A loan of US$8 million by the African Development Bank (AfDB), to fund the Lake Harvest Aquaculture (LHA) project on Lake Kariba, is designed to help to expand tilapia fish farming and supply affordable protein to the sub-region. The LHA operation will be the largest integrated tilapia farm in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to FIS, ‘the AfDB will make sure the project continues to abide by international good practices on environmental and social management. Lake Harvest Aquaculture complies with strict European production standards and is Africa’s only aquaculture operation certified by GlobalGap’.
LHA could eventually produce 20,000 tonnes of fish per year by 2015 including fresh and frozen products. Annual tilapia output is currently 2,500 tonnes. ‘The company is primarily targeting African markets, and Zimbabwe is expected to take up 37% of production. Another 50% will go to markets in the Southern African region, while Europe is expected to absorb the remaining 13% of exports’ reports FIS, and continues that the ‘project’s benefits include more than 900 new jobs, economic growth and diversification. It will also add to government revenues, regional trade and integration, foreign exchange generation and enhanced food security in Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries’.
‘Lake Harvest Aquaculture is considered by many experts as a role model for sustainable fish farming on the continent’ according to the director of the AfDB’s Private Sector and Microfinance Department. On its website, LHA states that ‘we do not use chemicals or pharmaceuticals during on-growing to either promote growth or control disease ... We feed our fish a balanced, almost wholly vegetarian, diet that is made on site under our own supervision. The feed is cereal-based and contains no GMO crops. The small proportion of fishmeal is sourced from a sustainable fishery. It is our intent to completely phase out the fishmeal and this is currently being researched’.
There are two important aspects to this project which constitute key elements in sustainable aquaculture development. First of all, inasmuch as an important constraint on aquaculture development is its dependence on capture fisheries for fishmeal, the fact that this farm is using an almost wholly vegetarian diet, made on site, with no GMO crops, is an important element for ensuring its long-term viability. Obviously, one issue is whether such an approach for the supply of fish feed will be maintained once the production is increased almost tenfold, as is proposed.
The other important aspect is the diversification of markets for the products. The fact that the fish produced will be sold on local, regional and international markets may be a positive factor in improving both the contribution of fish to food security at local and regional level, and in diminishing the dependence on international markets, where constraints (such as the ability to meet international standards) are increasingly important.