By: Dr Mustapha Aba. Independent Aquaculture Researcher. Fish Nutrition. Morocco.
African aquaculture production is growing rapidly compared to world statistics, but it is still not able to fully exploit its potential. Most aquaculture production in Africa is carried out on small-scale aquaculture farms to meet the current demand for aquatic animal products and contribute to the continent’s food security. Among the constraints to aquaculture development in Africa, food-related issues are prominent. In this context, both the cost of feed and its quality and nutritional value are concerns for small-scale fish farmers, which leads them to produce their own feed from agricultural by-products. This feed powder has several physical and nutritional disadvantages for fish, which has an impact on aquaculture production, nutritional quality and fish growth time, hence the need to improve the quality of this feed to enhance aquaculture production and contribute to food security in the continent, through the organization of training courses for fish farmers, the formation of cooperatives and the contribution of African research centre and universities to the evaluation of local agricultural by-products used, to contribute to the sustainability of aquaculture in Africa.
In the face of continued population especially in Africa , potentially negative impacts of climate change, and growing resource constraints, and with increasing concern about volatile food prices and the potential impacts of food access and security among poorer and more vulnerable communities. Globally, aquaculture production has doubled every decade for the past 50 years. As the world’s fastest growing agri-food production sector, aquaculture has become the predominant source of fish protein, surpassing the amount of fish produced for direct human consumption from wild-caught fisheries.
More than 90% of the world’s aquaculture production takes place in developing countries, where it contributes to food security directly through consumption or indirectly as a source of income. Seafood is a main source of animal protein in many parts of the world, particularly in developing countries. Being an important part of the African agri-food system, fish has significant potential to contribute to the goal of reducing food and nutrition insecurity in Africa. Fish provides 19% of animal protein intake to Africans and plays a unique role in providing a range of micronutrients and essential fatty acids, especially long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which cannot be easily substituted by other food commodities.
In Africa, most fish farmers still rely heavily on imported fish feeds foreign countries, especially European countries, which makes fish farming expensive as fish feed account for at least 60% of the total cost of production. This has contributed in no small measure to the slow pace at which aquaculture is advancing in Africa.
Worldwide aquaculture industry depends on the availability of low cost and high quality feeds. As a result of continuous increase of global fish farming, the requirement of alternative protein source, has become a necessity for the viability of the small-scale aquaculture sector. The high cost of fish feed has prompted small-scale fish farmers to use local ingredients for feed manufacturing, without taking into account the principles of formulation and fish feed management.
Keeping in view of the above facts a review paper is prepared which will reflect the importance of fish feed in smallscale aquaculture in Africa to ensure food security and promote this aquaculture sector in the African continent.
Aquafeed in small scale aquaculture
The availability of quality and reasonably priced feed is a major constraint to the sustainable development of the aquaculture sector in Africa. Due to the growing awareness of the role of aquaculture in the development of the rural or regional economy and the family economy, the position of food is more and more at stake, especially as the trend in aquaculture in the world and in Africa is moving from extensive aquaculture to semi-intensive or intensive aquaculture.
Feed and feeding in small scale aquaculture in Africa vary due to differences in feeding behaviour of the cultured fish species, and also depend on culture system, from extensive systems on a small scale to semi intensive, intensive or floating cage culture. Among the constraints to the development of fish farming in Africa, problems related to food occupy an important place.
Thus, both the cost of feed and its quality and nutritional value are concerns for small-scale aquaculture in Africa. Aquafeed is widely recognized as the most expensive component of fish farming depending on the intensity of the culture operation. An analysis of the cost/operating budget shows that feed accounts for 60-70% of production costs, which largely determines the viability and profitability of the fish farming enterprise for smallholder rural farmers in Africa.
Therefore, any reduction in the cost of fish feed can effectively increase the income of fish farmers. To achieve this, small-scale fish farmers use two approaches to limit the cost of fish feed:
- Reductions in quantity of feed used for fish growout
- Reductions in the cost of formulated feeds
However, the first approach i.e. reducing the amount of feed negatively affects fish growth, therefore all fish farmers opt to reduce the cost of fish feed by making the feed from local products. One main reason for the rise in the cost price of fish feed is due to the rise in demand of fish meal which remains the core of the protein supply of the feed so, the quest for possible alternative protein sources to replace complete/partial) fish meal in the feed became paramount.
Moreover, use of cheaper and locally available plant sources to substitute the expensive fish meals would mean reduction in the production cost and thereby enhance the profit.
The species selected to portray yield potential in Africa for aquaculture production are Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), and African catfish (Clarias gariepinus). These species are widely distributed and have already performed well for fish farming in the continent. Under small-scale conditions, these fish because of its tolerance at high temperatures and their resistance to disease is particularly amenable to the farming practices of smallholders, who comprise the majority of farmers in developing countries.
Fish farming requires financial resources due to the use of feed, the cost of which is subject to galloping inflation. In terms of expenditure, this type of feed represents about 60% of the production cost of farmed fish. This very often hinders the development of small-scale fish farming, which is mainly carried out by low-income individuals.
An appropriate approach to reduce feed cost for African fish farmers is to formulate and produce cost-effective and nutritionally adequate feeds at farms by using locally available ingredients. In addition, supply is sometimes difficult or even impossible in rural areas, due to the poor regular supply circuit. This leads to stock-outs, which can last for months. Indeed, fish farmers still have great difficulty in obtaining feed easily profitable for the fish, due to the lower quality of the feedstuffs available on the market and the mismatch between the quality of the food and the nutritional needs of different fish species.
The small scale fish farmers produce feeds for their own use using locally available machines, or meat mincer to produce both powdery and un-floating pellets. The use of this artisanal technique results in the production of a very moist fish feed that is exposed to the sun for drying, and one of the disadvantages of this feed is that it is too friable and does not float on the surface of the water.
Another problem with fish feed encountered in small-scale aquaculture is the feed formulation and fat content. The feed used is generally free of these ingredients, which will affect the nutritional quality of the fish, which will be low in polyunsaturated fatty acids, as the composition of the fish feed reflects the flesh quality of the fish. Feed management plays an important role in aquaculture, but in small-scale aquaculture it is generally noted that the frequency of feeding and the rate of feed intake is not respected, which has an impact on the growth duration of the fish. However, fish growth can only be perceived by the fish farmer through biometric monitoring, considered a simple, fast and extremely effective procedure. The costs of its implementation are also low, since the materials required are not as expensive. The majority of small-scale fish farmers have no idea about biometrics, due to a lack of training.
In order to ensure sustainable aquaculture and reconciliation with food security needs in the near future, the improvement of the quality of aquaculture feed, which is one of the main factors hampering the sustainable development of small-scale aquaculture in Africa, is an absolute necessity. For the effective development of this sector in the continent, it is important to identify the main constraining factors that limit the capacity of aquaculture feeds to optimise production. The main challenges of aquafeed that limit its economic and productive potential for small-scale fish farmers can be addressed through training, formation of cooperatives, and a participatory contribution from research center and universities to improve the quality of local food use in order to contribute to food security but also that the small-scale aquaculture sector can meet the objectives of sustainable development on the African continent.
Source: Improving the quality of aquafeed for an effective food security in small scale African aquaculture. Aba Mustapha. Independent Aquaculture Researcher, Fish Nutrition. Morocco. Volume 7 – Issue 3 (September 2020). World Journal of Advanced Research and Reviews.