Congolese aquaculture is based essentially on household subsistence fish farming, with a predominance of tilapia culture, despite the potential that exists for rearing other farmed species.
Aquaculture infrastructure exists in every Province in “Centres d'alevinage principaux” (CAP) (“Primary Breeding Centres”) and “Centres d'alevinage secondaires” (CAS) (“Secondary Breeding Centres”). Conversely, there is an acute shortage of human and material resources, and very few trained aquaculture managers.
In recent years, domestic annual aquaculture output has varied from 2 t000 to 3 000 tonnes, worth between US$5 and US$7.5 million (FAO, 2005a).
The first aquaculture trials were carried out between 1937 and 1945, initially in the Provinces of Katanga (at Lubumbashi) and Kasaï Oriental (at Ngandajika), then in Bandundu Province (Kwango and Kwilu), and lastly in the Orientale and Kivu Provinces.
By 1959, 120 000 ponds had been built covering a total surface area of 4 000 ha producing over 6 000 tonnes a year, accounting for about 4 percent of aggregate national fish production (FAO/ADB, 1990). That production would be worth US$12 at today's prices.
The country does not have an aquaculture tradition. Tilapia are raised by the small farmers in earth ponds built in the valleys and in other wetlands, using extensive and semi-extensive household aquaculture systems, to improve the diets of the indigenous and rural people.
Between 1945 and 1960, the strategies used to achieve those results consisted of:
After the departure of the Belgian, French and United States technicians who had worked there in the period 1980-1990, annual average pond yields fell to barely 3 000 kg/ha in the periurban environments and 1 500 to 1 800 kg/ha in the rural world.
No information is yet available on the numbers of people involved in this sector, or of full-time or part-time aquaculture workers.
Nevertheless, for a few large towns, the National Aquaculture Service (Service national d'aquaculture) has published the following numbers of aquaculturalists: Kinshasa Province/city: 1 800; Orientale Province (Kisangani): 593; Katanga Province (Lubumbashi): 130; Bas Congo Province: 152; Sud Kivu Province: 1 444; Nord Kivu Province: 126; Bandundu Province: 2 156; Maniema Province: 445; Kasaï Oriental Province: 1 245.
All the provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo are encouraging the practice and development of aquaculture. The main development potential features at the present time are:
Two types of fish are farmed: tilapias (mainly Tilapia rendalli and Oreochromis macrochir in ponds; Oreochromis niloticus and Oreochromis andersonii in small impoundments) and catfish (Clarias gariepinus).
Experimental breeding trials with of Haplochromis, Ophiocephalus and Serranochromis mellandi, have not produced any conclusive results.
Officially, several exotic species were introduced, mainly in the 1950s and 1960s, including four species of Oreochromis, Heterotis niloticus, Cyprinus carpio and Astatoreochromis alluandi (FAO, 2005b). However, rearing these species has not been developed since then.
Tilapias are raised in fresh water ponds in perennial river valleys. They mainly feed on planktonic microorganisms whose growth is encouraged by composting. Reproduction is obtained by monoculture. The fry resulting from this operation are sometimes separately sexed and raised in pre-fattening ponds. Conversely, catfish are bred by artificial egg fertilisation. The fry survival rate is still very low.
No reliable production statistics have been available for the past 10 years, after the conclusion of the United States, Belgian and French Cooperation project activities in 1990 as a result of the many outbreaks of war, which led most of the rural people to give up fish farming.
Before these events, the provincial statistics were as follows:
The most recent statistics available to FAO for 2004 put aquaculture production at 2965 tonnes, worth the equivalent of 7 419 000 million of US dollars EU (FAO, 2005a).
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Democratic Republic of the Congo according to FAO statistics:
In the vast majority of cases, subsistence agriculture is practised in the rural areas whereas in the periurban environments there is an increasing trend towards commercial aquaculture.
For around the large towns (Kinshasa, Kisangani and Lubumbashi) occasional fish sales are now developing, including farm-gate sales. Tilapia is sold for between two and three US dollars there.
Aquaculture makes only a tiny contribution to food security and to poverty reduction and elimination in vulnerable households, and to the GDP, which is difficult to estimate. Aquaculture’s share of GDP at the end of the 1980s was about 1.2 percent of the 17 percent of total fish production (Deceuninck, 1990).
Nationwide responsibility for aquaculture lies with the National Aquaculture Service (Service national d'aquaculture - SENAQUA) within the Ministry of Agriculture. Its remit is to draft national aquaculture development policies and strategies, and to coordinate and organise aquaculture development.
SENAQUA is tasked with the following:
There is still no legal framework regulating aquaculture, because it has so far remained a purely subsistence activity practised by rural people. But for some time now, efforts have been authorised by the government to formulate a legal framework to guarantee sustainable aquaculture development. A request for funding has been submitted to FAO for this purpose.
Agricultural research facilities exist at Lubumbashi University (Faculties of Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture), the Regional School for Integrated Tropical Forest Management (Ecole régionale d'aménagement intégré de la forêt tropicale - ERAIFT) in Kinshasa, the National Institute for Agricultural Study and Research (Institut national d'études et recherches agronomiques - INERA), ISP Bukavu and Kisangani University.
Research priorities are laid down to meet the needs emerging from the field and are forwarded directly to the research institutions or they are formulated through the National Aquaculture Service.
Non-Governmental Organisations and associations of aquaculture producers work in technical partnership with SENAQUA which provides extension services based on its own experience and on the results of applied research.
The Faculty of Agriculture at the Universities of Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Lubumbashi University run aquaculture courses.
Since its introduction, aquaculture has only been considered as a secondary activity by small-holders.
Initially installed in the rural environment for food security purposes, the comparatively recent development of aquaculture in the periurban zones explains the current trend towards establishing profitable, sustainable and commercial aquaculture farms around the large towns and cities.
Coordination provinciale de Bandundu . 2002 . Rapport annuel 2002.
Coordination provinciale du Kasaï oriental. 2003. Rapport annuel 2003.
Coordination provinciale du Katanga. Rapport annuel 2002.
Coordination provinciale du Nord Kivu. 1990. Rapport annuel 1990.
Deceuninck, V. 1990 . Etudes nationales pour le développement de l'aquaculture en Afrique. 28. Zaïre. FAO Circ. Pêches, (770.28). 194 pp.
FAO. 2005 a. Global aquaculture production (1950–2004) Congo, Dem. Rep. of the.
FAO. 2005 b. Database on introductions of aquatic species (DIAS). Search for Introduced Species Fact Sheet – Congo, Dem. Rep. of the.
FAO/BAD. 1990. Rapport annuel 1990.