Pond culture is the only production system carried out in Malawi. The other production system of cage culture is carried out in very isolated cases. The number of fish farmers has increased from less than 100 in the 1960s to 2 000 in 1997 (Dickson and Brooks, 1997), and to 4 050 in 2002 (NAC, 2003). Over half of them use some integrated aquaculture-agriculture technologies. Current fish production from aquaculture is estimated to be 800 tonnes (NAC, 2003). However, yields may vary from 500 kg/ha/year to 2 316 kg/ha/year depending on the level of intensification. Average yields of 1.4 tonnes/ha/year are obtained (SSC, 2005). This represents an annual income of US$ 1 363 per hectare per year (approximately US$ 25/farmer/year).
From a regional point of view, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has had a significant influence in shaping the course of aquaculture development in Malawi. Since its inception in 1980, SADC has constantly engaged in developing policies and strategies in the different areas of regional cooperation and integration. These policies and strategies were consolidated into sectoral strategy papers, Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) and Protocols, which are key instruments in the process of community building. One such instrument is the SADC Fisheries Protocol, which was initiated in the 1990s, but only signed in 2001.
Before the Fisheries Protocol was formulated, SADC had set up Technical Coordination Units for the various development aspects. Among other things, Malawi was responsible for the Inland Fisheries Sector Technical Coordination Unit (IFSTCU). The IFSTCU provided the platform for the development of the Fisheries Protocol as well as a number of regional aquaculture projects, notably the Aquaculture for Local Communities (ALCOM) and the SADC Small Water Bodies Project, which were funded and managed by FAO. The ALCOM regional project was instrumental in guiding aquaculture development in Malawi, through the preparation of field extension materials, the training of government aquaculture researchers and extensionists, and fish farmers, as well as enhancing a regional forum where Malawi could share information with other countries in SADC.
In 2003, SADC developed the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP)which aligns strategic objectives and priorities with the policies and strategies to be pursued over a period of fifteen years. In the fisheries sector, RISDP aims to promote the responsible and sustainable use of living aquatic resources and aquatic ecosystems in order to enhance food security and human health. For aquaculture, RISDP aims at "promoting aquaculture and mariculture development and trade in fish".
Table 1. Sex ratio, education level, skills base and land holding of fish farmers.
About 5 percent of the fish farmers are illiterate, whereas over 70 percent have a primary school education, and approximately 24 percent have a secondary school education.
Then there are exotic species – mainly carp – which make up 2 percent of production.
Oreochromis shiranus is a tilapiine species endemic to Lake Malawi and the Upper Shire River and is widely distributed among the natural water bodies and in fishponds in all parts of the country. The species is known for early maturity and precocious breeding. This makes it easily colonized in diverse environments and makes fingerling production easy. It tolerates harsh conditions of low DO (dissolved oxygen) of about 0.6 ml/l and high temperatures of up to 40–42 °C (Morgan, 1972), so it thrives in poor fishpond conditions of many Malawian fish farms. The fish grows to over 50 g in fishponds.
Tilapia rendalli is a very popular fish throughout the country because of its superior flavour. It is the second most common cultured species in Malawi. The fish species is indigenous to Malawi (Phillippart and Ruwet, 1988) and is well adapted to almost all water bodies of Malawi. The growth rate of T. rendalli exceeds that of O. shiranus and O. karongae . The fish reaches a "large" size. It is for these reasons that it is probably considered by small-scale aquaculture farmers in Malawi to be most suited.
The use of exotic species is restricted in Malawi. The Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (1997) restricts the introduction of exotic species in order to protect Malawi's fish biodiversity. Common carp (Cyprinus carpio ) – one of the fast growing exotic species – was introduced into Malawi in 1976, but further importation and distribution to farmers was prohibited in 1992. Another exotic fish species cultured is the rainbow trout, Onchorhynchus mykiss which is still produced on the Zomba Plateau, in some parts of Mulanje and in the rivers around Nyika.
