Unlocking the potential
of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture
in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific

Changing aquatic food systems in The Gambia and Zimbabwe

FISH4ACP virtual tour zooms in on food systems transformation from the bottom up

22 December 2023, Rome – To shed light on the role of aquatic food systems in feeding a growing global population while protecting the planet, FISH4ACP’s virtual tour examined how oyster producers in The Gambia and small-scale tilapia farmers in Zimbabwe improve the food they eat, the income they earn and the environment in which they live. 

The virtual tour, FISH4ACP’s online conversation on fish value chain development, kicked-off in The Gambia, featuring women oyster producers who move to oyster farming and reap important benefits for themselves and the mangroves where oysters grow – better earnings, better safety, and a better environment.

“A gender transformative approach is part of the solution,” said Leonard Mizzi, Head of Unit, Sustainable Agri-Food Systems and Fisheries of the European Union’s Directorate General for International Partnerships, which is co-funding FISH4ACP with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). 

Leonard Mizzi underlined that making Gambia’s oyster value chain better requires an integrated and more holistic approach - enhanced production, processing and marketing, as well as mangrove restoration. “This system’s thinking is needed to unlock the full potential of oysters in The Gambia,” he added.

The virtual tour then set course for Zimbabwe, where a little fly can make a big difference for small-scale tilapia farmers.

“The black soldier fly offers a local solution,” said Robert Musundire, a professor at Chinhoyi University of Technology, whose research has paved the way for domestically produced insect-based fish feed that can reduce the cost of feed between 30 to 60 percent.

Lower costs will boost production, Robert Musundire said, explaining that this will raise the incomes of tilapia farmers and make more fish available at a better price, improving people’s diets in Zimbabwe. And the environment will also benefit, Musundire added, as the black soldier fly is an efficient converter of organic waste, which is usually difficult to dispose of.

Hosted by FISH4ACP, an initiative of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and implemented by FAO, the virtual tour brought together around 200 people, including value chain stakeholders, experts, donors and the development community. The audience engaged in active discussions with expert panel members from The Gambia and Zimbabwe.

“There is no healthy environment without healthy mangroves,” said Fatou Mboob, CEO of TRY women oyster association from The Gambia, when asked about the environmental benefits of oyster farming over wild harvesting from the mangroves. “Women protect the mangroves, because it is the source of their livelihood, the more so when they have an oyster farm in their backyard.”

The United Nations views food systems as powerful drivers of change. In 2021, it convened a summit on transforming the world’s food systems, followed by a stock-taking moment two years later to discuss concrete efforts to make food systems work for the benefit of people, the planet and prosperity.

“Aquatic foods are key to ending hunger and malnutrition,” said Manuel Barange, FAO Assistant Director General and Director of FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Division in closing the event, explaining that FAO is promoting a Blue Transformation of sustainably managed fisheries that can play a crucial role in increasing food production to feed a growing world population.

“With the examples of aquatic food systems transformation in The Gambia and Zimbabwe, FISH4ACP demonstrates that solutions are found locally,” Manuel Barange added, concluding the virtual tour by announcing that FISH4ACP will be showcasing how aquatic value chain development can trigger food systems change at an International Aquatic Value Chain Transformation Seminar in September 2024.