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OPPORTUNITIES AND CONSTRAINTS FACING FISH PRODUCTION SYSTEM IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC CONGO

By: Mushagalusa Namegabe Janvier, International institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Democratic Republic Congo.

 INTRODUCTION

Aquaculture production in sub-Saharan Africa is potential for sustaining growth over the next two decades; hence, there is a need of identifying livestock systems that allow a margin for progress that can increase production significantly. Furthermore, these livestock models must also be sustainable. Fish farming contributes immensely to the improvement of food as it enables other agricultural activities to flourish. The ponds constitute a “pantry,” which, during the agricultural season, feeds and rescues a peasant from walking tens of kilometres in search of food. In the DR Congo, there was an estimated 78,907 fishponds in 1990 which covered an estimated area of 1,305 ha with an estimated production of 3,269 tons. In 2000, there was a significant drop in yield and fishponds of up to 2,751 tons and 36,515 fishponds.

In Kivu, fish farming was quite well developed, especially in South Kivu. The number of fishponds was estimated at 1028 over an area of 170 ha with an estimated production of 425tons, mainly from dam ponds. Despite the presence of aquaculture infrastructure in all the provinces in the country, human and material resources are greatly lacking, which includes availability of trained aquaculture managers. Successive Prodepaak country reports (2008-2013) indicate that the aquaculture sub-sector in the DR. Congo is currently dominated with small-scale farming, which is mainly based on traditional practices, rudimentary management framework, and lack of improved species among others. Small-scale farming, whose production remains insignificant despite the high demand for fish, is particularly predominant in all the provinces, particularly South Kivu.

The observed slow growth of fish farming in DR. Congo, specifically in the South Kivu province is attributed to among other factors, low use of quality seeds, limited knowledge of best farming and aquaculture practices, problems related to fish feeding practices, diseases, poor extension services and technology dissemination mechanisms, and unfavourable political environment. On the other hand, the benefits and the leading role fish farming could play in strengthening food security of the populations in South Kivu, particularly in rural areas and post-conflict zones, have received little research interest. In 2000, the report of the Provincial Inspection of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Livestock (IPAPEL) by its National Aquaculture Service indicated a decrease of a quarter of fish production in South Kivu. However, the causes for this trend remain unclear. This study therefore aims at renewing the information available on peasant fish farming in South Kivu in the DR Congo, revising fish production policies and proposed strategic orientations for a harmonious and useful development in improving fish farming sector in the DR Congo, especially South Kivu.

DISCUSSION

A.Socio-economic Characteristics of Fish Farmers in South Kivu

Women are less interested or responsible for managing a fishpond within the household. Low representation of women as opposed to men in fish farming and in pond management is attributed to the reason that pond maintenance and development work requires a lot of effort. Women do not have easy access to credit or land as is the case with men to be able to acquire and maintain a fishpond. These results are consistent with the results observed by Dossou in Benin. Another study conducted in the forest zone in Cameroon also revealed that only five percent of fishponds were owned by women; and that the few women who owned fishponds were assisted by their husbands in the management and maintenance, as is the case in our study area. In trying to link the productivity of fishpond by gender within the household and cultural aspects in the community, it should also be noted that fish farming, like any activity when it is profitable, tends to be taken over by men at the expense of women. It therefore seems that in our study area, fish farming being a profitable enterprise, is managed by men. These appropriate its benefits instead of women who constitute supplementary workforce to men. Similar results were reported by Mirindi (2018) in irrigated fish farms in the Ruzizi plain.

The results obtained from our study in relation to age and education level are in line with the results of studies conducted by FAO in Madagascar, which showed that the average age of fish farmers varied from 40 to 50 years. We believe that the high proportion of adults in fish farming as opposed to young people is attributed to the reason that at this age, people have huge responsibilities of taking care of the household and ensuring its survival.

Aquaculture technology requires particular technical knowledge in its application, the level of education of fish farmers is generally recognized as a criterion favouring aquaculture innovation. In our study, majority of fish farmers have a low level of education. We believe that this could be a barrier against the adoption of new technologies. This therefore calls for developers and researchers into making sufficient efforts in training and awareness raising among fish farmers.

The wide dispersion of accessibility of fish farming training can be explained in part by the presence of organizations working in the aquaculture sector in the various study areas on the one hand and on the other hand, the interest, long experience of farmers in fish farming, and the dynamism of development associations. Observations made in the field show, for example, that in Kabare there are more organizations working in aquaculture than there are in the Ruzizi Plain and Walungu. It should also be noted that the centre for breeding and research and the introduction of fish farming was set up in Nyakabere in Kabare by MrVanot during the colonial times. This motivated the local population in the study area into developing interest in fish farming leading to improving their food security. Membership to farmers’ association also influences the level of adoption of new aquaculture practices in the study area. Since, members of the associations are the primary beneficiaries to things such as training or aquaculture extension services.

Low membership to farmers’ associations demonstrates further as to why fish farmers do not have access to training from state services and organizations, which could influence the success of fish farming as suggested by Alpha and Castellanet. As observed by Gedikoglu, membership to cooperation or association among fish farmers makes it easy for them to acquire information and experience that reduces uncertainty and thus allows fish farmers to perceive innovation and the risks involved in a more objective way. Experience and/or seniority in the field are essential and important factor successful fish farming.

