The most common type of aquaculture in Zambia is that based on species from the Cichlidae family. Aquaculture is in its infant stage of development compared to agriculture. There has been a number of donor supported aquaculture development programmes targeting small-scale farmers. The successful introduction of fish farming methods from Eastern Europe led to an explosive interest and a number of farmers adopted the practice in various parts of the country. However, there was a rapid decline due mainly to decreased extension services and lack of incentives for commercial farmers to increase their production. However, fish production is important in Zambia for employment, earnings and as a source of food. Zambia has the potential for further development of aquaculture. Zambia is among the major aquaculture producers of Sub-Saharan Africa with estimated production exceeding 8 500 tonnes/year. Various fish farming practices are used and culture is carried out on small-scale, smallholder and commercial level. A variety of species are farmed, including breams, the common carp, Nile tilapia and crayfish. An institutional framework is in place. A national aquaculture strategy has been formulated and the Zambian government is revising the fisheries legislation to include aquaculture development.
Fish farming in Zambia dates back to the 1950s when the first attempts were made to raise indigenous species of the Cichlidae family, mainly tilapias, in dams and earthen fish ponds. A number of donors have subsequently taken an active part in assisting the government to encourage farmers to adopt aquaculture. This has been done by introducing pond culture in rural areas as a way of improving nutrition. The government has provided extension services which have made a marked improvement to fish culture activities. There are currently more than 6 000 small-scale fish farmers with over 13 000 fish ponds throughout the country, predominantly in the eastern, north western, northern and Luapula provinces. There are also 15 active large commercial fish farms spread along the railway line in Copperbelt, Lusaka and Southern provinces where ideal business conditions exist. Joint extension efforts by the private sector and the government have seen aquaculture expand in all nine provinces of the country, putting Zambia among the largest aquaculture producers in Sub-Saharan Africa with an estimated production in 2000 exceeding 8 500 tonnes at a value of US$ 19 million. These figures are based on unrecorded data and calculations done by the authors. FAO statistics, which are based on official government sources, report a different situation for 2003 when the quantity of production was 4 501 tonnes and the value reported to be US$ 5 669. Fish farming systems range from extensive to intensive and from multi-species to mono-species culture. There are three levels of fish farmers: small-scale, smallholder and commercial. The small-scale farmers are family based and labour extensive, carrying out extensive culture and producing between 1-2 tonnes/ha/year. The smallholders combine fish farming with livestock and crops. Apart from providing food security, they generate income, apply inputs and an element of investment is developing through the use of hired labour for various tasks. Production is from 2-2.5 tonnes/ha/year. Commercial fish farming is usually carried out on very large production units. It is intensive, involving higher levels of investment, is market oriented and may include processing for specialized markets. Average fish production from commercial ventures is 6 tonnes/ha/year or more, whilst the average production in cages is 3.5 tonnes per cage measuring 216 m3 .
Fish production is very important in rural Zambia. An estimated 25 000 fishers and another 30 000 in fish processing and trading derive their livelihood directly from fishing and fisheries related activities. The fish farming sector is estimated to benefit 6 860 people directly involved in it. A number of donor agencies have been involved in promoting aquaculture and capacity building. Most active have been the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA), Norwegian Agency for Development (NORAD), and, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Other notable organisations include Aquaculture for Local Communities (ALCOM), a programme sponsored by FAO, United States Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV), and Africare who have all provided finance, materials and personnel in the form of administrators, experts and extension volunteers for the implementation of national aquaculture programmes, including training for local staff and fish farmers.
There are people working full-time on private fish farms and in government institutions such as the fisheries and agriculture departments, farmer training colleges, the Natural Resources Development College and the Kasaka Fisheries Training Institute. There are also some government agencies and non-governmental organisations which periodically carry out duties relevant to the sector.
The full-time employees - 80 percent male and 20 percent female - working on donor programmes and in public institutions have technical and professional training. However, a lack of training staff continues to limit the effectiveness of public extension support to improve the technical skills of most small-scale fish farmers and those they hire to assist with their operations.
Pond units and fish farms are mostly family owned or owned by partnerships. Commercial fish farms are all partnership owned. The smaller fish farms are family owned and used as a status symbol. Pond ownership among family members is estimated to be 30 percent female owned, although the number is increasing, as female owned ponds perform better than those owned by males. Commercial farmers employ 12 people per hectare, whilst small-scale farms and smallholdings employ 1-2 people per hectare.
