Aquaculture for all
The Fish Site presents: The Vienna Sessions - Conversations about aquaculture. 9 video interviews with aquaculture thought leaders. Watch here.

Feeds and Fertilisers for Aqua Development in Sub-Saharan Africa


Research by Thomas Hecht from Rhodes University, South Africa reviews feeds and fertilisers for sustainable aquaculture development in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The study highlights the lack of capacity and knowledge to do with feed technology, a need for more research and development and the necessity for greater regulation and support for animal feed development.


Recent observed changes in production, technological developments and culture practices in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have largely been driven by increasing fish prices throughout the region and aquaculture in the region is now poised to increase rapidly.

In 2004, Africa as a whole contributed 1.8 percent to world aquaculture fish production, while the SSA region contributed 0.26 percent. Egypt was the largest contributor to African aquaculture (84.5 percent) followed by Nigeria (7.9 percent) and as a whole the SSA region contributed 14.6 percent to African aquaculture output. During the period 2000 to 2004 aquaculture production in SSA increased by 50.8 percent from 54 109 tonnes to 81 598 tonnes. The highest increases in production were recorded in Uganda (575 percent), Cameroon (560 percent) and Kenya (102 percent). Nigeria is the largest producer in the region (43 950 tonnes in 2004), followed by Uganda and Zambia with around 5 000 tonnes each.

This review focuses on seven target countries, namely Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia, and comparative information is provided for other countries in the region. Over 80 percent of fish farmers in the region are small- scale farmers who practise extensive aquaculture on a non-commercial basis to improve household food security. However the bulk of production (~70 percent) is produced by the commercial sector, ranging from small-scale semi-intensive enterprises to industrial scale farming of high value products such as catfish (Nigeria), shrimp (Madagascar and Mozambique) and abalone (South Africa).

The most notable developments in the target countries include high density catfish farming in Nigeria, medium and industrial scale cage culture, a switch to commercial aquaculture by previously “non-commercial” farmers (28 percent of farmers in Uganda switched to commercial aquaculture in the last five years), establishment of intensive African catfish hatcheries in Kenya and Uganda, a major expansion of peri-urban aquaculture and dynamic growth in African catfish production.

Between 2000 and 2004 production of clariid catfish had increased by 452% from 5 739 to 31 681 tonnes, contributing 38.8 percent to total SSA production. Over the same period Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) production has increased by 37.2 percent and contributes 25.9 percent to total SSA production. The contribution by common carp (Cyprinus carpio) has declined by 11 percent and in 2004 contributed 3.4 percent. The contribution by all other cichlid and non-cichlid species has also declined.

Aquaculture practices are diverse, ranging from single pond subsistence farming to highly intensive pump-ashore abalone farms. The non-commercial sector is characterised largely by the use of “green compost” cribs to enhance pond productivity, irregular application of inadequate quantities of manure and the use of cereal bran, kitchen waste and vegetable matter as feed inputs. Production levels are low (mean = 1.03 tonnes/ha/ year) and species choice depends largely on the availability of fingerlings.

Commercial, semi-intensive pond culture and intensive cage and tank culture is gaining momentum. Production levels in semi-intensive pond systems are comparable to global averages, ranging from 2.5 to 15 tonnes/ha/year. Polyculture of Nile tilapia and African catfish commonly practised throughout the region, though monoculture is preferred in intensive cage or tank systems. Ornamental fish culture is emerging in several countries.

Except for Uganda and Kenya, the legislative and regulatory environment for aquaculture in the region is weak. It is best developed in Namibia.

There is a clear dichotomy in pond fertilization methods. All non-commercial farmers in the region are constrained either by on-farm availability of manure, price, access, cash resources and transport costs and therefore mainly use compost cribs and some animal manure when available. On the other hand, all commercial farmers, irrespective of scale, use animal manure at appropriate levels and chemical fertilizers where and if necessary, though rarely. Chicken manure is most often used and ranges in price from US$17 to around US$30 per tonne. Animal manure requirement for optimum fish production in the target countries was estimated based on six possible scenarios. By 2020 total animal manure requirements will be between 257 896 and 754 889 tonnes per annum.

Total animal feed production in the target countries currently amounts to some 9.0 million tonnes per annum, dominated by South Africa and Nigeria (4.4 and 3.8 million tonnes per annum, respectively). Industrial aquafeeds, manufactured by medium and large scale feed mills, are produced in Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia, while other countries are on the threshold of commercial aquafeed production.

Some 17 000 tonnes of fish pellets were produced in 2005, of which Nigeria produced around 66 percent. The total feed requirement by 2020 was projected based on three growth scenarios of fish production and ranges between 139 000 tonnes and 545 000 tonnes. Only 50–65 percent of the feed milling capacity is utilized and the industry has adequate capacity to provide the needs of the commercial aquaculture sector until 2020.

The general paucity of good quality aquafeeds in the region is generally a factor of scale. In most countries local demand has not reached a critical mass for appropriate attention and investment, though the threshold has now been reached in Nigeria where substantial investments are planned.

Only 22 percent of commercial fish production is attributable to industrial aquafeeds. This highlights the pivotal importance of farm- made feeds in the region. Most countries in the region have adequate resources to manufacture appropriate feeds, though the availability and cost of fishmeal and soybean meal or oilseed cake is a major constraint in most countries. The price of feed ingredients, particularly fishmeal, oil seed cakes, soybean meal and maize, is highly variable among countries and varies seasonally within countries.

Farm-made feed formulations vary by season, depending on availability and price of ingredients. Some 98 500 tonnes of farm-made feeds are currently produced annually, with reported FCRs ranging from 1.1 to 3.2. In Nigeria some 69.8 percent of fish production is attributable to informal feed manufacturers. There is a good body of knowledge with respect to the proximate composition of locally available feed ingredients and much work has been undertaken on optimal inclusion levels of these ingredients with particular emphasis on fishmeal replacement. The importance of farm-made feeds in the region highlights the urgent and desperate need for further nutritional research in the region.

The principle recommendations emanating from the synthesis include: training of nutritionists and fish feed technologists, developing appropriate manufacturing machinery and bulk storage facilities, evaluating and testing non-conventional feed ingredients, developing databases of available feed and fertilizer resources, developing country specific farm-made feed formulations, effective dissemination of information (availability of ingredients, formulations, manufacturing technologies, feeding schedules), developing country specific animal feed standards and reviewing pertinent legislation to ensure stability, quality and food safety and establishing enabling business environments.

March 2012

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.