Reducing Zambia’s “Fish Deficit” Through Sustainable Aquaculture

Posted by on November 18th, 2015 | 0 Comments »

Steensland photo


By Ann Steensland, Deputy Director, Global Harvest Initiative





Kafue Fisheries, located on the Kafue River in Zambia, integrates aquaculture with pig and game farming. They produce 1,300 tons of fish annually for markets in Lusaka. Photo source: 2015 GAP Report, pg. 61.

Fish are the most commonly consumed source of animal protein in Zambia, especially in poor rural households where thirty-seven percent of their animal protein comes from fish – almost double the amount from ruminant meats (24 percent) or poultry (22 percent).[i]  Sixty percent of the calories Zambians consume come from maize, making fish a critical source of protein and micronutrients, especially in rural areas.  While consumption of poultry and meat is increasing across the country, dried and fresh fish will remain the most affordable and accessible source of animal protein for the foreseeable future.

zambia agro map

Zambia is divided into three Agro-Ecological Regions. Each region has area suitable for fish production – an important source of nutritious food and income for many rural households. Source: 2015 GAP Report, pg. 55.

Zambia is a landlocked country, but it lies at the heart of the Zambezi and Congo River Basins. Fish production takes place in all of its Agro-Ecological Regions. (See infographic.) Even with its abundant water resources, Zambia has a “fish deficit”: more than one-third of the 156,000 metric tons of fish consumed in Zambia in 2013 had to be imported. [ii]

Furthermore, 80 percent of the fish harvested in Zambia are “captured” in lakes, rivers and reservoirs, while only 20 percent of fish production comes from sustainable aquaculture techniques (farmed in floating cages or in purpose built ponds.)  Zambia’s fish deficit presents an opportunity to increase aquaculture production in a way that is environmentally sustainable, economically viable and socially responsible.

Closing Zambia’s fish gap

There is a growing commitment within the public and private sectors to increase the sustainability and productivity of Zambia’s aquaculture industry.  In 2015, Zambia completed a multi-stakeholder National Aquaculture Development Strategy and Plan for 2015-2020 that the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) predicts will create more than 3,000 jobs and increase fish production by as much as 60,000 metric tons by 2030.  According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), implementing the plan will require an annual public sector contribution of $19 million ($US), roughly 3.5 percent of the MAL 2015 budget, in addition to private sector investments.  The Aquaculture Development Association of Zambia is calling for the establishment of a stand-alone ministry for aquaculture – distinct from the maize-dominated MAL – to oversee funding and development of the Zambia’s aquaculture development plan.  (For more on Zambia’s maize markets and policies, see 2015 GAP Report, pgs. 68-69.)

 Aquaculture production is increasing throughout the Southern African Development Community (SADC) by an annual rate of 10 percent.  Despite this impressive growth in sustainable fish husbandry, SADC’s fourteen member states account for more than 27 percent (or 2.4 million tons) of the global “captured” fish production. 

Public-private partnerships and a commitment to multi-stakeholder engagement in aquaculture development has the potential to reduce Zambia’s “fish deficit” while increasing incomes for producers and food security for consumers, without putting further pressure on already stressed water resources and declining fish populations.

[i] Longley. C, S.H. Thilsted, M. Beveridge, S. Cole, D.B. Nyirenda, S. Heck, and A. Hother, “The Role of Fish in the First 1,000 Days in Zambia,” Institute of Development Studies, (September 2014), 1-3.

[ii] “Zambia has 58,000 Tonnes Fish Deficit Annually,” Lusaka Times, (December 1, 2014).

« Articles of Interest: 7 things we learned about agricultural technology
How can we measure, track and encourage sustainability in agriculture? »

No Comments