Zambia is in central Africa between latitudes 80 and 180 S and longitudes 220 and 340 E. It covers a total area of 752 614 km2 , of which 11 890 km2 comprise lakes, rivers and swamp lands which are linked to seasonally variable water table levels caused by seasonal variations in temperature and water availability. Because agriculture production is dependent on rainfall, the country has three distinct agro-ecological zones I, II and III. Zone I in the south receives less than 800 mm annual rainfall. Zone II in the centre receives between 800-1 200 mm annual rainfall. Zone III in the north receives more than 1 200 mm annual rainfall. Aquaculture development has not been uniform, the major determining factors being rainfall (abundant availability of water) and markets. There tend to be larger concentrations of small-scale fish farms in areas or districts which receive 700 - 1 400 mm rainfall per year. Since commercial fish farmers have the capacity to store and manage water throughout the year by means of reservoirs and dams, the location of their operations is determined by markets.
The commonly used species for aquaculture include the three spotted tilapia (Oreochromis andersonii ), the longfin tilapia (Oreochromis macrochi ) and the redbreast tilapia (Tilapia rendalli ). The Kafue river strain of the three spotted tilapia is the most commonly farmed species, particularly in the commercial sector. Other species include the common carp (Cyprinus carpio ), the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus ) and the red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii ).
In the 1950s, on the Chilanga and Mwekera farms using Tilapia rendalli and Oreochromis macrochir , feeding and domestication experiments were intensified using broodstock collected from the wild. Fingerlings were raised to stock dams and other fish culture installations throughout the country. Oreochormis andersonii and Clarias gariepinus were later added to the list of candidate species. The latter was added to control tilapia populations in dams and ponds.In 1972, eastern European fish farming methods were introduced. In 1980, common carp was introduced from Malawi into Chilanga fish farms and in 1981 scaled carp came from Czechoslovakia. In the 1970s, the Zambia Sugar Company in Mazabuka imported stocks of Oreochromis niloticus for use in an intensive raceway system and irrigation dams from the University of Stirling in the UK. The fish was originally obtained from Israel. The fish found its way into the Kafue river where it is now established and makes up 40 percent of the fish catches. This facility closed down due to a change of ownership. The stocks currently in use by commercial fish farmers originate from Zimbabwe (L. Harvest Co.) bought in the 1980s. Imported from Zimbabwe and Kenya is the Louisiana crayfish stocked in Livingstone by a private farmer, but subsequently acquired by smallholders.
Zambia has a liberal policy with respect to translocations and introductions, provided they are closely monitored with strict measures to prevent escape into the natural waters. However, this approach is being reviewed with a view to promoting indigenous species linked to watersheds for culture. The African butter catfish (Schilbe mystus ) of the Schilbeidae family, the rednose labeo (Labeo altivelis ) of the Cyprinidae family and, the North African catfish (Clarias gariepinus ) are being studied with a view to being farmed. There are no known genetically improved species being cultured in Zambia, but manipulation for sex reversal has been tried in Oreochromis niloticus .
Total average production of the main species farmed fluctuates between 8 000 and 10 000 tonnes/year. Fluctuations in production can be attributed to the small-scale producers who abandon production and who produce seasonally. In 2000 the total value of aquaculture production was estimated to be US$ 19 million. According to FAO figures for 2003, the quantity of production was 4 501 tonnes and the value of production US$ 5 669.Depending on availability, finfish fetches on average US$ 2 per kg. Crustaceans fetch a higher price at US$ 11 per kg. There are 4 commercial enterprises practicing cage culture on Lake Kariba. They each use 44 cages 6m x 6m x 6m (216 m3 ) and 10 pens to grow Oreochromis niloticus and use pellet feed. Production is 3.5 tonnes/cage.
The graph below shows total aquaculture production in Zambia according to FAO statistics:
All aquaculture produce is consumed within the pond or on the farms. There is no elaborate marketing system except for the cage fish farmers who have supply outlets in the major cities. There are good export possibilities in neighboring countries and beyond, but there are no accurate figures on how much fish is currently exported.
Fish production is important to the national economy and contributes significantly to employment, income and food production. It is estimated that up to 55 percent of the national average protein intake is from fish. The importance of fish in Zambian household food expenditure increases in proportion with increasing levels of poverty. The contribution of fish to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is estimated to be 3.8 percent. This estimate is based largely on the contribution from capture fisheries, because production from fish culture is not regularly reported. Most past interventions by way of programmes and projects in the agriculture sector have tended to focus on crops at the expense of fisheries. Aquaculture among the small-scale farmers is predominantly carried out in areas with less livestock (goats) and in protein deficient areas where it contributes significantly to food security among the farmers and provides income. These farmers are able to exchange or barter fish for other farm crops. The impact can be measured in terms of general family welfare and the ability to pay school fees in most households. However, this applies to less than percent of the farm households.
