|Characteristics, structure and resources of the sector|
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.
|History and general overview|
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:
- In the 1950s, when Congo Brazzaville remained with the Belgian Congo (today's Democratic Republic of Congo), aquaculture became nothing short of a craze. In 1958, there were 13 000 ponds of which 8 400 were in production, with an annual production per hectare of between one and two tonnes of Tilapia macrochir and Tilapia rendalli (Deceuninck, V. 1988).
- The period following national independence in 1960, when aquaculture was abandoned all over the country.
- The recovery period (1970s-1980s), when aquaculture projects were implemented with external financial and technical assistance:
- UNDP/FAO projects:
- From 1967 to 1970 (Regional Project covering Central Africa, Cameroon, Congo and Gabon).
- From 1972 to 1976 (National Research Specialisation and Extension Project).
- From 1982 to 1990 Rural Aquaculture Development Project.
- The UNDP/ILO Rural Development Project implemented between 1979 and 1982, focusing in particular on the integration of aquaculture with other agricultural activities in the Pool and Plateaux Departments.
- The Industrial Aquaculture Farm in Brazzaville (FPIB) created between 1985 and 1990.
- The present period (since the 1990s), when aquaculture has again been abandoned.
Despite these periods of aquaculture development and regression Congo was to face a completely novel situation for the first time: recurrent socio-political bloodletting , eventually leading to the destruction of the country's socio-economic fabric (1993-2000).
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:
- Extensive farming: using organic fertiliser alone, the oldest and most widespread system; it was commonly practised in the rural environment, and production was mainly for household consumption.
- Semi-intensive farming: timidly practised on private periurban aquaculture farms and on governmental aquaculture farms.
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.
|Farming systems distribution and characteristics|
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:
- Bouenza, with 1 608 ponds covering 33.88 hectares under water.
- Pool, with 850 ponds covering 33.41 hectares under water.
- Niari, with 135 ponds covering 2.41 hectares under water.
Land and water access is generally unrestricted for most aquaculturalists belonging to a land-owning family. In some circumstances, access is conditional upon payment of rent. Not infrequently the latter have also been able to build their own ponds with the aid of members of their own households or by engaging day-labourers.
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:
- In administrative terms:
- Institutional instability.
- The lack of a legislative framework.
- The lack of production statistics.
- The lack of coordination between the sectors and co-operation between different parts of government service.
- In technological terms:
- The lack of sufficient quantities of high quality alevins.
- The lack of supplementary feed.
- The use of poorly-performing culture techniques.
- The lack of development support infrastructure (Technical Support Centre, Research Centre).
- In socio-economic terms:
- Inadequate well-trained senior managers.
- The almost total lack of close extension agents.
- The aquaculturalists' poor grasp of aquaculture.
- The lack of financing facilities.
The aquaculturalists' weak production capacity.
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.
|Practices/systems of culture|
Pond-based Nile tilapia culture is the only extensive aquaculture practice used in Congo. The semi-intensive system is only used by a few fish farmers, mainly in the periurban areas where aquaculture is a prestige activity for certain politicians, and it provides a good source of income for some serving or retired officials.
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 lack of aquaculturalist monitoring and assistance, because of the very small number of extension workers or their inability to travel due to a lack of vehicles.
- The shortage of high quality aquaculture inputs (alevins, feedstock, organic fertiliser).
- The poor productivity of the aquaculturalists due to old age or poor health.
- The abandonment of aquaculture because of its low economic rate of return.
- Night-time poaching of what is already negligible production.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Congo according to FAO statistics:
|Reported aquaculture production in Congo (from 1950)|
(FAO Fishery Statistic)
|Market and trade|
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.
|Contribution to the economy|
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.
|Promotion and management of the sector|
|The institutional framework|
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 Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Water and Forests.
- The Ministry of Fisheries and Fish Resources.
- The Ministry of Forestry Economics with Responsibility for Fisheries and Fish Resources.
- The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and the Advancement of Women.
- The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.
Decree No. 2003-180 of 8 August 2003 regulates the organisation and operation of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. This ministry, in addition to the Cabinet and its Directorates, is responsible for overseeing the three Directorates-General (Agriculture/Livestock/Fisheries and Aquaculture), the decentralised agencies (Departmental Directorates), the entities it oversees (Agricultural and Forestry Product Price Stabilisation Fund, the National Improved Seeds Centre, the Agricultural Technologies Extension Centre, etc.).
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:
- Initiating and fostering aquaculture development programmes.
- Drafting aquaculture plans and programmes, and plans for aquaculture site management.
- Organising technical assistance to aquaculture.
- Encouraging and extending the promotion of innovations and appropriate technologies.
- Issuing health certificates for the species to be farmed.
- Promoting rural and peri-urban aquaculture.
It comprises two technical services (the Aquaculture Management and Extension Service and the Installation and Infrastructure Service) and five bureaux or divisions.
|The governing regulations|
Regulation sets out to:
- Safeguard the environment and the species to be farmed.
- Regulate the aquaculture installations and infrastructure selected by the Ministry.
- Setting the taxes on fish farming and aquaculture products.
- Settle disputes between partners.
- Guarantee the permanence of aquaculture and biodiversity and aquatic ecosystems.
Although there is as yet no potential for salt water and brackish water aquaculture in the Republic of Congo, Law No. 2-2000 of 1 February 2000, on the organisation of maritime fisheries and aquaculture, lays down a number of provisions to further govern this sphere of activity in coastal zones.
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.
|Applied research, education and training|
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.
|Trends, issues and development|
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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