B. Farmers’ Experience

Fish farming has been in existence since colonial times. However, with the departure of Belgian, Chinese and American cooperation support following the many wars in the East of the country, many fish farmers abandoned fish farming. However, with the resumption of cooperation and NGOs, fish farming has begun to resume gradually. Lack of experience on the part of current fish farmers could have a negative impact on production because, according to FAO (2015), the revival and further expansion of commercial aquaculture development is limited by lack inexperience among fish farmers in the field. Other limiting factors include lack of basic technical skills for the private sector workforce and insufficient extension services in terms of effective technical support, among others. Fish farming and livestock farming in general strengthen household income and ensure that household survives and children go to school. The high proportion of farmers engaged in agriculture in relation to other activities is explained by the fact that agriculture is the main source of household income and is a source of the main inputs used by farmers to feed both fish and livestock.

Indeed, crop production is an important source of inputs to aquaculture (food, fertilization, ploughing tools, etc.), and contributes to household food satisfaction through the home-consumption of fish. Aquaculture also allows the capitalization (hoarding) of the financial benefits of the family farm to be easily mobilized if necessary. These two activities (crop production and fish farming) constitute the main economic activities of the households, and these activities supplement employment and trade. However, due to an increasingly precarious socio-economic environment, fish farming households have adopted new non-agricultural activities to sustain their livelihoods.

This diversity of activities shows the need of securing family income and of promoting financial independence and security. In addition, since the study area is a mountainous, it is in the interest of the inhabitants to take advantage of this opportunity to engage in diverse economic activities, this is why crop production is the main activity of fish farmers.

C. Economic Characteristics of Fish Farmers in South Kivu

The study results indicated that there is a great variability of sizes of fishponds in study areas. Indeed, on average, ponds in the Ruzizi plain are very larger than the ponds in Kabare and Walungu. Their common point is their reduced surfaces of between 128.3m2 and 589.1m2… This would be due to lack of manpower because fish farming is essentially a family business. These results are consistent with the results obtained by other researcher. According to Dossou (2008), the surface area of ponds depends on the means available to farmers; rich people or farmer fishing groups have the prerogative of keeping large surface areas of ponds. According to Satia, small fish farms are widely practised and account for more than 95 percent of the ponds in operation in tropical Africa. As observed by Hauber et al (2011), the predominance of small pond areas among a large number of stakeholders reflects an acceptance of the practice among the local population. Fish production remains less and less appreciated due to the multiple constraints recorded in fish farming. As FAO (2015) shows, in order to increase fish production and consumption, governments in these countries should commit themselves in developing aquaculture systems with the potential of becoming economically viable. This includes the construction of canals, recycling tanks, nurseries, and forming of aquaculture/fish farming associations and/or livestock farming. In addition, the renaissance and expansion of aquaculture development are limited by lack of a policy framework, lack of basic technical skills for the private sector workforce, and insufficient information and equipment from extension services on effective technical support. Others include poor seed and distribution mechanisms, insufficient fish feed due to, in part, lack of incentives for its production, limited access to land and information, inadequate support infrastructure and institutional arrangements.

D. Constraints Related to Fish Production in South Kivu Province

The results presented here are similar to those obtained by Inyang, in Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria. Development of quality seeds and the establishment of fishponds would make it possible to create new ecological niches for fish. To remedy this situation, Edwards advocated for strong private sector involvement in the supply of quality seed with emphasis on decentralized production.

As Anonymous (1996) argues, fish yield is largely determined by the level of diet. In addition, aquaculture feed is composed of many ingredients that are mixed in varying proportions to complement each other to form a nutritionally complete compound diet. According to FAO (2010), such feeds are manufactured in industrial feed grinding facilities and are distributed and sold using conventional market chains. These facilities should therefore be set up. FAO (2001) observes further that nutritionally adequate fish feed is fortified by a specific formula to be fed as a single ration capable of maintaining life and/or promoting production, with no additional substances added except water.

This would be explained by farmers’ misunderstanding of the biology of the fish selected for production. Fish farmers have a false impression that, as in artisanal fisheries where fish populations are self-sufficient, an aquaculture investor only needs to supply a pond and leave it for a given period of time, after which it can be exploited. They do not know that the stocked ponds had to be well managed and the fish well fed to ensure abundant harvest. This requires good knowledge of fish biology. For example, FAO (2010) shows that, there are the best aquaculture management practices that aim at improving the quantity, safety, and quality of products taking into account animal health and welfare, food safety, environmental and socio-economic sustainability and that these aquaculture management practices are carried out voluntarily. As SARNISSA (2001) shows, training and education must be better oriented to specific needs; producer organizations, NGOs, and that training centres should play an important role in the provision of training and education.

CONCLUSION

Despite its low productivity due to environmental and management hazards, fish farming plays a significant role in the socio-economics of people in South Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo,,. In this area, the responsibility and liability in fish farming lie with men, who are married and have no formal education. Congolese fish farming in South Kivu is very rudimentary, since it is considered a secondary activity and because livestock farmers lack knowledge and skills in good aquaculture practice in South Kivu.

Fish farming is not carried out by well-trained actors, this leads to significant and sometimes total losses of fish produce. Many fish farmers do not belong to farmers’ associations, which would have increased profitability of their fish farming activities and development of the fish farming value chain. Basic knowledge in good management practice, supervision of livestock farmers through regular monitoring together with prophylactic measures (diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and eradication of diseases) provided by the public authorities would be instrumental in improving fish production and productivity and thereby improving the living conditions of fish farmers in South Kivu province.

Source : https://ijisrt.com/opportunities-and-constraints-facing-fish-production-system-in-dr-congo

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