Screening for suitable indigenous species for aquaculture has been an ongoing activity at Malawi National Aquaculture Centre since 1960, supported by various projects. The genetic improvement of indigenous species is also encouraged. Selective breeding of O. shiranus and T. rendalli with respect to their genetic performance is ongoing at Malawi National Aquaculture Centre.
Fish farmers stock 2 to 3 fish per m2 depending on the proximity of fingerlings and/or transportation (Brummett and Noble, 1995). Fishponds are fertilized with poultry, goat and cattle manure. Fish is fed on farm dry matter, but availability is affected by the free-range system of keeping livestock and by the availability of labour. Maize bran is the common feed input used by most fish farmers.
Integrating aquaculture with agricultural production is now common practice among over 2 500 farmers. Intensive fish farming systems of tilapias in ponds are now emerging in the pre-urban as well as urban areas of Malawi. A cage culture farm in Lake Malawi has been initiated by MALDECO in the Mangochi district in the southern region of the country. Its target is to produce 3 000 tonnes of fish.
Table 2. Estimated production levels (tonnes) and value (US$) of the major cultured fish species.
The table has been developed using data adapted from FAO, 2003.
In addition to the rainbow trout farms on Zomba plateau, two more large-scale production units were set up in 2004, one by MALDECO Aquaculture in Mangochi and one by GK Aquafarms in the Lower Shire. MALDECO Aquaculture has invested in the cage culture of chambo (Oreochromis spp.), while GK Aquafarms produces O. mossambicus and common carp.
However, recent estimates carried out in Malawi have shown that production from the small-scale sector could be in the region of between 40 and 200 tonnes per annum (ADiM, 2005). The apparent over-estimation of small-scale aquaculture production in Malawi is attributed to the use of a small number of target groups from which harvests are measured (ADiM, 2005).
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Malawi according to FAO statistics:
In a detailed survey recently carried out in Malawi, it was reported that the majority of fish farmers recognize that aquaculture provides an opportunity for farm diversification and improved income (ADiM, 2005). However, most were dissatisfied with their performance. The main reasons for dissatisfaction in all groups currently engaged in fish farming were the slow growth rate of fish (35 percent), small pond size (25 percent) and the lack of technical support (8 percent), although all farmers were satisfied with the market and the price of fish. The results of the survey showed that 8 percent of farmers had abandoned aquaculture in recent years, the main reason being lack of water. All of these reasons indicate a poor understanding of the critical requirements for successful fish farming. This clearly suggests the need for capacity building, education, improved extension and the need for access to small loans for the more progressive farmers and a greater supporting framework (extension) for those farmers at the lower end of the spectrum (ADiM, 2005).
A substantial quantity of fish produced is consumed by the household, sold or given away to friends and relatives. In general, work by the WorldFish Centre has shown that households with integrated agro-pisciculture have three time more income (US$ 310) than those with non-integrated agro-pisciculture (US$ 160); and they have higher monthly per capita consumption of fresh fish (0.96 kg) than households with non-agro-pisciculture (0.36 kg) (Jamu and Chimatiro, 2004). A comparison of the nutritional status between two groups of children in rural Malawi clearly indicates that the incidence of stunting among children under five years old is 30 percent in fish farming households and 70 percent in non-fish farming households, which shows that children in fish farming households have better nutritional status (ADiM, 2005).
The national fisheries and aquaculture policy (2001) focuses on increasing income and employment and on improving fish supply and distribution by targeting marketing and quality improvement, as well as the involvement of the private sector in the development of the fisheries industry. However, previous efforts to encourage private sector participation in fisheries and aquaculture development did not succeed because there was no deliberate government policy in this respect (Njaya and Chimatiro, 1999). In recent years, the commercial aquaculture sector has been steadily developing. According to recent estimates the commercial aquaculture sector contributes over 120 tonnes to annual fish production (Kapeleta, 2001). The National Aquaculture Strategic Plan (NASP) has therefore put into place a number of Strategic Themes, including the "the enhancement of economic opportunity for commercial fish farmers". As a way of spearheading the development of self-supporting commercial or profit-oriented aquaculture, the Innovative Fish Farmers' Network (IFFN) has been formed in Malawi and is registered as a Trust. Its aim is to promote aquaculture by carrying out farmer-to-farmer research and extension, identifying markets and assisting members in securing loans. The government is also improving the infrastructure, and developing the human capacity of the National Aquaculture Centre to enable it to better support the private sector development.
