A new 3-year project, 'Aquaculture for Food Security, Poverty Alleviation and Nutrition' (AFSPAN), funded by the EU and managed by the FAO, in collaboration with an alliance composed of 20 development agencies, governments and universities, aims to promote aquaculture as an instrument to combat hunger. The initiative, which includes partners from ACP countries such as Uganda, Kenya and Zambia, has the objective of helping such low-income countries with a food-deficit in developing sustainable aquaculture policies.
Although aquaculture already makes major contributions in these countries, with many small-scale aquaculture farms involved and a certain capacity to trade fish and fishery products, little information is available concerning the direct and indirect impacts on food security and poverty alleviation.
The project will help to develop new and more rigorous methodologies to quantify the impacts of aquaculture on food security and poverty alleviation, with more systematic quantitative assessments. The results of the project will be presented to countries and their development partners, in particular the EU, in order to improve strategies, planning and coordination of initiatives focusing on aquaculture as a tool to promote food security and poverty alleviation.
In an article in Fish Information & Services, the coordinator of the initiative stated that ‘the project will work closely with farmers communities and will focus on field research in many leading aquaculture countries in the developing world ... aquaculture must expand to meet the future demand for fish’.
More information on AFSPAN is available in the 2012 EC catalogue on marine-related projects. The catalogue also highlights another project, SARNISSA, whose aim is to build a sustainable aquaculture research network ‘based on academics and other professionals between EU and Africa, with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa’.
This EU-funded project is most welcome at a time when many ACP countries are developing strategies for the development of aquaculture. The choice of strategy is currently mainly influenced by how aquaculture will help entry into international markets, such as the EU, where, for example, there is a significant demand for farmed tropical shrimps, while regional and local markets may be more interested in other types of farmed fish, such as tilapia. An important element to consider when assessing the impact of aquaculture on food security is the reliance on wild forage fish for the farming of carnivorous species. However, this exercise should not only take into account the dependence of aquaculture on wild fish stocks, but also the impact this may have on the availability of such resources on local and regional markets.