Investment in aquaculture essential to meet Africa’s food demand

31Jan 2020
The Guardian
Investment in aquaculture essential to meet Africa’s food demand

Aquaculture less commonly spelled aquiculture also known as aquafarming, is the farming of fish, crustaceans, molluscs, aquatic plants, algae, and other organisms. Aquaculture involves cultivating freshwater and saltwater populations under controlled conditions, and can be contrasted with-

-commercial fishing, which is the harvesting of wild fish.  Mariculture refers to aquaculture practiced in marine environments and in underwater habitats.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), aquaculture  is understood to mean the farming of aquatic organisms including fish, molluscs, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Farming implies some form of intervention in the rearing process to enhance production, such as regular stocking, feeding, protection from predators, etc. Farming also implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock being cultivated.  The reported output from global aquaculture operations in 2014 supplied over one half of the fish and shellfish that is directly consumed by humans.

Particular kinds of aquaculture include fish farming, shrimp farming, oyster farming, mariculture, algaculture  such as seaweed farming , and the cultivation of ornamental fish. Particular methods include aquaponics and integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, both of which integrate fish farming and aquatic plant farming.

South Africa’s University of Cape Town has launched a collaborative research project focusing on increasing the healthy aquaculture production in sub-Saharan Africa, a region that contributes a mere two per cent share to the overall global farmed fish output.

The ‘One Health’ project entails research and the promotion of healthy feeds that boost the immune systems of fish raised in aquaculture, in order to counter the disease challenges that remain a major threat to fish production in many African countries, according to Vernon Coyne – project leader and currently an associate professor in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the university.

Tilapia lake virus  is said to be  a major disease currently affecting indigenous fish in Africa, with at least 10 sub-Saharan African countries – including Burundi, Congo, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia – reporting outbreaks.

Even as the researchers proceed to develop a vaccine to cushion farmed fish in Africa from the effects of disease, Coyne explained that bacterial diseases  are generally treated with antibiotics, which is frowned upon due to the potential of developing antibiotic resistance in farmed fish.

He identified inadequate knowledge regarding the emerging diseases as a main issue of concern in terms of treating diseases in indigenous farmed.

Coyne is one of the people spearheading the project that could be linked to other scientific initiatives to promote Africa’s aquaculture profile under the Research Network for Sustainable Marine Aquaculture in Africa (AfriMAQUA), founded in September 2019, which is being supported by France’s National Research Institute to promote sustainable development.

Under the ‘One Health’ project, the researchers will develop a vaccine against common aquaculture fish diseases, and also come up with suitable aquafeed formulation that will be used by fish feed manufacturers.

In addition, the project would make the training of at least 15 young researchers, 13 of them women, possible, and enable Africa’s aquaculture stakeholders to understand how rainbow trout reared in seawater are affected by seaweed and probiotic supplements.