The government has provided the regulatory mechanism specifically for the development of aquaculture. The Fisheries Act ensures the protection of the environment, whilst at the same time protecting the interests of the investor. The Act also gives the Department of Fisheries responsibility for issuing aquaculture permits and for enforcing compliance with the rules put in place to govern the management of aquaculture.
The Act stipulates that no aquaculture activities should be carried out without a permit. An investor who wants to establish a fish farm no smaller than 4 hectares should obtain the aquaculture permit which requires proper monitoring to minimize the risk of spread of disease and requires the creation and maintenance of accurate records (Schedule 14 of the Fisheries Conservation and Management Regulations 2000). Part X, Sections 38–43 of the Fisheries Conservation and Management Regulations (2000) outline the main regulations governing aquaculture. These include the requirement to apply for an aquaculture permit, specific conditions on the issue or renewal of an aquaculture permit, and how long the permit is valid. Sections 42 and 43 deal specifically with the outbreak of diseases as follows: "The holder of an aquaculture permit shall take those measures advised to him by the Director for the prevention of the spread of disease to or from the stock of his establishment". Measures taken may include the destruction and disposal of the stock or part of the stock of the aquaculture establishment by the permit holder under the supervision of the Director or, with the assent of the permit holder, for such destruction and disposal to be carried out, as authorised by the Director.
Regulatory mechanisms are put in place to protect the aquaculture operator if mistakes are made in implementing the law. For example, Section 43 stipulates that "where the stock or part of the stock of an aquaculture establishment has been destroyed pursuant to regulation 48 and the Director is satisfied that the stock was not diseased the Government may pay the permit holder compensation for the stock so destroyed in an amount decided by the Government in its absolute discretion".
Section 5.4 of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy (2001) provides operational guidelines for aquaculture development. These include the development of protocols for the management and conservation of the genetic diversity of farmed fish (significance of endangered endemic species). Recently, an additional control mechanism has been formulated in order to protect aquatic biodiversity. The National Aquaculture Strategic Plan (2005) has provided safeguards against the use of exotic fish species in aquaculture in order to protect the endemic species of fish in Lake Malawi.
For example, the Chambo Restoration Strategic Plan (2003–2015) is part of Malawi's National Strategy for Sustainable Development (NSSD) (2004), which is Malawi's commitment to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) target of restoring depleted fish stocks to maximum sustainable yields by 2015, and FAO's International Plan of Action to prevent deter, and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The Chambo Restoration Strategic Plan (CRSP) outlines measures to conserve the chambo in the wild, as well as being a comprehensive aquaculture research plan for the fish. All research and academic institutions in Malawi took part in the development of the CRSP and are encouraged to align their research and training programmes in accordance with the CRSP.
The government, through a participatory process involving stakeholders, determines the research priorities. The government and international organizations provide support to aquaculture institutions to initiate, direct and carry out aquaculture research, whilst the Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) collaborate with the government in implementing on-farm research. Several donor agencies provide support for carrying out research. Farmers are involved as partners in research and technology development. The fish farmers carry out experiments, and adopt and replicate on-station results on their farms. On-farm participatory research in the form of a Farmer-Scientist Research Partnership has been introduced in Malawi with the help of the WorldFish Centre (Brumett and Noble, 1995). The results are checked by means of participatory monitoring and ex-post impact assessment. Positive results are widely adopted through community based on-farm demonstrations and farmer-to-farmer technology transfer.
In order to provide institutional support to the development of fish farming in Malawi, the government has established research and academic institutions. The Department of Fisheries has overall responsibility for aquaculture administration, management and provision of professional services to ensure sustainable aquaculture development in the country. The National Aquaculture Centre (NAC) plays a leading role in research and development and 12 aquaculture satellite stations country-wide carry out on-farm research and provide extension service to farmers. Various institutions carry out aquaculture research.
