aquaculture extension agents are all but gone. In many cases, aquaculture has been blended into the mix that has become a unified agriculture extension service and governments are looking at ways and means to divest, including ceding fish stations to the private sector.


Although privatization is widespread, the methods vary and the approaches are often not fully developed. The issue of reduced public sector support to aquaculture will be one of the main topics of the Africa Regional Aquaculture Review, organized by the FAO Regional Office for Africa, to be held in Accra in September 1999. The Review will assemble practitioners from fifteen African countries and a number of developmental organizations. The combined expertise of participants will be used to assess why aquaculture has not established a more solid and economically viable foundation in Africa, albeit millions of donor dollars devoted to its promotion and despite past efforts to mitigate the identified constraints.
It is widely accepted that it is not a lack of aquaculture information that has hampered development, but a lack of access to available information. Africa is rapidly moving into the Information Age. Nearly instantaneous electronic communication now offers the opportunity for necessary information exchange. The Review will facilitate these exchanges and make an important first step in taking a regional approach to problem solving.


Specific objectives of the Review are to:

valuate the past thirty years of aquaculture development efforts in the region with specific focus on aquaculture extension and public sector support for aquaculture; identify those elements that were and were not sustainable; elaborate a list of lessons learned; review the present status of aquaculture in the region through an analysis of different aquaculture production systems; identify trends in aquaculture development; and prepare an outline of the key elements of a general aquaculture development strategy.

Project for the Integration of Aquaculture into Irrigated Small-Farming Systems for Southern Africa. This project, to be implemented by FAO and funded by IFAD, is scheduled to start before the end of thev vear.

mathias.jpg (43124 byte)


The Regional Office will also be organizing an Integrated Irrigation and Aquaculture Workshop in September 1999. The workshop will serve as a forum for irrigation and aquaculture specialists from five African countries, as well as representatives of a number of irrigation/ aquaculture agencies, to review the status of integrated irrigation/aquaculture (IIA) from developmental and research perspectives with the aim of establishing a network of national institutions to foster information exchange and collaboration on field activities.

IIA is becoming ever more popular as the delicate status of the Region's aquatic resources is more fully appreciated, especially in waterstressed areas. One can no longer take water for granted and it is imperative to develop technologies that encourage re-use and provide real synergy for resource utilisation. Irrigation and aquaculture are well-known technologies, but a true marriage of the two provides some interesting challenges (see article by Henk van der Mheen in this newsletter).

IIA is also figuring increasingly in FAO's Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS). This Programme underscores the importance of enhanced water management and a better use of the Region's aquatic resources. IIA is, thus, a good fit and many countries are planning to integrate aquaculture into irrigation schemes as part of SPFS. A further indication of the rising awareness of IIA is the up-coming project in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi: The Subregional


Dr. Matthias Halwart has been appointed Fishery Resources Officer (Aquaculture) in the Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture Service (FIRI) at FAO HQ effective 1 September 1999.

Dr. Halwart brings with him many years of experience on aquaculture and farming systems development. From 1990 to 1994, he co-ordinated and implemented a joint research project among the Freshwater Aquaculture Center (FAC), the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM), and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) on the potential of fish as biocontrol agents in rice in the Philippines. From 1995 to early 1999, he worked with FIRI, first as Associate Professional Officer with focus on aquaculture in integrated farming systems, and later as consultant on diverse aspects of small-scale aquaculture, including backstopping missions for projects in Malaysia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. To meet the interdisciplinary demands of his work at FAO, Dr. Halwart forged collaborative links and carried out joint activities with colleagues from irrigation, farming systems and integrated pest management, both within and outside FAO. Prior to joining FIRI, he held a teaching position as Visiting Faculty in the School of Environment, Resources and Development at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Thailand.

Dr. Halwart's technical responsibilities in FIRI will focus largely on small-scale rural aquaculture techniques and systems, and on integrated aquaculture-agriculture production systems, including integrated irrigation and aquaculture activities.