Aquaculture, in the form of fish farming, was introduced into Congo at the beginning of the 1950s with the establishment of a French Equatorial Africa Federal Fish Farming Training and Research Centre (Centre Fédéral de Recherche et Formation en Pisciculture de l’Afrique équatoriale française). But despite its great initial popularity it was gradually abandoned following independence. In the 1970s-1980s aquaculture was revived through a series of assistance projects. It was then abandoned once again. Today, the sector is poorly developed and there is a chronic lack of supervisory workers and specialised managers. Aquaculture is practised throughout virtually the whole country. Extensive breeding is generally used, and only a few aquaculturalists practise semi-intensive farming, particularly in the periurban environment. The main species being bred is Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus). The bulk of the catch is for home consumption.
Aquaculture has suffered from chronic institutional instability. At the present time it is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. Government policy is implemented by the Aquaculture Directorate at the Directorate-General for Fisheries and Agriculture.
All applied research is conducted at the Centre Piscicole National de la Djoumouna but it only operates when assistance projects are being implemented. Most of the specialised managers are foreign-educated.
Assistance was recently requested for the drafting of a national aquaculture development policy and action plan.
Pond-based aquaculture, which was only recently introduced, is only practised in fresh water in Congo, while other types of aquaculture activities only have a potential character. Aquaculture was introduced at the initiative of the colonial regime in order to address the difficulties in guaranteeing foodstuff supplies in the wake of the Second World War. Between 1950 and 1953, the Centre Fédéral de Recherche et de Formation en Pisciculture de Djoumouna (now the Centre Piscicole National de Djoumouna) of French Equatorial Africa was established to cater for Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon and Chad.
The history of aquaculture in Congo has been through four main periods:
Following the cessation of hostilities, an Interim Post-Conflict Programme was drafted in 2001. For aquaculture, this programme made provision, inter alia, to revive aquaculture by rehabilitating the facilities that had been destroyed on State-owned land and by resuming Small Farmer Aquaculture Project activities in order to assist private aquaculturalists.
Depending upon input-use levels, two production systems have been implemented in Congo:
Congo is chronically short of specialised agents and management with a thorough training in aquaculture. Over the past ten years, the whole burden of aquaculture has only been borne by fewer than fifteen senior managers. Within five to seven years they will be entitled to retire.
The implementation agents received their training within the framework of the Rural Aquaculture Development Project (1982-1995); most of them have since returned to their original government department, the present Ministry of the Forestry Economics and the Environment. There are now no more extension agents available to closely monitor the aquaculturalists.
Aquaculture is much more of a male activity in the rural environment. The women's role is limited to specific operations such as fertilising the ponds, mainly retting cassava and selling fish on the local traditional market.
According to the figures provided by five departmental fisheries and aquaculture directorates (Pool, Bouenza, Niari, Lekoumou, Brazzaville), there are 1 034 aquaculturalists.
Aquaculture is practised in every department in the country (except Likouala) both on a household scale (using the extensive breeding system) and on an artisanal scale (using the semi-intensive breeding system).
From the point of view of the area covered by ponds Congo has three main aquacultural departments:
Figures on the present aquaculture potential (the numbers of aquaculturalists, the number and the acreages of the ponds, etc.) are still fragmentary. Since the end of the national sociopolitical upheavals no national census of aquaculturalists has yet been conducted. Nevertheless, partial data is available from the decentralised fisheries and aquaculture administrations showing that there are now 1 034 aquaculturalists developing in six of the eleven departments in the country, namely, Bouenza, Brazzaville, Lékoumou, Niari, Pool and Sangha. There are 3 156 ponds covering an area of 67.06 hectares. No exact information exists, however, on the number of ponds actually being farmed.
Congolese aquaculture is still not very well developed. It is characterised by:
The main aquaculture species used in Congo, which makes the largest contribution to the value of production, is the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), which was introduced from Chad to Congo during the colonial period in the 1970s. It has since overtaken the other native tilapia species: Oreochromis macrochir and Tilapia rendalli. It is preferred to these others because of its faster growth, handling resistance, and more attractive flavour.
