Scaling-up of fisheries and aquaculture technologies/innovations to adapt to climate change and improve livelihoods in arid and semi-arid areas of Ethiopia : Culture-based fishery | Livestock and Fisheries Management (Livestock Feeds)

Populationgrowth, coupled with extreme climatic events or climate change, is expected toexacerbate food insecurity and the occurrence and intensity of future diseaseoutbreaks in Ethiopia. The country has about 80 million people with a growthrate of about 2.5% and diverse agroecology in an area of about 1.1 millionsquar Read more..

Description of the technology or innovation

Populationgrowth, coupled with extreme climatic events or climate change, is expected toexacerbate food insecurity and the occurrence and intensity of future diseaseoutbreaks in Ethiopia. The country has about 80 million people with a growthrate of about 2.5% and diverse agroecology in an area of about 1.1 millionsquare kilometres. It is known that climate variability and extreme weatherevents, such as high temperatures and erratic rainfall events, are criticalfactors for crop failure, shortage of livestock feeds and consequentlymalnutrition, which leads to loss of many lives, especially in the lowlands.The arid and semi-arid areas of Ethiopia are food insecure and often requireexternal sources of food supply.


TheEthiopian government anticipated the impact of climate change and has beendeveloping adaptation and coping strategies by launching integrated waterresource development programmes. The recently constructed reservoirs forirrigation and hydropower generation such as Tendaho in Afar region, GilgelGibe in Oromia region, Tekeze in Amhara and Tigray region and Tana Beles inAmhara region are examples of these strategies. The programme provides anexcellent opportunity to boost the country’s fish production through integratedaquaculture-agriculture farming, which could be a means of livelihooddiversification and contribute to Ethiopia’s food security programme.

Assessment/reflection on utilization, dissemination & scaling out or up approaches used

The roleof fisheries and aquaculture in reducing poverty and alleviating foodinsecurity at household level is enormous. The socio-economic importance offisheries in lowering malnutrition by supplying high quality animal protein andgenerating income for rural communities is significant. However, capturefisheries worldwide have declined sharply in recent decades due to overfishing,aquatic pollution, mismanagement of fresh water, and habitat and shorelinedegradation exacerbated by climate change impacts. It is apparent that thepotential for aquaculture throughout Ethiopia is enormous. It has the potentialto improve adaptive capacity and enhance resilience to climate change invulnerable communities, compensating for variability and decline in capturefisheries. Therefore, aquaculture needs to expand sustainably to fill supplyshortfalls as demand for fish for human consumption continues to rise. Thecountry also has suitable culture fish species such as Nile tilapia(Oreochromis niloticus), African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) and common carp(Cyprinus carpio) which are widely farmed. In addition, the riverine fisheryresources, particularly in arid and semi-arid areas, are untapped, which canalso complement the declining lake fishery.


However,sustaining fisheries in the face of these challenges, and ensuring that theycontribute to development as effectively as possible, will be more difficult asclimate change persists. Similarly, realising the potential of aquaculture willrequire careful attention to climate change impacts and the constraints andopportunities they bring. Therefore, understanding the linkages between climatechange, livelihoods and food security is critical for designing adaptation andcoping strategies for diversification of sources of food and income throughscaling-up of proven fisheries and aquaculture technologies.


Thus,the fisheries and aquaculture technology proposed for scaling-up is integratedaquaculture-agriculture farming systems. The following specific proventechnologies are proposed for integration:


1)    Tilapiamonosex pond culture

Tilapia is an important component of subsistence fisheriesin many parts of the world. However, tilapia farming was constrained by itsundesirable characteristics such as early sexual maturity and unwantedreproduction, which leads to production of small or stunted fish at harvest.Development of techniques to manage unwanted reproduction has spurredsignificant improvements that led to success in tilapia farming. Male tilapiagrow faster and are more uniform in size than females. For this reason, thefarming of monosex populations of tilapia which is achieved either by manualsexing, direct hormonal sex reversal, hybridisation or genetic manipulation hasbeen reported as a solution to the problem of early sexual maturation andunwanted reproduction. It was found that male monosex culture increasesproduction by 50% compared to mixed-sex culture in Sebeta ponds. The technologyis also tested in ponds managed by farmers in Amhara Region, North Shoa Zone,Ataye District, Yemlo Kebele. Yemlo area is characterised as semi-arid with analtitude of 1500 m above sea level and average annual temperature of 26°C.Accordingly, the technology is proven and promising for further scaling-up insimilar agro-ecologies.