The Bunda College of Agriculture and Chancellor College (University of Malawi) and the Malawi College of Fisheries (Department of Fisheries) offer certificates and degrees in aquaculture, as well as conducting various forms of research in aquaculture. The WorldFish Centre is a key partner in aquaculture research in Malawi. The WorldFish championed the introduction of integrated aquaculture-agriculture (IAA) technology in Malawi, and is currently involved in a number of programmes including selective breeding and implementation of the research plan under the Government of Malawi's Chambo Restoration Strategic Plan. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and FAO have been involved in various programmes assisting the government to formulate various policies and to implement research programmes.
The South African Development Community (SADC) has, as explained in the section on history and general overview, had an influence in shaping aquaculture development in Malawi. In order to enhance the achievement of sustainable food security in SADC, the Dar es Salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security (May, 2004) recognized the role of fish in food security, and urged SADC member states to enhance fish production through fish farming. With the support of the WorldFish Centre, the SADC Secretariat held a meeting in Malawi in November 2004. It culminated in the formulation of the SADC-WorldFish Centre Fish Demand and Supply Trends and Joint Plan of Action on Fisheries, known as the "Mangochi statement". This Statement developed the "Draft Plan of Action for Improved Production, Processing and Trade of Fish from Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture in the SADC Region (2005–2010)". On aquaculture, the plan of action emphasized three key objectives: (i) improved production from aquaculture; (ii) improved quality of aquaculture products; and (iii) improved national, regional and international trade for aquaculture products (SADC-WorldFish, 2004). The Statement has since been adopted by the SADC Integrated Committee of Ministers (SADC, 2005).
The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) has developed the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). An initial Action Plan gives priority to key areas of agricultural and commercial development. The fisheries sector was left out. FAO was thus asked to formulate the Companion Document on Fisheries, recognizing the importance of fisheries in the region and the potential to develop aquaculture. This will be consolidated by the NEPAD Fish for All Summit to be held in Nigeria from 22 to 25 August 2005. The Summit will be the first high-profile Africa-wide event to draw global attention to the vital role of fisheries and aquaculture to meeting Africa's development agenda. The NEPAD Secretariat, the WorldFish Centre and FAO will hold the Summit jointly with the Government of Nigeria, in order to facilitate the approval of common African objectives for the future of fisheries and aquaculture in pursuit of the Millennium Development (WorldFish, 2005). Malawi has played a key role in developing the concepts for the NEPAD Fish For All because of its strategic partnership with both the WorldFish and FAO.
At national level, aquaculture development has been influenced by a number of factors. Firstly, the decline in the quantity of fish landed from capture fisheries prompted the Government of Malawi to look for alternative sources of fish. For this reason the general objectives aim at monitoring and controlling fishing activities to enhance the quality of life for fishing communities by increasing harvests within safe sustainable yields and promoting aquaculture as a source of income and to supplement fish supply from natural waters (Government of Malawi, 2001). A number of strategies were put in place under Section 4 of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy (2001) to guide the development of aquaculture.
Secondly, the government realized that the potential to derive tangible benefits from aquaculture development was hampered by the shortage of qualified personnel in the Department of Fisheries. So in 1986 the ICLARM (now known as the WorldFish Centre), was invited to help the government put in place an appropriate training programme, as well as research, to develop technologies suitable for rural farmers in Malawi (ICLRAM-GTZ, 1991). This programme led to the setting up of an MSc (Aquaculture) at the University of Malawi which trained some of the first researchers and extensionists for the Department of Fisheries.
A version of the Asian model of integrated aquaculture-agriculture was introduced to Malawi by WorldFish. From 1980 until 1998, with the involvement of WorldFish and various NGOs to intensify extensions, aquaculture production increased slowly from less than 100 tonnes to approximately 210 tonnes per year (Dey et al ., 2004). Production increased sharply to about 600 tonnes/year by 2001, due to intensification of extension by NGOs especially World Vision-Malawi, Action Aid, OXFAM, US Peace Corps, and various religious denominations, amongst others, and other international agencies.
