Small-scale fisheries and aquaculture have come to employ over 41 million people all over the world, with the majority of those people in developing countries. Many people and their communities have benefitted from joining the growing industry, especially as capture fisheries increasingly reach their capacity. For maize-dependent, malnourished communities in rural Zambia, a lack of diversified income and adequate sources of nutrition has created a vicious cycle of poverty and malnutrition. Zambia produces the largest amount of fish produce in sub-Saharan Africa, but the reach of fish production has yet to take root in many rural communities. People do not yet have the money or awareness to pursue alternate sources of income and nourishment, but there is massive potential for small-scale fisheries in rural Zambia, and the benefits a family-owned fish farm reach beyond the household to the surrounding community.
Fish are a healthy source of protein and nutrition. It is a great addition to starch-based diets, which is one of the problems facing rural Zambians. As a result of the corn monocrop, people consume maize without many other sources of nutrition in their diet. Consuming fish provides amino acids that improve the protein found in vegetables, and fatty acids, which are essential for brain and body development. This makes fish invaluable for babies, children, and pregnant and lactating women. The consumption of fish is also beneficial for people with HIV, as proper nutrition supports the effectiveness of anti-retroviral drugs. The rural poor who farm fish for subsistence tend to consume more small, low-value fish, which provide more minerals when consumed in their entirety than the same quantity of meat or large fish.
Fish has become the source of over half of people’s protein consumption in countries like Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Ghana. Many rural Zambians rely on unstable sources of food which contribute to seasonal hunger and poverty. Family-owned pond cultures have become a sustainable method to produce fish throughout the year so that families will not be as affected by a bad crop. It is also a more efficient use of land and resources than raising cattle or pork. Land that is used to grow fish produces ten times more consumable product than the amount of cattle or pork that would be produced by the same area of land; and fish farming requires less input than raising cattle or pork.
Though small-scale aquaculture systems have been adopted by household producers, aquaculture is generally not included as part of national development plans. There is not enough data on the productivity of small-scale fisheries to monitor their progress or prove their impact. However, aquaculture has clearly increased employment rapidly, especially in Asia, where the industry has grown the most. Aquaculture is particularly beneficial for women, employing millions of women in developing countries, promoting gender equality and giving women greater control over the livelihood of their household.
Aquaculture has transformed communities in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and the Philippines. The World Fish Centre has chosen to focus its efforts in Africa in Zambia because of the clear potential for aquaculture there. The Zambian government recognizes the need for diversified sources of income and nutrition, which will hopefully lead to good regulation and support for aquaculture in Zambia’s future.
Fish farming in rural Zambia will address many of the Sustainable Development Goals such as improved food security, reduced child mortality, improved maternal health, and the combating of HIV/AIDS and other diseases. It will also improve overall nutrition and promote gender equality by providing greater employment opportunities for women. Aquaculture has great potential for future growth in Zambia and Humanity Africa will be right there to support its development.