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ANNEX 4. Zambia

Aquaculture extension in Zambia by C.T. Maguswi

Aquaculture development has received a lot but fragmented attention even though its importance and potential for providing food and individual income cannot be over-emphasized. The history of fish farming in Zambia dates back to the 1950s. Later in the 1970s, there was an influx of international technical development programmes that were implemented with multilateral and bilateral organizations such as FAO, NORAD, JICA, UNDP and others. These interventions resulted in an evident increase in the number of farmers adopting fish farming enterprises: the number currently stands at just over 6 000.

Number of fish farmers and ponds by farming level - 2000

Small scale fish farmers

Commercial fish farmers


No of farmers

No of ponds

No of farmers

No of hectares in ponds


2 000

5 000


1 000

1 500




















2 000

4 000



1 000





6 430

12 555



Historical background and review of projects

Efforts to establish aquaculture extension started in the 1950s. The first six ponds were constructed in Chilanga near Lusaka in 1943 with the view to identify the species for culture. Thereafter, potential areas were identified where fish farming could be established. At that time, extension methods took a top-down approach. Often the extension service advocated the adoption of standard technical packages. This resulted in low adoption rates and poor fish yields from farmers (probably a feeling of non-ownership of ponds). However, interest was developed among some individuals who made headway in establishing dams. A small number ended up establishing commercial fish farms. This interest arose, as a result of those individuals realising that there was demand for the same fish in Europe. In 1972, integrated fish farming methods were introduced using fertilizer, manure and maize bran as supplementary feed. During the same period there was an inflow of refugees from warring neighbouring countries and this resulted in increased demand for source of cheap protein. This saw the influx of major foreign technical assistance programmes in various parts of the country.

FAO/UNDP (1980-1989). Projects produced technical and extension manuals from the results of on-station technology trials. The integrated approach packages included the use of external inputs such as pigs and Peking ducks which were adopted by medium and large scale commercial farmers. However the adoption of the same by small-scale farmers was low due to demand for external inputs such as feed for these animals.

ICARA I and ICARA II (1982-1988). Projects supported the construction of more than 1 000 fish ponds at Maheba refugee camp in Solwezi and Mwinilunga Districts in Northwestern Province. They also introduced a community based extension approach where extension agents were living among the refugee communities.

FAO/ALCOM (1987-1999). Programme aimed at improving the extension methods in Eastern and Luapula Provinces. The programme advocated the use of the participatory approach in preference to a top-down approach.

NORAD (1987-1998). Projects opened up satellite stations using Misamfu fish farm at Kasama in Northern Province as the referral centre to provide extension and fingerlings to rural farmers. This approach improved extension services to the extent that the number of farmers increased to 1 200 farmers in 1993 from the 700 farmers in 1988. This approach however, could not be sustained as it was not only a top-down approach but was also costly, in addition to inadequate technical manuals produced as from 1994.

AFRICARE (1992-1995). Project was a follow-up to ICARA Projects I and II.

FAO/ALCOM (1995-2000). Project focused on community-based management of small water bodies in Southern Province. One of the objectives was to introduce a participatory system for better utilization of the limited water resources. Through this project, aquaculture was introduced and promoted to produce fish as an alternative source of animal protein.

ASIP I (1995-2000). The Agriculture Sector Investment Plan was initiated in 1996 under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF). Major changes that affected aquaculture extension included re-organization and restructuring leading to integration of agriculture and aquaculture extension services under the Department of Field Services reducing aquaculture to a very small sub-component. Aquaculture planning was decentralized at the district level together with other sub-programmes.

RAP (1996-present). The Rural Aquaculture Programme, started in 1996 It provides volunteers at local community level as aquaculture extension agents in Northern, Northwestern, Copperbelt, Luapula and Central Provinces. RAP promotes management techniques that rely on locally available resources among farmers thus minimising the need for external inputs. The technical standards and the extension approaches strictly follow set standards targeting capacity building and fish production among rural small holders.

