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2. Country reviews

In each country, a locally recruited extension specialist (Table 1) was hired to produce and forward the necessary information and available extension materials to the WorldFish Center office in Cameroon where a local consultant, Dr V. Pouomogne of the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD), reviewed their findings and prepared this synthesis. Information of history, structure, approach and performance of the aquaculture extension services in each country were tabulated in Tables 3 to 5. Summaries of the reports are presented in Annexes 1 to 5.

2.1 History of aquaculture development

Small-scale fish farming in sub-Saharan Africa is a rather recent activity. Apart from Madagascar where traditional water management for aquaculture began in the 18th century under the reign of King Andrianampoinimerina, the effective start of aquaculture in most of sub-Saharan Africa was in the 1950s under the impetus of the various colonial administrations. Most of these were aimed at colonial landowners for the production of sport or food fish to supplement the diets of plantation workers. Some efforts were being made to popularize fish farming in the years just prior to independence.

After independence, these new aquaculture initiatives suffered a long period of decline, of one to several decades, depending upon the country. In general, newly independent governments did not give aquaculture a very high priority. Virtually all new activities in the sector were initiated by foreign donors and depended upon international financing. Many of these were generalized, regional initiatives, based on theoretical approaches and designed with little or no input from national governments. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) established a number of experiment stations and model farms in the early 1970s, the United States Peace Corps put aquaculture volunteers in many countries, while the World Bank Training and Visit (T&V) extension approach (including aquaculture) was being widely implemented.

Despite the recognized failure of the majority of these foreign-led development projects to produce sustainable development of the aquaculture sector, many lessons have been learned. In some cases, most notably Cameroon, Madagascar and Zambia, new strategies based on the concepts of community management, participatory research and development, farmer field schools, etc. have evolved. A summary of the major steps leading up to this transformation is shown in Tables 3 and 4.

For nearly all the states, aquaculture remains today a minor priority amidst what are perceived as more burning issues such as public health and education. None of the countries reviewed currently has a formal, long-term plan for the development of the sector.

However, Africans rely heavily on fish as an important source of animal protein. Until recently, the abundant capture fisheries have managed to keep pace with growth in demand. Only in the last decade has population growth and decline of capture fisheries created the situation where demand now significantly outstrips supply, creating the market conditions crucial for the development of aquaculture. In light of this, many countries are now in the process of laying out strategic development plans for aquaculture.

Table 3. Historical summary of freshwater aquaculture extension in five countries of sub-Saharan Africa.


Côte d’Ivoire





1948: first dam built in Yaoundé

1954: 22 government fish culture stations

1958: Société d'Assistance Technique pour la Modernisation de l'Agriculture en Côte d’Ivoire

1900: some trials by colonial farmers

1952: small-scale native fish farmers project

1794-1810: the King studies integrated agriculture-aquaculture

1952: 42 public fish stations

1943: first six ponds constructed in Chilanga under colonial administration

Development Phases

1952-60: pilot projects under colonial authority

1960-70: period of decline following independence

1970-90: many foreign-funded projects

1990: beginning of participatory approaches

2000: increase in private investment driven by rising fish prices

Similar to Cameroon with a strong small-scale, commercial focus as from 1970

1920: all ponds owned by colonials

1940: land reform policy transfers ponds to Africans

1960: Eat-more-fish campaign to encourage small-scale producers in Centre & West

1970s decline due to poor extension

1952-62: same as Cameroon

1962-79: decline due to low interest of government in spite of aquacultural tradition

1979-92: many projects; success on private fingerlings producers establishment

1992-present: continued steady growth of the sector

Before 1980: low adoption due to top-down approach

1980-95: community based, participative approach started

1995-present: steady growth of the sector

Range of Development Projects & Donors

Twelve major projects since 1969; FAO, Peace Corps, OXFAM (UK), World Bank, Japan, IDRC, European Union, USAID, DFID

Two major World Bank projects; numerous smaller interventions mostly led by France

Many private investments; major national projects funded by Belgium, USAID, FAO

Six large FAO and/or UNDP projects; private investments in oysters, macroalgae and shrimp

Many small relief projects aimed at Zimbabwe war refugees; nine major development projects; FAO, UNDP, Africare, IFAD, Peace Corps

Main Achievements

About 6 000 small-scale farmers, producing 250 t.