2)    Tilapiacage culture technology

Cage culture technology is one of the aquaculturetechnologies which was developed in the Far East and spread widely around theworld. The aim of cage fish farming is to boost fish production per unit area.It has been practiced in different water bodies such as lakes, reservoirs, farmponds, cooling water channels and river pools. Ethiopia has a high diversity ofsuch water bodies to scale-up this technology in its arid and semi-arid areas.Cage farming has started to take root in East Africa, mainly in Kenya, Ugandaand Ethiopia, which have increased production per unit area more than tenfoldcompared to their production using pond culture. Since the candidate species(tilapia) is also a warm water species, the technology could be scaled-up inarid and semi-arid areas with better production performance and a shorterproduction cycle.


3)    Culture-basedfishery

This is a form of extensive aquaculture conducted in smallwater bodies (reservoirs) and relies entirely on the natural productivity ofthe water body for growth, and artificial stocking for recruitment. This formof aquaculture has several advantages:

§ Itis less resource intensive

§ It utilisesexisting water resources (as a secondary user)

§ It istechnically far less complicated than conventional aquaculture such as pondculture and cage culture and is therefore relatively easy to transfer tofarming communities

§ It isa communal activity with the potential to generate synergies within and betweencommunities

§ It isa sustainable strategy that will contribute to enhancing fish food supplies torural communities, provide an additional avenue of income generation andgenerally contribute to poverty alleviation in rural communities.


The contribution of culture-based fishery in Ethiopia hasbeen very significant. The fish biomass produced through dissemination ofculture-based fishery technology in the Koka, Fincha and Amerti reservoirs, aswell as Melka Wakena in Oromia Region, Lakes Lugo (Hayk) and Ardibo in AmharaRegion and Lake Hashengae in Tigray Region are among the chief success storiesof the National Fishery & Aquaculture Research Centre (NFARC) in Ethiopia.


The aforementioned results from the stocking programmetherefore encourage the development and scaling-up of culture-based fisheriesat a large scale in the recently constructed dams and reservoirs in the aridand semi-arid areas of the country. Some of the success stories about culture-basedfisheries achieved by the centre are shown in Table 2.2.


4)    Fingerpondstechnology: Seasonal integrated aquaculture

Fingerponds constitute an innovative, semi-intensivetechnology aimed at enhancing wetland products based on the natural functions ofwetlands and flood plains. Fingerponds are regarded as enhancement of thetraditional fishery whereby local knowledge on the flood pool fishery isdeveloped to meet the increased demand for fish proteins from the villagesadjacent to natural wetlands. They are earthen ponds excavated in the fringewetlands during the dry season. The excavated soil is spread around the pondsto create raised-bed gardens for vegetable production.


Table2.2: Fish production potential and estimated current level of production infish-stocked reservoirs and lakes in Ethiopia (MoARD 2003)

Water body

Area (km2)

Annual production potential (tonnes)

Current production (tonnes)

Fincha and Amerti








Melka Wakena








Lugo (Hayk)









The fish are trapped in the ponds during flood recessionand manure and vegetable waste from the adjacent village are used to improvepond productivity. The advantage of this system is that it enhances diversity ofproduce as well as synergy between different components of the farming system.Pond water could be used to irrigate the gardens while the sludge from the pondbottom is removed during the dry season and spread over the raised beds asfertiliser. The flood pool fishery experience used for several decades inGambella region following the main rainy season could be taken as a best-betinnovation in Ethiopia. Moreover, the finger ponds concept was also proved inEast Africa, Ugandan freshwater wetlands in 2006 under the “integrated pondaquaculture in Lake Victoria wetlands” project where crop and fish productionsystems were well integrated. It is therefore possible to scale-up thistechnology in arid and semi-arid areas where the River Awash and Wabi Shebelecrosses the Afar and Somalia region which are usually flooded during the rainyseason and can make use of the flood water as a source of high quality proteinto cope with climate change associated food shortages and malnutrition.