SHAP (1998-2001). Smallholder Aquaculture Programme, worked in collaboration with RAP in Northern, Northwestern, Luapula, Copperbelt and Central Provinces.

INTEGRATED AQUACULTURE IRRIGATION (2001-present). The IIA targets the small-scale farmers with traditional irrigation systems. The main objective is the optimal utilization of water resources for increased fish and crop production per unit area. It promotes use of farmer friendly technologies through the farmer field schools approach. This project is centred in Mkushi and Serenje Districts of Central Province.

Agriculture extension organization

Agricultural extension structure before 1995 (ASIP I) was as follows:

The agriculture extension structure since 1995 is as follows:

Colonial/Military approach. It was adopted as an extension system between 1920 and 1950 following the establishment of the Department of Agriculture. The punitive measure applied on those who failed to comply with the set conditions of the extension system made it rather difficult to be appreciated. The system produced some results in terms of increased production of certain crops but this was out of fear of being punished. This system broke down with the abandonment of the colonial Government. Although the communities did not favour this system, it introduced systematic agriculture planning that resulted into accountable production.

Individual approach. In 1951, a stratified development effort was recommended based on the agricultural potential of certain areas. This extension approach employed individual visits to accessible farming households. Limited extension services were advocated in areas with progressive farmers producing more cash crops. At independence in 1964, the Department of Agriculture took over responsibility for extension and research on a national basis.

Training and Visit System. In 1978, the DOA introduced another agriculture extension methodology, the training and visit system (T&V), also known as the Zambia Agriculture Research and Extension Project (ZAREP). This is an extension management system with a clear division of responsibilities at various levels; it aimed at providing a uniform approach to agricultural extension in the country. This approach demands a strict programme with farmer groups through contact farmers on a regular scheduled visiting arrangement. The system could not work in all areas and failed to yield tangible contributions to agricultural production due to: relatively high operational costs; poor selection of contact motivator farmers; weak linkages with research; lack of suitably qualified staff at district level. The T&V system however achieved the following: timely planning of several programmes involving all staff at national level; regular training and improved supervision of field staff and a general boost in staff morale; clear division of responsibilities.

Zambia structured extension and training approach. It was decided to modify the T&V system to allow for more autonomy so that district programmes would now be planned based on available local resources. Several modifications by provinces and districts made the T&V system rather difficult to monitor leading to blending it with other participatory approaches within agricultural extension.

Zambia participatory extension systems. Over time a deliberate effort was made to introduce an extension system more responsive to farmers' needs. Participatory approaches were introduced and tried in few selected areas with donor support (EU, GTZ, IFAD).

Farmer field schools. The main aim of this system is to help farmers become more knowledgeable in their activities. Farmer field schools were formed in Southern, Central and Copperbelt Provinces.

The Participatory extension approach (PEA). This is the current approach receiving active attention from DOA. It involves an interactive dialogue with communities and individuals from families in which they define their problems and priorities. The goal of PEA is to achieve more appropriate and suitable agricultural and rural development leading to improve household food security, family welfare and poverty reduction among the target community. PEA is not only restricted to agriculture extension but includes all other areas of development programmes.

Peace Corps RAP extension approach. The programme has established village community level extension posts in high aquaculture potential, high rainfall areas. Volunteer extension agents after undergoing an intensive three months training programme in aquaculture and extension methodology, local languages and Zambian culture are sent to the established village posts where they live and work side by side with farmers providing intensive extension support to a few (about 30) selected fish farmers in the community. They are provided with a bicycle and work within a radius of 20 kilometres. Volunteer extension agent presence at each post is maintained for a total of six years in two-year cycles. After six years, the farmers that received intensive extension support are expected to sustain aquaculture extension for the community.