Functioning extension training programme.

Farmer groups evolving and growing in number.

Some larger-scale farms starting up

Small-scale production of ± 500 t.

Development of medium-scale commercial tilapia and catfish (Chrysichthys) farms in coastal lagoons

>5 000 small-scale farmers, producing 1 200 t

Commercial tilapia and trout culture spreading

About 42 000 rice-cum-fish farmers producing 2 500 t.

Total aquaculture production of more than 9 000 t.

More than 60 private carp hatcheries well established

Crayfish commercial farms (2 000 t.) under development.

About 6 000 farmers, producing 6 000 t

Steady development of small-scale tilapia farms

One large-scale private farm (Kafue Fish Company)

Table 4. Major aquaculture development projects from 1980 to present in five countries of sub-Saharan Africa.



Funding (US$)

Foreign Implementing Agency

Main objectives





Peace Corps

Training extension staff; small-scale aquaculture



Netherlands; 260 000

Haskoning Consultants

Station construction at Lagdo; develop technology for floodplain aquaculture (tilapia-clarias, rice-fish)



International Development Research Centre (Canada); 400 000


Integrated aquaculture research & extension (tilapia-clarias, poultry, pigs)



Agence Générale de Coopération pour le Développement (Belgium); 450 000

Catholic University (Leuven)

New species for aquaculture; freshwater fish inventory




Peace Corps

Participatory technology development (tilapia)



Department for International Development (UK); 1 500 000

WorldFish Center

Aquaculture development; participatory research


Côte d’Ivoire


European Union loan; 15 356 000

SEPIA International (French Consulting Firm)

Infrastructure development (hatcheries); pilot tilapia farm, artisanal lagoon demonstration farm



Fonds d’aide et de Coopération (France); 2 400 000

Association Française des Volontaires du Progrès/Association Pisciculture et Développement Rural (French NGO)

Small-scale commercial aquaculture

Concrete results in term of production; Promising


Agence Française de Développement/African Development Bank loans; >100 000 000


Rural development, including fish farming

On going, but poor partial results



UNDP; 800 000


Training, equipment, extension; rice-fish integration

Good, continued next


UNDP; 1 300 000


Privatization of common carp fry production; extension support for rice-fish integration

Good, continuous increase in fish production


UNDP; 1 100 000


Technology development (shrimp); training




Japanese International Cooperation Agency

Shrimp culture; training artisanal farmers



European Union?

Centre d'Information Technique et Economique de Madagascar (International Consulting Firm)

Algae culture; training artisanal fishermen

Average partial outcomes



UNDP/FAO/Agence Générale de Coopération pour le Développement (Belgium); 1 000 000


Training; hatchery design and construction; extension in the Lake Victoria Basin



Pond Dynamics/Aquaculture Collaborative Research Support Program

Aquaculture technology





Commercial fish farm






Integrated fish culture systems Fingerling production Training



Swedish International Development Agency

FAO/Aquaculture for Local Communities (ALCOM)

Extension methodology Pond management




Japanese International Cooperation Agency

Seed production, feed mill




International Conference on Assistance to Refugees in Africa

Assistance to refugees in pond building and management




AFRICARE (International NGO)

Pond management Credit to farmers



Norwegian Agency for Development

Norwegian Agency for Development

Extension, participative approach



Partial funding from local government

FAO/ALCOM & Consultants.

Participatory extension under several names: aquaculture sector investment plan, smallholder aquaculture plan, rural aquaculture programme, integrated aquaculture irrigation



Private sector


Commercial farms


General comments

Early 90s was a poor period for aquaculture in Africa.

Relatively large funding for Côte d’Ivoire and Madagascar.

