Sustainable commercial aquaculture


Sustainable commercial aquaculture

development South of the Sahara

A summary of the FAO Technical Consultation on legal frameworks and economic policy instruments for sustainable commercial aquaculture in Africa South of the Sahara, Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, 4-7 December 2001.

Responding to the issues discussed at the Eleventh Session of the FAO Committee for Inland Fisheries of Africa (CIFA), held in Nigeria in October 2000, with respect to sustainable commercial aquaculture development in Africa and its important role in achieving food security and reducing rural poverty, a Technical Consultation on legal frameworks and economic policy instruments for sustainable commercial aquaculture in Africa South of the Sahara was held on invitation of the Tanzanian Government in December 2001.

Delegates of the participating countries in the Technical Consultation with on first row on the 4th seat from the left Her Excellency, Ms Zakia Hamdani Meghji, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism of the United Republic of TanzaniaAt this technical consultation, delegates from 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa reviewed a number of papers presented by FAO and various observers on the status and potential of commercial aquaculture, markets and trade, policy frameworks, legal frameworks, investment, mitigating strategies, and how to proceed with the development of sustainable commercial aquaculture in sub-Saharan Africa.

Status and potential of commercial aquaculture in sub-Saharan Africa

Reliable supplies of feed, capital and seed are generally considered the principal limiting inputs for the development of commercial aquaculture. Capacity building in fish feed technology and fish nutrition is necessary, and development of commercial aquaculture enterprises appears to be intrinsically linked to the health of the overall commercial agricultural sector.

The following are some identified strategies that could be adopted by governments to overcome the major constraints presently encountered by the sector:

  • undertake capacity building at all levels;
  • conduct research and development on the commercial aquaculture sector;

  • concentrate on few species with marketing potential and well-established markets (especially tilapia, catfish, Nile perch and shrimp);
  • define conducive legal frameworks and an investor-friendly climate, including streamlining of regulatory procedures, establishment of Export Promotion Zones and the use of other economic incentives such as tax exemptions and tax holidays;

  • promote a balanced approach to environmental impact assessment;

  • ensure the complementary interrelationships between the development of smallholder/subsistence and commercial aquaculture;

  • promote the formation of aquaculture farmersí associations;

  • establish regional collaboration and information exchange; and

  • link strategic aquaculture development planning to the other sectors of the economy.
  • Markets and trade of commercially farmed aquaculture products

    Markets in the region are generally considered important, although import duties could pose a considerable constraint. The negative perception and associated low acceptance in foreign markets of fish originating from Africa is a constraint to commercial aquaculture development in the region. Therefore, it is of overriding importance that food safety and quality issues are properly addressed, and that the food safety standards of importing countries are achieved. Moreover, the development of internationally recognized commodity/brand names is seen as necessary for success in commercial aquaculture.

    Policies for the promotion of sustainable commercial aquaculture

    Enabling policies are considered the most critical factor in the promotion and expansion of commercial aquaculture. They are a means of increasing trust among investors by reducing risks and reducing costs, and can be general, or specifically oriented to the aquaculture sector. General policies include, for example, improved governance, measures to ensure political and policy stability, secure property rights and reduced corruption. Sectoral policies include the development of appropriate legal, regulatory and administrative frameworks, marketing strategies and encouraging pioneer associations. It was noted that effective extension services, the role of the Government to put in place appropriate aquaculture-specific policies, legislation and regulations, institutional support and appropriate land laws are necessary for the emergence and/or development of commercial aquaculture.

    Mitigating strategies to major constraints

    Difficult access to capital and related problems, such as the frequent lack of collateral, high interest rates, the perception that investments in aquaculture are highly risky, and the lack of knowledge on the part of potential borrowers on how to apply for loans, are recognized as major constraints to the development of commercial aquaculture in sub-Saharan Africa.

    Legal frameworks

    Practical, workable legal regimes, including a specific aquaculture law dealing with factors crucial for enabling sustainable commercial aquaculture operations, such as permits to conduct aquaculture, land and water rights, and environmental issues, are considered necessary. However, a blueprint for the development and implementation of suitable legislation is not available, as the conditions and experiences in the region vary widely.

    The Technical Consultation concluded that:

  • There is much potential for economically viable and sustainable aquaculture in sub-Saharan Africa. Nevertheless, commercial aquaculture is slowly taking root in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Most countries in sub-Saharan Africa have the will to develop policies to enable commercial aquaculture to take off or expand; a few countries have or are developing such policies.

  • Currently, most viable commercial aquaculture operations produce shrimp, tilapia or catfish; these three species should be the focus for commercial aquaculture, at least for the time being.
  • Economic and environmental viability requires the careful adaptation of technology to local conditions and can be achieved only in favourable circumstances.
  • Both small- and large-scale commercial aquaculture contributes to food security and economic growth.
  • It is urgent that commercial aquaculture expands in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Expansion of commercial aquaculture is hindered by:
  • lack of capital;
    shortage of skilled human resources; unstable supplies of inputs, such as high quality feeds and seed; and lack of strategic planning linking aquaculture to other sectors of the economy.

  • Enabling policies are essential to start and/or expand commercial aquaculture in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Enabling policies for commercial aquaculture are often hindered by restrictions on government support imposed by structural adjustment agreements entered into by several sub-Saharan governments and by international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • Recommendations

    The consultation proposed the following recom-mendations to be implemented at the national, regional and international levels:

    At the national level, countries should investigate the technical and economic potential for commercial aquaculture, if this has not been done yet. If potential exists, enabling policies should be developed and implemented, and their policy framework should include a legal framework, a strategy for capacity building, and a strategy to increase access to capital sources.

  • At the regional level, countries should promote joint capacity building, facilitate regional trade in aquaculture products, promote African aquaculture products in international markets and protect in international forums the rights of sub-Saharan African governments to stimulate the emergence and growth of commercial aquaculture.
  • At the international level, it was recommended that FAO, in collaboration with other intergovernmental organizations, appropriate non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and interested governments should conduct studies that aim to:
  • establish the contribution that small- and large-scale commercial aquaculture will make to food security and economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa;

    identify the contribution that an enabling public policy framework will make to the development of commercial aquaculture; and

    specify the extent to which such an enabling policy framework is compatible with general macro-economic policies, in particular, the IMF and the World Bank (WB)ís policy conditions.

    Moreover, a two-level conference on commercial aquaculture in sub-Saharan Africa should be organized. The first part of this conference would follow-up on the present consultation, while the second part would be a high-level political meeting to confirm a sub-Saharan Africa understanding on the importance and role of commercial aquaculture in sub-Saharan Africa and to seek international donor support for policy development, capacity building and increased access of aquaculture entrepreneurs to financial services.

    Note: The report of the Technical Consultation on legal frameworks and economic policy instruments for sustainable commercial aquaculture in Africa South of the Sahara, Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, 4-7 December 2001, will be published on the FAO website and can be obtained as hardcopy from the Fisheries Policy and Planning Division (FIPP) of FAO, Rome, Italy. For further information, please contact Dr Nathanael Hishamunda: