Why You Should Invest in Aquaculture in West Africa
By: Shira Petrack
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
Aquaculture in West Africa can increase food production, preserve the marine ecosystem, and restore wildlife populations.
What is Aquaculture?
Think of aquaculture as agriculture is for water-based organisms: “Agri” comes from the Latin word “ager,” which means field, and “aqua” is the Latin word for water. More technically, aquaculture refers to the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish and other organisms in three types of water environments – freshwater, brackish water, and saltwater. Aquaculture can involve big cages in existing bodies of fresh or saltwater and land-based tanks that rely on water filtration and recirculation systems.
Sustainable aquaculture practices can increase the global supply of fish, shellfish, seaweeds, algae, sea vegetables, and fish eggs while preserving marine diversity.
Why invest in Aquaculture?
The expanding global population brings with it a growing appetite for animal protein, which could strain our planet’s already weakened ecosystems. According to the FAO, global per capita fish consumption increased 3.1% every year from 1961 to 2017, almost doubling the population growth rate of 1.6%. Since 2013, fish production from aquaculture has outpaced capture fish production – some experts believe that by 2030, almost ⅔ of all seafood produced for human consumption will come from aquaculture. Investing in aquaculture is the only way to obtain more seafood for human consumption without contributing to overfishing or ecological destruction.
In many ways, farming fish is much more environmentally friendly than raising land animals such as cows, chickens, or pigs. Fish is the most efficient animal protein to produce in terms of feed to pound ratio: – it takes only around one pound of feed to produce one pound of fish. In contrast, it takes almost two pounds of feed to make one pound of chicken, nearly three pounds of feed for one pound of pork, and close to seven pounds of feed for one pound of beef. Meeting the increased demand for animal protein through fish rather than land animals can free up hundreds of millions of hectares of grazing land globally.
And while some aquaculture methods create pollution and weaken wild fish stocks, aquaculture done right can help replenish our lakes and oceans. Since the 70s, unsustainable fishing practices have lead to the decline of global fish stocks. Sustainable aquaculture farms can also cultivate complementary species of marine animals and plants to increase profits while maintaining viable self-cleaning ecosystems.
Why West Africa?
Currently, Fisheries in the West African Marine Ecoregion (WAMER) generate around $400 million every year. A large portion of this income goes to foreign corporations who engage in destructive and unsustainable fishing practices that drain the region’s natural fish populations. Most fish populations in West Africa are already fully or overexploited, putting coastal communities’ livelihoods and food security at risk and inhibiting sustainable and scalable economic growth. The recent expansion of fishmeal and fish oil factories in the area is putting even more pressure on the already depleted waters.
Aquaculture was first introduced in Africa in the 1950s, but has yet to produce meaningful food quantities on the continent. Currently, most of the fish harvested by European or Asian commercial operations get shipped abroad: In 2018, aquaculture accounted for less than 10% of the region’s seafood consumption. The lack of trained aquaculture fish farmers, stunted fish seed, poor aquatic health management, and high post-harvest losses due to underdeveloped cold-chain infrastructure have kept the sector from achieving its potential.
At the same time, food insecurity remains a daily reality for many West Africans. Investments in sustainable aquaculture in West Africa could allow local communities to establish economically and ecologically viable fisheries that produce food and income. With the right technologies and know-how, West African fish farmers can produce enough seafood to feed their communities and export the surplus abroad.
Small Scale Aquaculture in West Africa Can be Profitable
Aquaculture does not need to be conducted on a massive scale to be profitable. Perhaps surprisingly, research shows that small reservoirs in West Africa tend to be more productive than larger ones. Investing in building locally owned and/or managed aquaculture production operations
Companies such as SkyFox Ltd have had success empowering locals to become aquaculture fish farmers. SkyFox helps fish farmers build artificial ponds that serve as the heart of an integrated aquaculture and crop-production solution. Once the fish farms are up and running, SkyFox connects the fish farmers with fish distributors to sell their products quickly and reduce post-harvest losses.
Israeli company Palgey Maim has worked in Nigeria to build a fish production operation on an island in the middle of a lake. The fish farm draws the water from the surrounding lake, uses it to feel the fish pond, and treats it before pumping it back into the lake.
How to Invest in Aquaculture in West Africa
Empower Africa Agriculture Consulting Services can help you bring your aquaculture expertise to West African farmers and communities. Whether you specialize in monocultures, polycultures, onshore operations, open net systems, or aquaculture support activities such as fish distribution and processing, you can help develop sustainable aquaculture in West Africa.
Contact us to for help in finding the right partners and optimizing your business model to increase income, profits, and food security in West Africa.