[Marxism] fish food in Africa

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Mon Aug 29 10:19:12 MDT 2005

Published online: 24 August 2005; | doi:10.1038/4361077a

Africa urged to create more fish farms
Experts warn of imminent collapse in stocks.

Andreas von Bubnoff

Diminishing returns: two hundred million sub-Saharan Africans rely on 
fish for nutrition, but stocks may not keep up with rising populations.

Fisheries experts are this week meeting the leaders of 25 African 
countries in Abuja, Nigeria, to call for urgent investment in 
aquaculture across the continent.

Africa's rapidly rising population means that it will need to produce 
significantly more fish to provide the same amount of food per head as 
it does now. But wild fish stocks in the continent are already on the 
verge of destruction.

The warning comes from the World Fish Center, an international research 
organization based in Malaysia, which has carried out a series of 
investigations into the state of Africa's fisheries. It finds that 
Africa is the only region in the world where per capita fish supplies 
are falling.

In Africa, only Egypt has developed aquaculture fast enough to match 
population growth, says Daniel Jamu of the World Fish Center. "The rest 
of Africa still has a long way to go."

The situation is especially serious in sub-Saharan Africa, where the per 
capita fish supply dropped from 9 kilograms a year in 1973 to 6.6 
kilograms a year in 2001. Worldwide, that number increased from 12 to 16 
kilograms a year over the same time period.

Fish is one of the most important sources of nutrition for Africans — it 
is much cheaper than meat, and almost 30% of the 690 million people in 
sub-Saharan Africa rely on it as the main part of their diet.

A third of sub-Saharan Africans are already undernourished: vitamin A 
deficiency contributes to the deaths of around half a million children 
each year and up to 20,000 women die annually from iron deficiency. 
Doing nothing about fish production would make these problems much 
worse, says Patrick Dugan, deputy director-general of the World Fish Center.

To maintain current consumption levels as the population rises, 
sub-Saharan Africa will need 32% more fish by 2020, says Dugan. Wild 
fish stocks could collapse if fished any harder — in some areas, such as 
Lake Malawi, that is already happening. So most of the increase will 
have to come from fish farms. This means that sub-Saharan Africa would 
need to produce 3.6 times as many fish from aquaculture by 2020 as it 
does now — which would require the construction of thousands of 
freshwater ponds.

At least eight of the governments attending the Abuja meeting, including 
Kenya, Uganda and Malawi, are expected to sign a declaration on 25 
August calling for help from the international community. Dugan says 
that US$30 million every five years should be enough to support an 
annual 10% increase in fish-farm output. The idea is that manual labour 
should be sufficient to dig the ponds, and the fish living in them can 
be fed with organic waste from the farmers' gardens.

The United States, Canada, Britain, Norway, Germany and Japan are 
already supporting similar efforts in countries such as Niger, Malawi 
and Uganda, says Richard Mkandawire, agricultural adviser for the New 
Partnership for Africa's Development, a continent-wide development 
initiative set up by the African Union. But he says he hopes that the 
conference will lead to increased efforts. "We see this meeting as a 
turning point for the revival of African fisheries as well as 
aquaculture development," he says.

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