Opinion Piece in Norwegian media 12.05.2017

Sustainable fish farming reduces poverty

Innhøsting av tilapia i fiskeoppdrettsdammer på Madagaskar

Norwegian aid to fish farming contributes to poverty reduction and food security in Africa.

Reinaart Pretorius, utenlandssjef i Norges Vel
Reinaart Pretorius, Director International Development Norges Vel

In a recent debate in the Norwegian newspapers Bistandsaktuelt and Dagens Næringsliv, Norwegian aid to fish farming of Nile tilapia is referred to as the recipe for an ecological disaster. In addition, development assistance is criticized for not helping the poorest. It does not have to be like that. Norges Vel’s Norad-funded project in Madagascar shows that farming with tilapia can contribute to both poverty reduction and food security without threatening the environment.

Norges Vel’s projects give small-scale farmers training and competence in fish farming and business development. By working in all relevant parts of the value chain a profitable and sustainable model is achieved. This is business development which is anchored and governed locally, where the values ​​created locally remains locally.

Minimizes risk

In Norges Vel’s projects we carefully ensure that the production of fish does not contribute to ecological imbalances by, for example, extensive escaping of fish. To minimize the risk, we carefully select the location for land-based ponds. The ponds are also built to resist extreme weather. The latter is increasing due to climate change, exemplified by the cyclone Enawo which struck Madagascar in March.

All types of fish farming, both land-based and in the sea or lakes, are based on breeding and improved varieties of plants and animals. Nile tilapia, or Tilapia Niloticus, has been introduced to Madagascar during the 1950s and is thus not introduced as a new breed in Madagascar by Norges Vel. It is justifiable and sustainable to farm fish where the species already exists.

Reduces poverty

Our project in Madagascar supports the organization of local producers in a local cooperative where the values ​​remain locally. The currently 200 producers, of whom 80 are women, have become more efficient and professional. Everyone has increased the size of their ponds and their production. Through the cooperative, they achieve economies of scale with access to more affordable high quality feed, fingerlings and capacity building, common standards for production, sustainability and quality, and joint sales/marketing. The small-scale producers have more than doubled their monthly income from under 30 USD to an average of 80-100 USD. This is above the country's minimum wage for state employees.

This type of business organization gives both producers and the local community increased access to healthy marine proteins: In 2016, around 100 tons of fresh fish was sold in accordance with the quality requirements of the country's largest port city Tamatave and in the capital Antananarivo. In the coming years, additional consumers will gain access to the fish at a lower price since it is realistic to expect production and sale of 400 tons of fresh fish in 2019.

Sustainable fish farming

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has for several years warned about the limited amount of wild fish in the world and that increased investment in sustainable aquaculture is necessary to secure healthy marine proteins to a growing world population. This must not, and should not be, at the expense of sustainability and the environment in Africa. Sustainable fish farming models are wanted locally and needs support to contribute to what we specifically are referring to here: Local capacity building, more jobs, increased income for small-scale producers, and access to healthy marine proteins to the public! Both in Africa and other continents, contributing to both poverty reduction and food security through sustainable business development is important.

Read more about the fish farming project in Madagascar

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