Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Is Zambia finally catching up with its neighbors in Aquaculture?


By Adrian Piers

In Southern Africa, there has been a widespread and sustained interest in farming fish for nearly half a century. Why have positive results been so long in coming?
One of the major constraints has been the absence of a conducive enabling environment with regards to Policy and Legislation. Another has been a lack of good quality formulated feeds for feeding farmed fish. Limited and ineffectual extension and training from the Fisheries Department have played their part, but more than any other identifiable factor, the lack of a strong and vibrant Producer Association to advocate on behalf of the industry has been a perennial stumbling block.

To rectify this, the Aquaculture Development Association of Zambia was formed a couple of years ago. Since its inception, it has been active in promoting fish farming in Zambia and bringing to the attention of policy makers the importance and benefits of supporting development in the sector. Our neighbor Zimbabwe has now also followed this lead with its own Zimbabwe Fish producers’ Association.

A recent article in the Zimbabwe Herald newspaper summarizes the regional situation well.

An extract from Zimbabwe Herald

“In a country which holds 60 percent of all dammed water in the SADC region and has desirable climatic conditions for fresh water aquaculture, Zimbabwe already boasts the largest fish farming operation in Africa, and there is scope to grow small-scale commercial fish production too. Along with the rest of the world, Africa is reaping the benefits of the global Blue Revolution by developing its aquaculture potential in both natural water bodies and specially constructed ponds. It is now recognized that fish farming is the fastest growing food producing sector in the world, and has a key role to play in feeding an increasing world population, as fish can be produced more efficiently and cost effectively than most meat proteins. Globally, production from aquaculture has now overtaken harvesting of wild fish stocks, and is growing at an average annual rate of 10 percent a year. In Africa, fish farming has emerged as a major protein producing industry, even in landlocked countries.

Stimulatory policies, enabling policy frameworks, investment funding, support programs and strategies in many countries are unlocking the continent’s vast aquaculture potential. The Zimbabwe Fish producers’ Association (ZFPA) was established in March 2016 to promote and develop aquaculture as a fully-fledged and vibrant part of the livestock industry. One year on, a framework is in place to build a vibrant and viable fish farming industry with strong value chains that incorporate small-scale commercial fish farmers. The Association was a key stakeholder at a Consultative Workshop on the Fisheries and Aquaculture sector in Zimbabwe convened by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate in April this year. However, much still needs to be done for the country to realize its full potential, and it all starts with an enabling policy framework.

Namibia was the first country in SADC to develop an aquaculture strategy in 2003 and recognize the importance of promoting fish consumption to further grow the industry.
Kenya’s Aquaculture Stimulus Program, introduced in 2008, has yielded significant results. At least S50 million allocated by the Kenyan government for the construction of 200 ponds in 140 farming constituencies, stocking with tilapia and training on hatchery management, has produced a growing base of fish farmers. This has resulted in production growth from less than 5,000 tons in 2008 to over 25,000 tons currently.

Zambia, which shares the Zambezi River with Zimbabwe, has created an enabling environment for aquaculture development, with provision for development of fish farming in their national budget. Like Zimbabwe, that country also has a vibrant and functional Aquaculture Association to promote the industry and has recently witnessed exponential growth in the sector, and complementary growth in support sectors such as fish feed production and fish distribution chains.

Ghana is reaping the rewards of a US$ 585 million Aquaculture Development Plan, with a 360 percent increase in fish production. At least 130,000 tons of fish are produced there per annum, generating an estimated 220,000 jobs across the value chain (from both capture fisheries and aquaculture).

In South Africa, the government recently launched a presidential ocean economy initiative called “Operation Phakisa”, which is an acronym for “hurry-up” in Sesotho. This program includes an aquaculture development strategy targeting to produce 20,000 tons of fish, creating over 15,000 new jobs and a fledgling industry.

Uganda stands out as a fine example of small-scale fish farming development over the last decade. Tens of thousands of progressive smallholder fish farmers have spearheaded rapid industry growth in the country, ultimately translating into food self-sufficiency at household level, as well as improved nutrition and economic development.

With the right policies and strategies, there is enormous potential to develop fish farming in Zimbabwe using Tilapia – Africa’s own indigenous fish which achieve good growth rates under intensive production. This nutritious fish is in demand countrywide. With the development of a new and specialized industry to produce feed for commercial fish production, a growing base of support services and the establishment of a fish producer association, the time is ripe to support and further develop emerging small scale production. Along with other countries, Zimbabwe must look to aquaculture to help meet the protein needs of a growing population. Fish farming is a form of livestock farming that offers many advantages. It enables non-consumptive and sustainable use of the country’s water resources for intensive agricultural production.”

The full article can be found at Zimbabwe Herald

The author was a founder member of the Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa, and Editor of their Newsletter. He is currently Treasurer on the Executive Committee of the Aquaculture Development Association of Zambia and consults on Fisheries and Aquaculture in many African countries.


  1. We should stop selling fish in this manner. This is not 18th Century. Fish is supposed to be on ice the moment it is out of the water. Most of the fish is not fresh when it reaches the market. It takes only 5 hours for fish to decompose to an extent of not fit for consumption. Most sold fish in Zambia is toxic. Where is ZABS?

    • I agree with you Mama. Fish is expensive so we deserve quality products. Moreover, the chaps handling fish (pic above) should also be in clean working attire, not those dirty closes.

    • But we observed that our great leader went into Fish farming and Mr. Amos Chanda also ventured into Fish farming suddenly the nation borrowed $50 million for Fish farming. I’m just wondering how many Fish farmers will benefit from the loan?

    • You like kissing white ass. Government already has a plan in place to utilise the God given waters of the land without white boy coming.

  2. Thank you Peirs for the good insight. All of us should be spurred to start fish business units knowing there is an enabling environment out there. Not years later to come and say I wish I had started earlier.

  3. This is generally a positive story, but as usual, the naysayers have to bring other issues. Look at the bigger picture bane – cheap and effective source of protein that can be harnessed by the most subsistence of farmers. Handling and fish’s and its limited shelf life is not what is at issue here. The writer is Looking at the macro here and not the micRO.

  4. I don’t agree with this article as it suggests Zambia was behind countries like Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Angola in aquaculture. How can anyone justify such a claim? Botswana and Namibia are deserts without a source of water for aquaculture. Mozambique and Angola rely of the ocean not aquaculture. Most of the land has got landmines.

  5. But we observed that our great leader went into Fish farming and Mr. Amos Chanda also ventured into Fish farming suddenly the nation borrowed $50 million for Fish farming. I’m just wondering how many Fish farmers will benefit from the loan?

  6. Very good article nudging us away from our usual staple of stale and toxic obsession with political headlines.

    With our food insecurity this comes as a welcome subject and may be the author can address improving our woeful food production levels and our poor food handling standards in his next article.

  7. The article is refreshingly spurring for aquaculture investment, Zambia has for a long time dragged its feet in diversification and this is one area a country boasting of a rich endowment of water resources in the southern Africa region could take advantage!

    I note a number of comments making suggestions on handling of fish and equipment aligned to processing (i.e. ice, attire for handlers) and wonder why those making all these suggestions don’t see it as an investment opportunity to engage in so these services can be availed! Every industry once developed stimulates ancillary services thus moving economic activity!

  8. Hardworking is the most important ingredient for economic development. Zambians we should change our mind set. We have potential to develop.

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