Perspectives from the FAO Regional Office for Africa


John Moehl

Regional Aquaculture Officer

FAO Regional Office for Africa, accra, Ghana

Africa Regional Integrated Irrigation and Aquaculture Workshop

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Water is recognised as one of the key limiting resources for the new millennium. Areas with once abundant water reserves are now forced to take a close look at rationing, while water-stressed areas are being forced to get by with less and less water. Diminishing supplies and increased demand mean that water use and re-use is a critical issue. It is now clearly imperative that water use be optimized. One form of optimisation is to integrate irrigation and aquaculture (IIA) and develop synergy from this marriage. Aquaculture, generally in the form of fishponds, can stock water for irrigating plant crops or can capture water leaving irrigation schemes. Ponds can also be built in adjacent waterlogged areas not suitable for other crops. By-products from the crops can be used as nutrient inputs for the fish; green manure for composting, spoiled produce and/or by-products such as bran or oil cake as supplemental feeds.

Moreover, at the household level IIA helps establish food security and balanced nutrition by providing a ready source of high protein _ fish. There are indications that, in some communities, families depend upon fishing in ponds or reservoirs to provide food during the "hungry period" when few alternatives are available; the ponds serving as food banks, reserving fish for times of need. For these reasons, aquaculture is an important diversification component of the FAO Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), which targets enhanced water management.

Although neither irrigation nor aquaculture is a new innovation, their merger in IIA is new and many of the technical details are still being worked out. There is a need to exchange information on IIA and identify the appropriate technologies for the various agro-ecological zones found across the Region.

An IIA Network

Information exchange is a major factor in many areas of development. All too often, access to information, rather than lack of information, is problematic. In 1993, the Working Party on Aquaculture of the Committee for Inland Fisheries for Africa (CIFA) met to review the aquaculture development and research needs in sub-Saharan Africa (reported in CIFA Technical Paper 23). The CIFA paper states "An improved information flow throughout Africa should be created" and "direct access to past and up-to-date information is stressed". To this end, improved aquaculture information exchange was of the highest priority. In addition to proposing an information network, the Working Party identified a number of research programmes to address the Region's needs; one of these programmes was Aquaculture in Irrigation Schemes.

As a result of this proposal, in October 1997 the Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture Service of the FAO Fisheries Department organized an identification mission to Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Zambia and


Zimbabwe to assess the possibilities of establishing an African IIA Network. The mission recommended the organisation of a workshop as a first step for the establishment of this network.

Subsequently, in September 1999, the Agriculture and the Fisheries Department Groups of the FAO Regional Office for Africa, assisted by colleagues from Headquarters, organised an IIA Workshop in Accra, Ghana. The Workshop brought together 32 irrigation and aquaculture technicians from seven countries as well as representatives of related international institutions including: the Regional Association for Irrigation and Drainage (ARID), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) with its Ecoregional Programme for Humid and Sub-Humid Tropics of Sub-Saharan Africa (EPHTA), and the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA) with its two regional research consortia, the Inland Valley Consortium (IVC) and the Regional Rice Research Network (RRRN) and the International Centre for Living Aquatic Resource Management (ICLARM).

The Workshop assessed the current status of IIA activities, determined information needs, discussed how these could be met through networking and agreed on a proposal for establishing an African IIA Network.


The Workshop reached the following conclusions on the status and relevance of IIA and the establishment of an IIA network:

On Integrated Irrigation-Aquaculture

IIA is a new name for existing activities practised by farmers around the region. Experience has shown that good water managers tend to have the necessary skills for IIA.

IIA field activities were noted in Mali and Zambia while IIA-related research was only reported in Ghana, although all countries indicated a high potential for IIA.

Even if not specified as "IIA", an acknowledgement of these activities' potential is seen in pending IIA projects in Cte d'Ivoire and Zambia.

The relatively unknown and little used status of IIA is a result of several factors including:

modern irrigation and aquaculture are relatively new technologies in the Region;

efforts have focused initially on each reaching its individual potential before considering how they could be integrated.


