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As a follow-up to the Study on International Fisheries Research (SIFR,1989-91), FAO in collaboration with the Economic Commission for Africa and the European Union, launched in 1992 a regional study on aquaculture development and research in sub-Saharan Africa.

The resulting synthesis of the information presented in 12 national reviews on development and research needs provided the basis for proposing an indicative action plan for aquaculture research in sub-Saharan Africa (CIFA Technical Papers 23 and 23 suppl., 1994) .

Nine priority areas were identified among which information collection, storage and dissemination through networking was considered as an essential and top priority programme.

As follow-up, and using the Partnership Programme Scheme, the Inland Water Resources and Aquaculture Service of the FAO Fisheries Department, organized in October 1996 a project identification/formulation mission in sub-Saharan Africa with the following objectives:

The identification/formulation mission was composed as follows:

- André G. Coche Mission leader, Consultant, Rome, Italy

- Jean Collins (Ms.) Librarian, FAO Fisheries Department, Rome, Italy

- Antoinette Ziehi (Mrs.) Aquaculture Researcher, IDESSA, Bouaké, Côte d'Ivoire

This mission visited various institutions in Western, Eastern, Southern and Sahelian Africa between October 24 and November 20, 1996 as follows:

- Centre de Recherches Océanologiques and future RECOSCIX-CEA, in Abidjan;

- Institut des Savanes (IDESSA), in Bouaké;

- West African Rice Development Association, in Bouaké;

- INFOPECHE, in Abidjan;

- Institut du Sahel/RESADOC, in Bamako;

- Ministère du Développement Rural et de l'Environnement, in Bamako;

- Institut d' Economie Rurale, in Bamako;

- University of Ibadan, in Ibadan;

- Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, in Mombasa;

- RECOSCIX-WIO Project, in Mombasa;

- Bunda College of Agriculture, in Bunda near Lilongwe;

- SADC/IFS Documentation Centre, in Lilongwe;

- ALCOM Programme, in Harare;

- Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management, in Harare;

- Ministry of Agriculture, Central Library, in Harare;

- J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology, in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape;

- Rhodes University, Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, in Grahamstown;

- Rhodes University, main library, in Grahamstown;

A more detailed schedule of the mission together with a list of people met are provided in Annex 1.

The mission was planned with the following set of guiding principles in mind:

- aquatic farming systems;

- research aspects; and

- development aspects;

with the central focus on fish production through small to medium-scale freshwater aquaculture and the management of small water bodies.

With reference to this last point, in addition to information sources on the biological and technical aspects of fish production, it was considered as essential also to access information related to all the other components of the production system, such as the producers themselves, their crops and animal production, and the external factors influencing development in general (e.g. markets and government support). Information, for example, related to rural sociology, agricultural economics, human nutrition and food security, environmental impact, water conservation, and rural extension methods/services were as far as possible included in the survey. Multidisciplinary libraries were therefore considered as being particularly well suited to participate in the envisaged information network.

A standardised questionnaire was developed in order to assist in the collection of relevant data from each institution and library visited. The format is a modified version of the one developed by EURASLIC to produce the Directory of European Aquatic Sciences Libraries and Information Centres.

The completed questionnaires in Annex 3 provide data on the libraries visited, together with an overview of their information activities, services and the networks in which they participate.

The observations on the libraries visited relate only to the possibilities for collaboration and their strengths and/or constraints are considered only in the context of an information network for aquatic farming systems. There is no intention of evaluating the libraries per se, nor of commenting on their primary role or activities within other areas.

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