Long-term commitment by UNDP/FAO is a key component of success in Madagascar.

Promising outcomes appear to derive from projects focusing on extension approaches (Zambia, Côte d’Ivoire) and seed production strategies (Zambia, Madagascar)

More emphasis on lasting impacts needed in project design.

Table 5. Institutional structure and current extension approach in five countries of sub-Saharan Africa.


Côte d’Ivoire




Ministry in Charge

Ministry of Animal
Husbandry and Fisheries;
Ministry of Agriculture

Ministère de l'Agriculture (MINAGRA)

Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development

Ministère de la Pêche et des Ressources Halieutiques

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

Main Extension Organism

Programme National de la Recherche et la Vulgarisation

Agence Nationale de Développement Rural

Fishery Department

Programme National de Vulgarisation Agricole

Agriculture Research & Extension Project

Current Main
Alternative Service

Institut de Recherche pour le Développement
(WorldFish Center)

Association Pisciculture et Développement Rural

Moi University & local NGOs

Local NGOs

Participatory Extension Systems (FAO); Rural Aquaculture Extension Promotion (Peace Corps)


· National coordinator PNVRA
· Provincial coordinator
· Subject matter specialists
· Area Extension Agent
· Contact farmer
· Farmers

· National coordinator ANADER
· Regional MINAGRA and ANADER offices
· Farmers

· Director of Fisheries
· Sub-Director for Aquaculture
· Assistant Director (by region)
· District Fisheries Officer
· Fisheries Officer
· Fisheries Assistant
· Farmers

· Technical Director with 3 cells (training, extension, monitoring & evaluation)
· Provincial
· Sub-provincial
· Zone or brigade
· Private fingerling producers
· Rice-cum-fish farmers

· Permanent Secretary
· Senior Field Services Coordinator
· Senior Fisheries Officer (province, district)
· Aquaculture extension officer
· Camp officers
· Farmer Motivators
· Farmers

Approach by the Main Extension Institution


T&V/Promotion of commercial units (pilots)

T&V/Aquaculture Demonstration Centres

T&V/Heavy funding, good practical training, close contacts with private fingerlings producers


Alternative Approaches being Investigated

Farmer Scientist Research Partnership (WorldFish Center)

A number of participatory research projects (esp. APDRA)

Various participatory approaches.

Groupes de Travail pour le Développement Régional; heavily bureaucratic.

Farmer Field Schools

Place of Aquaculture

With animal husbandry, forestry & agriculture

With forestry & agriculture

With agriculture & wildlife

Independent Ministry

With agriculture & forestry

Ratio fish farmers: extension agents




1 200


2.2 Current structure and approach

The current institutional structure for aquaculture extension is very much top-down with often long chains of bureaucracy linking policy makers, research and technology users (Table 5). This arrangement results in the loss of much important technical information going from research to farmers, as well as misinterpretation of the needs and constraints of farmers on the part of policy-makers. On the other hand, some progress has been made in terms of clearer job descriptions for the various levels within the bureaucracy and more transparent and efficient administration of resources.

In addition to being heavily bureaucratized, the orientation of extension is still driven by development goals derived with minimal user consultation. Most countries still use a variation of the World Bank Training and Visit (T&V) approach wherein researchers attempting to meet national fish production targets develop technology that seeks primarily to maximize fish production as opposed to meeting the personal development goals of farmers. Research releases its findings in the form of written documentation that is not directly accessible by either extension agents or farmers. The information transmission system is consequently poor both in delivering knowledge of key constraints and development objectives to policy makers, and the delivery of technical information about production systems and markets to farmers. Overall, the achievements of the T&V model in Africa have been negligible in terms of both fish production and numbers of farmers.

A key problem appears to be the low level of support to field technicians, those front-line staff in direct contact with farmers. Extension is regarded as an entry-level position and a testing ground for new recruits. Typically, young people come from two-year technical training schools and are put into the field. Agents who perform well are rapidly moved, first to research and eventually into administration. This leaves only newer recruits and those who performed too poorly to be promoted in what might arguably be the most difficult development task of all.