On the Need for an IIA Network

As more pressure is applied to water resources, especially in water-stressed areas, IIA becomes increasingly important.

Possible actors involved in IIA activities represent a wide variety of research and development agencies in each country and collaboration between these is often lacking.

National co-ordination would be facilitated by multidisciplinary national networks.

Frequently information to facilitate IIA development is lacking and joining national networks into a regional network would expedite access to, and exchange of information.

Networking could be accomplished by including IIA in existing regional networks or by establishing a specialized information network targeting IIA.

There is a need to seek external resources to support network activities.

Overcoming language barriers between members from different countries is a costly prerequisite.

The quality of communication infrastructure between countries will have a direct impact on the effectiveness of networking.


With reference to the proposed regional IIA Information Network, the Workshop made the followingrecommendations:

Goal of the Network

To contribute to improved food security

General Objective of the Network

To promote research and development activities for IIA and to enhance sustainable use of land and water resources

Specific objectives of the Network

To improve information exchange

To promote capacity building at all levels

To promote technology development

Themes of the Network

To improve the technical sustainability of IIA

To promote the social sustainability of IIA

To promote the economic sustainability of IIA

To promote the environment sustainability of IIA

To provide extension for IIA development


Africa Regional Aquaculture Review

Andr Coche
FAO Consultant

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

Vincent O. Sagua Consultant,
P.O. Box 71336
Victoria Island
Lagos - Nigeria


Aquaculture was introduced to much of the African Continent five decades ago as an innovation that would improve the economic and nutritional well being of producers. From Kenya to Sierra Leone thousands of ponds were built, many only to be abandoned after a few years of meagre production.

In 1975, to gauge progress toward establishing sustainable aquaculture in the Region, FAO organized the First [Africa] Regional Workshop on Aquaculture (ADCP/REP/75/1). This workshop recognized the importance of aquaculture and the high priority attached to it by many governments. It was further noted that:

"failures of some of the ill-conceived programmes during the early part of the century have continued to remain a major constraint in convincing the farmers and investors of the economic viability of aquaculture. Insufficient appreciation of the basic requirements of an effective aquaculture development programme and consequent inadequacy of governmental support activities, have handicapped the orderly and rapid development of the industry."

Following this Workshop there was increased aquaculture activity, with nearly every African country launching donor-supported fish farming projects. However, thirteen years later in 1988, the FAO Expert Consultation on Planning for Aquaculture Development (ADCP/REP/89/33) concluded aquaculture output from sub-Saharan Africa was still very low, with only Nigeria, Cte d'Ivoire, Kenya and Zambia being important producers. Moreover, most of this production was attributed to small-scale semi-intensive farming of tilapia; few large-scale commercial ventures having been able to demonstrate long-term economic viability. Ineffective or non-existent policies combined with inadequate infrastructure, poor extension support and unavailability of inputs (including seed, feed and credit) were cited as major problem areas. It was recommended that seed production should be privatized and resources devoted to upgrading extension through training and improved information flow to producers.

Five years later in 1993, FAO, assisted by other collaborators, assembled a series of twelve national aquaculture reviews from countries within the Region (CIFA Technical Paper 23, 1994). These reviews identified major constraints on the continental level as:

no reliable production statistics;

credit availability limited for small-scale farmers;

very low technical level of fish farmers;

unavailability of local feed ingredients;

lack of well-trained senior personnel;

prohibitive transport costs; and

lack of juvenile fish for pond restocking.

Today Africa's fish and shellfish aquaculture production is only slightly over 110 000 tonnes. Although this figure represents over a 60 percent increase during the previous decade (1988-1997, FAO Aquaculture Production Statistics), it is only 0.4 percent of the world total. In spite of the Region's natural endowments, including untapped land, water and human resources, Africa remains in an aquaculture backwater.

The 1999 Africa Regional Aquaculture Review

With this background, FAO organized the 1999 Review1 to:

evaluate the past 30 years of aquaculture development efforts in sub-Saharan Africa with specific focus on extension and public sector support for aquaculture;

review the present status of aquaculture in the Region through an analysis of small-scale integrated production systems and medium- to large-scale systems;

identify trends in aquaculture development; and

prepare an outline of key elements of a general aquaculture development strategy.