Aquaculture management comes under the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. Fisheries development objectives are covered by overall agricultural development objectives. In order to obtain a clear picture of the aquaculture development objectives, a National Aquaculture Development Strategy (NADS), was prepared in 2004. This strategy falls well within the policy environment in the ministry as well as economic policies pursued by the Zambian government which emphasizes private sector-led growth. Aquaculture management seeks to create an environment which will encourage private sector-led growth so as to achieve the objective of increased total fish production.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has given the Department of Fisheries responsibility for administering all fisheries related programmes in the country. It is headed by a Director of Fisheries who is in charge of two branches: the Capture Fisheries Management and Development Branch and the Aquaculture Development Branch. These are headed respectively by two Deputy Directors who work to improve co-ordination of development programmes.
The need to develop aquaculture to improve fish production, increase per capita consumption of fish, improve nutrition and to increase income made it necessary to create an institution where the interests of the fish farming community could be addressed. This led to the creation of the Aquaculture Development Branch within the Department of Fisheries.
A National Aquaculture Strategy has been formulated to guide the Branch. It is based on four fundamental principles:
The Fisheries Act (1974) is the country's major piece of legislation governing the fisheries sector. However, the Act does not contain any substantive provisions relating to aquaculture. The Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives is granted a general power to regulate and control fish culture and fish farming (section 21.2(k)), but this power has not been exercised.
In 1998, a new draft Fisheries Act was prepared, including draft Fisheries (Aquaculture) Regulations . However, at present the Act and the Regulations are still awaiting presentation to the Zambian Parliament, for passage into law . The draft legislation is comprehensive and represents the state of the art in legislation to encourage the development of a sustainable aquaculture industry. It describes the licence procedure to engage in and set up an aquaculture facility and address issues such as the protection of the aquatic environment, fish movement and fish disease, environmental impact assessments and genetically modified organisms. The draft legislation also provides for a definition of aquaculture, the preparation of an aquaculture development plan, the declaration of aquaculture development areas and the establishment of a Technical Aquaculture Committee.
For more information on aquaculture legislation in Zambia please click on the following link:
National Aquaculture Legislation Overview - Zambia
The role of research is to develop appropriate technology packages for aquaculture production. There are 5 aquaculture research centres in the country and they are administered by the Department of Fisheries. These are the only centres in the country where aquaculture research is carried out. Programmes are drawn up in close collaboration with extension officers and farmers. The centres are supported through government grants and donor agencies. Monthly, quarterly and annual reports are submitted for follow-up actions, review of activities and verification of results. Research concentrates on three main areas:
There are departmental training programmes in aquaculture. Other farmer training institutions within the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives also offer courses in aquaculture. The Natural Resources Development College (NRDC) (Lusaka Province) offers a three-year diploma course in fisheries with aquaculture. The Kasaka Fisheries Training Institute in Kafue (Lusaka Province) offers a two-year certificate course in fisheries and aquaculture for technicians who expect to be in regular contact with fish farmers.
Overall agriculture policy is to facilitate and support the development of a sustainable and competitive agricultural sector that assures food security at national and household levels and maximize the contribution by the sector to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).Between 1996 and 2001 the development of the agriculture sector was coordinated through the Agricultural Sector Investment Programme (ASIP). Its overall objective was to provide improved and sustainable agriculture services through promotion of free market development, reduction of government role in commercial activity, and more efficient public services.
ASIP recorded both successes and failures. ASIP provided a solid foundation for the rapid development of the agriculture sector, but there were some failures due to an unfavorable macro-economic environment, inadequate resources, poor agriculture infrastructure and slow private sector response. In order to overcome these drawbacks and build upon the gains achieved under ASIP, the Government prepared the Agriculture Commercialization Programme (ACP) and the Agriculture Development Support Programme (ADSP).
The ACP seeks to promote sustainable and broad-based agriculture sector growth by focusing on increasing the generation of income from farming by improving access to:
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Percy, D.R. & Hishamunda, N. 2001 .Promotion of Sustainable Commercial Aquaculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, Volume 3: Legal, Regulatory and Institutional Framework. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper 408.