After the official closure of the Rural Aquaculture Development Project in 1995, aquaculture production in Congo went into decline, falling to below 50 tonnes. This decline was further hastened by the armed conflict that broke out of the country which destroyed most of the public and private fish farming infrastructure. At the present time a few aquaculturalists are trying to revive their fish farms. Output is still very low, however.
This fall-off in production is due to several factors:
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Congo according to FAO statistics:
Because of low fish production levels, Congolese aquaculture does not yet have an organised market for domestic consumption or for export. The bulk of production is for household consumption. A very tiny part is, however, sold fresh both on the production sites, around the edges of the ponds, and on the traditional local market, by heap or by weight. Selling prices range from between 1 000 and 1 500 CFA francs (1 000 CFA francs = US$2.03 ) by heap or by kilo in the rural environment, and between 1 500 and 2 000 CFA francs in the periurban areas.
The fish farmers themselves, or their wives, sell their fish to consumers or to resellers. Generally speaking, sales to retailer re-sellers take place on the site of the rural periurban aquaculture farms with large ponds.
Congo is one of the largest fish-consuming sub-Saharan African countries, at 24.4 kg per person per year, but it has not yet begun farming fish for export. Its main aim is to produce more fish to meet the local demand.
Aquaculture, which only takes the form of pond-based rural fish farming, is still limited to small-holdings. Output is still negligible.
The low current levels of aquaculture development in Congo is a serious constraint on the strategic roles it could play in terms of its contribution to improving food security, alleviating poverty and improving the national balance of trade.
Aquaculture has suffered from chronic institutional instability. Over the past ten years responsibility for its development has been guaranteed by about ten government departments, including:
The Directorate-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture, established by Decree No. 2003-178 of 8 August 2003, is responsible for implementing government fisheries and aquaculture policy. It comprises 11 departmental Directorates and six central Directorates.
The Aquaculture Directorate , instituted by the aforementioned Decree, is vested with responsibility for:
Regulation sets out to:
Aquaculture in inland waters will soon be regulated by the inland fisheries and aquaculture Act, for which the Bill is currently being debated by the National Assembly, after receiving clearance from the Supreme Court.
A Fisheries Management Fund (FAH) instituted by Decree No. 94-345 of 1 August 1994 will be used to finance the necessary fisheries management and development operations.
The Djoumouna National Fish Farming Centre, 23 kilometres southwest of Brazzaville, used to be the main aquaculture applied research centre. But its research programmes have only been implemented in the course of implementing fish farming projects. It has focused its work on such bio-technical aspects as pond fertilisation, fish feeding, artificial reproduction etc. The results of these trials have been applied by smallholders through extension.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education with Responsibility for Literacy, and the Ministry of Technical and Vocational Training are the three bodies responsible for National Education. These ministries have oversight over schools, technical support centres, and institutes providing aquaculture courses.
However, these ministries have found it difficult to achieve their educational/training goals because of a lack of funding, de-motivated staff, and a lack of co-operation between the ministerial agencies and the structures reporting to them. Most of the specialised managers are foreign-trained.
There has been a sharp decline in fish farming in the course of the past few years. The aquaculturalists who, until 1990, had the opportunity to trade alevins to replenish the ponds, no longer do so because the brood stock that they formerly had has been decimated. The extensive farming system is also in vogue, and the aquaculturalists do not feed their fish.
In view of the difficulties of finding supplies of alevins, in 2003 the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) imported Oreochromis niloticus alevins and brood stock from Cote d'Ivoire.
Although Congo has numerous strengths and considerable potential, it has not yet put in place a national aquaculture development policy and/or plan. A request in the form of a TCP was submitted to FAO in 2005, seeking support for the drafting of a national aquaculture development policy and an action plan. It is through a consistent and realistic development tool of this kind that Congo is seeking to find solutions to the problems and constraints that are hampering the establishment of sustainable aquaculture.
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