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Many fishing communities live in the world’s poorest countries; they are often marginalized and landless. As fishing is often the livelihood of last resort and fish often the only source of animal protein for the poor, the state of the world’s fisheries can be critical in the fight against poverty in many parts the developing world including Sahel and East African countries.

Today’s AgriKnowledge ShareFair in Addis Ababa convened a panel session to discuss the roles of fisheries and aquaculture in food security and nutrition.

Facilitated by Eshete Dejan and Ana Menezes, participants discussed three cases: Uganda – Mukene fishery development and human consumption for farmer field approach; Ethiopia – GIS based suitability ponds for Tilapia production; and Kenya – Strengthening Fish Production through Adoption of Improved Aquaculture Technology in Western Kenya.

Damp smoked fish wrapped in newspaper in Côte d'Ivoire

In Uganda, fish are among the most significant natural endowments of Uganda, not only because of their magnitude and diversity, but also because they represent a major source of protein in the diet of most Ugandans. They also provide employment and income. The project sought to demonstrate increases in fishery productivity, value addition and market access. Key success factors in this good practice were: focus group training ensured participation and interest; changes (variety) in product development stimulated marketing; training trainers at fisheries training centre pointed to sustainability; training boat builders within fishing communities reduced the costs to fishers who want to buy into new technologies. Also important were the presence of institutions to train others, the existence of internal market for new products and the adoption of the new techniques.

In Ethiopia, Nile tilapia contributed more than 60% of the annual total fish landing and it is the most preferred fish species. Currently, investors and government institutions want to identify potential aquaculture zones. Responding to this, a GIS analysis was made to identify suitable areas for the production of Nile Tilapia in earth ponds. Two scenarios were considered. The first scenario was the production of the species at small scale/household level; the second scenario incorporated some economic factors for commercialization purposes.

Four major common factors were considered to assess suitability: the availability of water throughout the production period, the water temperature regime, engineering suitability for pond construction and the type of land cover in the area. Based on these criteria, GIS site analysis showed that the production of Nile Tilapia in earth ponds for small scale/family sectors ranks from highly suitable, moderately suitable with some additional inputs, marginally suitable, and unsuitable. Most parts of Western and Northwest Ethiopia were determined to be highly suitable and moderately suitable for both scenatrios. Most of Northern, Eastern, Northeastern, Southern and Southeastern parts of Ethiopia were found to be marginally suitable.

In Kenya, the FAO project on “Strengthening Fish Production through Adoption of Improved Aquaculture Technology” aims to increase aquaculture production in Kenya, thereby contributing to poverty reduction and food security. It seeks to improve the value and efficiency of aquaculture production through the implementation of macro [national] level strategic guidelines to develop a more cohesive and synergistic national program. It also works at the micro [farm] level, piloting new market-driven business approaches from the strategic guidelines.

Outputs include: 1) the National Aquaculture Strategy; 2) three functioning clusters operating in a sustainable and profitable way and demonstrating the technical underpinnings of the strategy with at least 100 participating farmers and other stakeholders (e.g., extensionists) and an average yield per site of 2,000 kg/ha/year or more; 3) at least 100 operators familiar with good business practices to evaluate investments and manage farms; 4) input supply and market channels (at least three) developed and operational for pilot sites; and 5) the sub-sector having improved and strengthened coordination with technical and organizational capacity of stakeholder groups, including government support services.

Overall, there was general agreement that the sub-sector should evolve into one with a business orientation but there seems to be some inertia when it comes to “getting down to business”.