The saying goes that if you “give a man a fish, you feed him for only one day, but if you teach him to fish then he can feed himself for life”. I dare to say that if you teach someone in a low-income country to do aquaculture, you can empower generations to feed themselves and make sustainable livelihoods.
I come from a coastal city and I have always taken the seafood I eat and where it comes from for granted. Although I have heard about aquaculture and knew that some of the seafood and fish on my plate is farmed, I have never really considered aquaculture as an area of interest. Well, colour me interested because, after attending sessions on the subject at the Agricultural Research for Development Conference 2017 (Agri4D), I am full of curiosity about aquaculture.
In his keynote speech David Little (University of Stirling) talked about the global trends in aquaculture and its societal impacts. As a student of Rural Development and Natural Resource Management and a former community developer, I was very intrigued by the points he made. According to him, despite the general perception of aquaculture as the food of the rich, in countries like Nigeria and Vietnam, fish is the base of the livelihoods of the poor and ensures a big chunk of their food security.
Interestingly, according to the analysis David Little and his team made, the Sustainable Development Goal for Life Below Water (SDG 14) concentrates on marine biodiversity, but does not mention nutrition at all. At a time when 90% of the world’s stock are overfished, it seems rather peculiar that the connection between food security and oceans is not acknowledged in the Global Goals. Moreover, aquaculture that could help to decrease overfishing rates, seems to be reduced to the freshwater activity only.
So, can aquaculture be that missing piece of jigsaw in the food security puzzle? And if yes, how does it fit in the new development agenda?
I had a pleasure to have a one-on-one session with David Little over lunch. What I learnt was that aquaculture is not necessarily a fit for every low-income state. This is especially true for those countries that already have an adequate supply of wild fish: the demand for farmed fish in these countries is not high and marketing is challenging. On the other hand, I was glad to find out that aquaculture can be practiced even in water stressed places. How? You are soon to find out.
Aquaculture is buzzing with innovation. In Kenya, Geraldine Matolla (University of Eldoret) and her team are working with fish farming in small cummunal water reservoirs, mitigating the lack of land. According to Matolla the waste from fish is very low and does not compromise water quality. The trouble here is the competition over water use from the ponds. The reservoirs are normally used for basic human needs, for livestock and for crop irrigation. So, initially, the community was against the use of the ponds for fish farming, but there is more buy-in now thanks to the “Eat more fish campaign”. Meant to build awareness about health benefits of fish eating, the campaign created higher demand, generating acceptance of fish farming in community ponds.