The Review brought together 31 aquaculture practitioners from 14 countries across the Region, including FAO staff from Headquarters and the Regional Office as well as a representative from the International Centre for Living Aquatic Resource Management (ICLARM). These practitioners, representing decades of field experience in aquaculture development, were asked to assess why aquaculture has not established a solid and economically viable foundation in Africa.

The Review took a two-pronged approach to problem solving; reviewing ten national aquaculture programmes in the Region as well as assessing specific production systems. The Review also established Working Groups on four major themes:


public sector support to aquaculture development (excluding extension);

aquaculture extension;

small-scale integrated aquaculture systems;and

medium and large-scale aquaculture systems.

Present situation

For the ten countries assessed, the following elements describe the present situation for at least 80 percent of the national aquaculture programmes:

little government support for aquaculture;

government stations and hatcheries abandoned;

private fish ponds abandoned;

feed and seed shortages;

reduced aquaculture extension activity;

shortage of field staff;

loss of institutional memory;

lack of access to available aquaculture information; and

lack of reliable aquaculture statistics.

Most countries are focusing on small-scale integrated systems producing tilapia and/or catfish (Clarias or Heterobranchus). As effective extension becomes more difficult, there is an orientation to rely increasingly on farmer groups (fish farmer associations). There is also a growing interest in commercial production and greater involvement of the private sector.

The Review concluded that: (a) aquaculture is now known throughout Africa as a result of previous extension efforts and (b) adoption/acceptance, even if on a modest scale, has been noted in most countries.

Lessons learnt

The review elaborated a list of 27 Lessons Learnt. Chief among these are:

1. an aquaculture development plan should help focus development geographically and facilitate control and evaluation (monitoring) of the programme;

2. farmer participation in development programmes, which has been lacking, should be encouraged;

3. centralized and subsidized fingerling production and supply is a disincentive to private sector involvement and creates shortage of seed — fish seed should be produced locally, in rural units involving small-scale farmers;

4. extension efforts should be focused on small-scale model farmers operating under favourable conditions (water and soil, interest and dynamism, experience with other resources, etc.) — from such model farmers, the farmer to farmer extension approach should be developed; and

5. selected culture species should be able to be reproduced by farmers themselves.

The way forward _ a strategy for aquaculture development

Within the context of the lessons learnt, the Review prepared a 37-point aquaculture development strategy to be implemented over a period of five years. The strategy included elements that could be initiated immediately with existing resources as well as others that would require changes or revisions of policies and additional funding. The eight points below encompass the principal issues:

1. establish national development policies and an aquaculture development plan in consultation with stakeholders;

2. reduce expensive and unsustainable aquaculture infrastructure, specifically with a reduction of at least 50 percent of government fish stations within five years;

3. promote and facilitate the private sector production of feed and seed;

4. encourage credit for medium and large-scale producers;

5. revise aquaculture extension, establishing a flexible and efficient structure that can meet producers' needs;

6. advocate farmer-friendly existing technologies that use readily available culture species and local materials;

7. promote collaboration, co-ordination and information exchange between national and regional aquaculture institutions and agencies; and

8. facilitate the formation of farmers associations.

The first step in the strategy is the elaboration of national aquaculture policies and development plans. This was a key recommendation of the Workshop twenty four years ago. Yet, of the ten background country reports, eight indicated the lack of aquaculture policy as a recurrent problem while six stated there was also a lack of aquaculture planning.

To a great extent, policies and planning are a question of political will. If there is the political will, formulation of appropriate policies and plans is within the capacity of nearly all countries in the Region.

For decades aquaculture in Africa has been vacillating between crests and troughs of various waves of development with the same constraints identified time and again: lack of seed, feed, credit and extension support. All of these constraints relate to the underlying lack of policy. If there is political will to establish workable policies, solutions to these other issues will be forthcoming.