During the period 1970 to 2002 Malawi received substantial support through the FAO, ODA (UK), Malawi-German Fisheries and Aquaculture Development Project (MAGFAD), the National Aquatic Resource Management Programme: NARMAP (GTZ), the Central and Northern Regions Fish Farming Project: CNRFFP (EU), the Border Zone Development Programme: BZDP (GTZ) and the Project on Aquaculture Research and Technical Development of Malawian Indigenous Species: ARTDMIS (JICA) (ADiM, 2005). The Malawi-German Fisheries and Aquaculture Development Project (MAGFAD) (1987–1997), funded by the Government of Germany, supported the promotion of rural farmers to integrated fishponds in the existing farming systems in the southern region of Malawi (Chimatiro, 2000).
In 2002, the Government of Japan agreed to conduct and support the Master Plan Study on Aquaculture Development in Malawi (ADiM). The aim was to develop a national strategic sector plan as a "Road Map" for future aquaculture development in Malawi. The project was launched in January 2003 and led to the National Aquaculture Strategic Plan (NASP) in 2005. This document is the Final Report, which presents the NASP and examines the "best" approaches and actions to be taken to ensure the sustainable development and growth of smallholdings and commercial aquaculture in Malawi over the next 10 years. One of the major strategic themes of the NASP is the institutionalization of aquaculture as a livelihood strategy in Malawi's rural planning. This allows the Local Assemblies (District Administration) and other development agencies at district level (such as NGOs) to include fish farming in their regular programmes. It is envisaged that this strategy will see an increase in investment in aquaculture development at district level.
Thirdly, large-scale commercial aquaculture emerged in the mid 1990s. At its peak, the "commercial" sector produced a maximum of around 100 tonnes per annum. From the mid 1990s to around 2001/02 the sector virtually collapsed, due to lack of proper financial planning, lack of commercial fish farming expertise, the absence of commercial aquaculture expertise at government stations and inadequate fingerling production capacity (quality and quantity) (ADiM, 2005). Balarin and Hecht (1991), Brooks (1992), and Balarin (1997) also attributed the failure of commercial aquaculture to the low price of fish. The price of fish over the last 5 years has increased by over 350 percent and "chambo" now sells for up to US$ 2/kg. Commercial aquaculture is re-emerging again (ADiM, 2005). Well-planned commercial aquaculture operations were established in 2003–2004. One is a large-scale cage culture operation geared to produce between 2 000 and 3 000 tonnes of Oreochromis karongae in circular floating cages in Lake Malawi. Another is a medium scale pond culture operation in the Lower Shire valley at Kasinthula and consists of 10 ponds with a total surface area of 8 ha. The main species farmed include Oreochromis mossambicus and Cyprinus carpio . The only other "small to medium" scale commercial fish farm in Malawi is the recently (2001–2002) privatised trout farm on the Zomba plateau. In addition, and as a direct consequence of the ADiM Pilot Project, several smallholders have also taken the first steps towards the commercialization of their fish farming activities; the success of these ventures will provide the impetus for the development of the sector in Malawi (ADiM, 2005).
Finally, progress in aquaculture development over the past ten years has been spearheaded by the progressive direction taken by the Government of Malawi by putting in place the fisheries Act and Policy between 1997 and 2001. In addition, a number of official planning documents has also been formulated, notably the Chambo Restoration Strategic Plan (CRSP) (2003–2015), which outlines the strategies necessary for enhancing the production of chambo through aquaculture (Banda et al ., 2005). MALDECO's investment in the cage culture of chambo is a direct response to the CRSP. Poverty reduction and economic development are the overall national goals of Malawi. In 2001 the Government adopted the Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (MPRSP), which provided the broad guidelines to achieve the national strategic goals of economic and social development, and one of the pro-poor investment sectors was aquaculture. This led to substantial investment of funds realized from Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) into rural aquaculture.
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