High quality human resources in the field are especially critical to the proper functioning of the T&V system, and this probably accounts for its very low success rate. For an approach such as the T&V system, which is based on adapting technological packages designed by research, field technicians require high levels of training in order to flexibly manipulate general principles to fit specific on-farm situations. Unfortunately, the time and resources needed to ensure the quality of field staff are lacking in most of the countries reviewed.

2.3 Lessons from success

The development status of the countries reviewed is similar. In addition to the lack of political stability and infrastructure that plagues all sectors, the most important constraints to aquaculture growth were identified in the national reviews as:

Figure 1. Steady increases in production over a 15-year period of encouraging aquaculture development through a range of participatory extension approaches.

As these problems are broadly similar to those in most of the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, lessons learned by one in overcoming constraints might be applicable to many others. While lessons about general approach might be gleaned from failures, more specific guidance might be had from a review of successes.

A notable exception to the general failure of aquaculture development projects comes from Madagascar where a long-term commitment from donors and large investments in fieldwork have paid off with substantial increases in fish and sustained involvement of the private sector. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) were directly involved in Malagasy fish farming from 1984 through 1991. The focus of a series of projects was the transfer of responsibility for fingerling production and extension from government to the private sector.

Training was concentrated on private hatchery owners, not only in reproduction technology, but also in food fish production. This enabled the hatchery operators to expand their markets and profits by encouraging and assisting their neighbours to go into fish farming. Aquaculture is now growing and, meanwhile, the government has gone largely out of the fingerling business. Instead, they are concentrating on the much smaller and more manageable tasks of transferring new knowledge to a limited number of better-educated hatchery owners.

In some other countries, most notably Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Zambia, various agencies have been successfully experimenting with other new approaches to aquaculture extension (Figure 1). In Côte d’Ivoire, these efforts are being led by NGOs, while in Cameroon and Zambia, international donors are working in conjunction with local government. In both institutional arrangements, the primary objective is to create systems that will more effectively move information from farmers to policy-makers and from researchers to farmers.

What these new approaches have in common is the direct involvement of farmers in the process of priority setting and choice of technology. In Côte d’Ivoire and Zambia, a range of participatory techniques are being used to stimulate local communities towards independent thinking and action with aquaculture as one of several technological options available for use by farmers who wish to diversify their agricultural enterprizes. These efforts are led by general agriculture practitioners and experts in extension and/or participatory methods.

In Cameroon the main theme is research-led development. senior scientists from the Institute for Agricultural Research for Development are leading small teams of two to three extension agents in participatory on-farm research projects. Farmers and researchers work together to identify key constraints and design experiments that will adapt current aquaculture technology (contributed by research) to the reality of the farming system (contributed by farmers). Extension agents gain significant and important training in both technology and participation, researchers gain an appreciation of the real constraints facing farmers, and farmers gain access to the best available knowledge on fish culture.

One lesson from all of these approaches is that “quality extension” does not simply mean that technicians have adequate technical training (although even this is generally lacking). Also important are the skills necessary to overcome cultural barriers and communicate effectively with farmers who have important knowledge and social standing, even if they are uneducated and illiterate. Part of this is mastery of the technology, but participatory research approaches might also permit technicians with less technical capacity to engage in joint learning exercizes that advance the knowledge of both purveyors and anticipated recipients of technology at the same time. The key lesson here seems to be that participation is more than the process of designing policies and projects. It is of crucial importance that the capacity of field workers to be participatory is strengthened.

Foreign donors have always played a key role in initiating aquaculture development and remain essential if research and extension are to focus on the rural poor. However, the crucial role of the private sector, particularly in commercial fingerling production, cannot be underestimated. Government hatcheries have uniformly failed to meet demand for high quality seed. As the success of carp culture in Madagascar demonstrates, government and the private commercial sector can cooperate to mutual advantage.

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