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Aquaculture investment crucial to African food security – report

Advances in aquaculture will be needed to meet growing demand for protein in sub-Saharan Africa, but the sector faces many more problems than other primary production industries, according to the FAO.

Advances in aquaculture will be needed to meet a rising demand for fish in sub-Saharan Africa in the coming decade, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned.

With wild-caught fish production stressed to its near limits, the region must turn to its under-invested aquaculture sector to ensure any significant growth in domestic fish supply.

With more the world’s fastest-growing population, sub-Saharan Africa accounts for more than 80 percent of people on the continent yet is expected to contribute less than a third of the continent’s aquaculture production, due to limitations on technical support, infrastructure investment, credit availability and poorly developed value chains between inputs, hatcheries and distribution chains.

More sustainable fishing practices could boost fish production from capture by roughly 5 percent in the next decade; nowhere near enough to meet expected demand. For coastal countries like Sierra Leone, Ghana and Gambia, where fish accounts for more than half of animal protein consumption, any substantial increase in supply will have to come from domestic aquaculture or imports.

The report compares fish production to other stressed primary production sectors, concluding that limitations on fish production in sub-Saharan Africa mean the aquaculture industry will be far less equipped to meet rising demand than livestock and grain producers. But those will also struggle. Even with expected gains in rough grain production though, the region is expected to consume more than half of the world’s traded rice by 2025.

However, improving practices in agricultural sectors like grain and livestock have the potential to significantly improve agricultural productivity overall even as the effects of climate change increasingly challenge farmers. Fish production, though, is key to supplying the region with sufficient protein, and could help sub-Saharan Africa adapt to climate change, as fish farms have the option of switching between various species to adjust to market and climate conditions.