5)    Fishfeed and nutrition

As in other forms of animal husbandry, feeds and nutritionare crucial elements in fish culture. Feed cost is considered to be the highestrecurrent cost in aquaculture, often ranging from 40–60%. Hence, reduction infeed costs either through diet development or improved management is crucial tothe development of aquaculture. Agro-industrial and agricultural by-productscould be used as sources of cheap feed to grow fish. This has been mainly usedin semi-intensive systems and showed remarkable results. Moreover, theseresidues are cheap and can be obtained by local farmers and low-income groups.Hence, formulated fish feed (called Sebeta diet 1 and 2) from locally availableagricultural and agro-industrial by-products that enhance the growth of fish undercontrolled and semi-controlled culture systems has been developed at NFARC. Itcan therefore be scaled-up as a package with the aforementioned aquaculturetechnologies.


6)    Best-betindigenous practices/innovations

Traditional riverine fishery practices already developed bythe Agnuak and Nuwer people in Gambella region could extend to other lowlandareas of the country such as Afar and Somalia without further research. Theirfishing gear, post-harvest and floodplain management practices could be identifiedas best-bet innovations in the region. These practices helped them cope withthe ever-present food shortages and have served as an adaptation strategy toclimate variability for several decades.


Scaling-up approaches

(i)    Sensitization and training of farmers,fishers around east and North shoat area and in Gambella region and thecommunities around reservoirs Koka, Fincha and Amerti, and Melka Wakena inOromia region, Lakes Lugo (Hayk) and Ardibo in Amhara region and Lake Hashengaein Tigray region

(ii)   Attracting private sector to invest inaquaculture where potential exists.


The critical and essential factors for successful promotionand adoption of the technology/innovation consisted of:

(i)    Policy environment

§ Ratificationof National Aquaculture Development Strategy (NADS): aquaculture, particularlyrural integrated fish farming, is identified as one of the strategic areas ofintervention to address the problem of food insecurity and poverty in the ruralareas and is considered as an important economic activity supportingdiversification, integration and improvement in rural livelihoods. Theseopportunities are well recognised by the government and hence, for sustainabledevelopment of the market-responsive aquaculture industry, the NationalAquaculture Development Strategy was ratified by MoARD.

§ Waterharvesting

§ Strongcommitment from the government on water resource development programmes (forinstance hydropower and irrigation schemes)

(ii)   Access to inputs and resources

§ Seed(fry/fingerlings) supply free of charge

§ Supplyof improved fishing gear

§ Supplyof materials for cage construction

Current situation and future scaling up


§ lackof awareness and knowledge

§ dependencysyndrome

§ cultureof the society (most Ethiopians are meat/beef eaters)


Scaling-up challenges

§ Lackof input supply (seed, feed, fishing gear, hormones and chemicals)

§ Lackof processing, preservation and distribution facilities

§ Lackof proper market channel

§ Lackof incentives such as credit

§ Limitedfinancial support Key recommendations for addressing the challenges:

§ Awarenesscreation through different knowledge transfer mechanisms such as training,posters, leaflets, brochures, mass media, demonstration and field days islimited

§ Lackof arrangements for incentive mechanisms for investors who supply inputs

§ Challengesrelated to provision of processing, preservation and distribution facilities

§ Challengesrelated to provision of credit and subsidies

§ Networkingchallenges

§ Challengesrelated to establishment and strengthening of cooperatives


Lessons learnt inscaling-up the technologies:

§ Selectingand working with model farmers has shown that transfer of knowledge andtechnologies/ innovations is much easier through fellow farmers.

§ Rewardsystem for outstanding farmers delivers some positive results in terms ofuptaking the technology

§ Experiencesharing is crucial for adoption of the technology

§ Continuoustraining for development agents, experts and researchers is critical forsustainability and scaling up of the technology.

Gender considerations

§ Equalparticipation of males and females in knowledge transfer trainings and events

§ Equalaccess to technologies

§ Unlikecapture fishery, aquaculture provides employment or income-generatingopportunities for women.

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