Thus, there are various ways in which farmers interact with extension agents. Each region has a unique history, character and economy, which influence the postings and operations of the extension agents. Due to miscellaneous donors, there are many types of extension agents. Names given to extension staff include: agriculture camp officer; agriculture bloc officer; senior agriculture officer; assistant aquaculture technical officer; aquacultural assistant; aquaculturist; Peace Corp volunteer; Japan Overseas Cooperation volunteer; community based NGOs; farmer motivator.

Training materials for aquaculture extension

Seed production of carp in Zambia (JICA 1997 - limited number of copies)

Guidelines of basic fish culture extension services in Northern Province (NORAD 1995 - limited number of copies)

ALCOM extension pamphlets 1,2 and 3 (ALCOM 1991 - limited stock)

Manual for fish farming production units in schools (FAO 1987 - limited stock)

Handbook of practical fish culture for Northern Rhodesia Game and Fisheries, Revised (1965 - not available)

Better freshwater fish farming in Zambia (FAO 1989 - out of stock)

The fish and fisheries of Zambia (FALCON 1965 - available)

The culture of Tilapia niloticus (PEACE-CORPS - available with Peace-Corps)

Slides on integrated fish farming in Zambia (FAO 1987 - available)

Flipcharts on “Guidelines on basic fish culture for extension” (NORAD 1995 - limited supply)

Posters on “Aquaculture in Zambia” (MAFF 2001 - limited supply)

Assorted photographs on aquaculture (available)

Use of drama groups

Assorted audio and video cassettes on fish farming (available with NAIS)

The Department of Fisheries would like to have more of these materials produced but production costs are quite prohibitive. Most of these materials were produced with donor support. The demand for these aquaculture extension materials is very high and hence the need for more reprints.


Zambia, with a population of slightly over 10 million people is endowed with natural resources ideal for aquaculture development. In the recent past the production of fish from capture fisheries has remained oscillating at just about 70 000 tonnes. The Department of Fisheries in its programmes has been promoting and developing fish farming as a way of increasing the supply of fish. To do this it has employed a number of strategies, in some cases with the support of co-operating partners. However, in-spite of the favourable environmental conditions, the contributions of aquaculture towards total fish production has remained low, at about 8 000 tonnes per year. This low contribution can be attributed to a number of factors, the most prominent being limited resources, inadequate training of staff and farmers, poor and undeveloped infrastructure, lack of credit facilities and lack of well-defined government policy on aquaculture development.

In order to improve aquaculture development there is need to devise an effective aquaculture extension service that will promote the usage of locally available materials, provide appropriate technological advice and support to produce cost effective fish, especially among resource poor fish farmers. There is also the need to recognize the expertise of aquaculture extension agents by other cooperating partners and agents so as not to distort information and confuse the end users of the messages. Fish farmers must not be viewed as mere recipients of knowledge skills and resources but as very important stakeholders to be involved at all stages of planning and implementation. Community-based initiatives must receive the necessary support they require. A lot of aquaculture development projects have promoted technologies adapted from elsewhere without adapting them to local farm situations. Given the environment and its diverse ecology, it may not be feasible to have one single approach but a basket of options.

The extension approach applied by DOF also needs to be revized to make it more efficient and effective in delivering messages and raising adoption levels. The current organization structure and resource levels do not augur well with what is pertaining at the fish farmer level. DOF extension services cannot be effective if they attempt to serve all the farmers in the district. There is need to focus on and serve a few model fish farmers in the area and then the farmer-to-farmer learning process may take root through, for example, field-days and seminars. The DOF extension wing has to develop strong links with the DOF aquaculture research in order to facilitate information flow between farmer, extension and research. To be effective, both aquaculture research and extension need infrastructure and capacity improvement, as a matter of utmost importance.

The RAP extension approach seems to be effective in expanding aquaculture activity among rural households and increasing fish pond production. The system was introduced in 1996 and yields are currently in the range 22-25 kg/are compared to 10-12 kg/are prior to 1996. The system has so far proved effective in extension agent to farmer interaction and needs to be seriously promoted and encouraged among local extension agents.

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