Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page


It may seem ironic that despite many major technological achievements, ranging from sequencing the human genome to exploring planet Mars, the international community has still not succeeded in solving the global issues of poverty and feeding the hungry. Recent years have seen substantial problems with the safety of farmed food due to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), dioxin poisoning and the Foot and Mouth crisis which has led to predominantly negative feelings amongst the general public towards intensive farming methods such as aquaculture (Burbridge et al., 2001). Aquaculture often focuses more on increasing production rather than system security, stability or sustainability and thus has the potential to become another high risk technology. Nevertheless the sustainability of aquaculture has been assessed in the past (Thompson et al., 2000) and should continue to be monitored in different parts of the world as it has the potential of reducing poverty and food insecurity which are the most crucial and persistent problems facing humanity, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where the overall picture remains bleak (see Table 2).

The main threats to ensuring stable access to food in sub-Saharan Africa are economic variability, drought and civil strife (FAO, 2003c). In addition HIV/AIDS is expected to have a substantial negative impact on a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which has about 70 percent of the 34 million existing cases worldwide (CFS, 2001). It is predicted that by 2010 the world’s population will have reached 6.8 billion, with 205 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa (Bruinsma, 2003). Per caput food consumption in sub-Saharan Africa will probably remain at around 2 360 kcal/person/day, though with substantial regional variations (Bruinsma, 2003). Problematic soils limit agriculture from expanding in sub-Saharan Africa and only 21 percent of the population lives within 100 km of a navigable river or the coast compared to 89 percent in high-income countries (Bruinsma, 2003). Maintaining the present rate of consumption in the face of human population growth will require a global increase of 19 million tonnes of fish every year from 2010 (Safina, 1998). Due to Africa’s low per caput fish consumption there is ample scope for an increase in demand.

Although currently important in only a few countries in sub-Saharan Africa, aquaculture may supply much of the future increase in fish production provided the technology remains economically feasible and socially acceptable (Satia, 1989). Africa has the natural resources to support an aquaculture evolution and as a significant contributor to employment and income generation it is likely to contribute to alleviating poverty (Brummett and Williams, 2000; De Silva 2001). Aquaculture is also an important domestic provider of much needed, high quality, animal protein, generally at prices affordable to the poorer segments of society (Ahmed and Lorica, 2002; Subasinghe, 2003). Worldwide, aquaculture has expanded, diversified, intensified and advanced technologically; as a result, its contribution to aquatic food production has also increased significantly (Jia et al., 2001). The extent to which this increase has contributed to improving food security remains to be assessed.

Table 2: Sub-Saharan African countries with threatened food supplies
(FAO/GIEWS, 2003)


Reason for emergency


Internally displaced persons (IDPs)


Dry weather, civil strife and IDPs

Cape Verde


Central African Republic

Dry weather, civil strife and IDPs

Congo, Democratic Republic of

Civil strife, IDPs and refugees

Congo, Republic of

Civil strife and IDPs

Côte d’Ivoire

Dry weather, civil strife and IDPs


Drought, IDPs and returnees


Drought and IDPs


Population displacement and refugees




Adverse weather


Civil strife, IDPs and shortage of inputs


Drought, cyclones and economic disruption


Adverse weather, especially floods




Drought and floods



Sierra Leone

Civil strife and population displacement


Drought and civil strife


Drought and civil strife in the South


Drought in parts


Drought in parts and refugees


Drought, civil strife and IDPs


Drought in parts


Drought, economic disruption

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page