African fish farmers achieve better food and nutrition security

A new study from the University of Stirling's Institute of Aquaculture and Worldfish has unveiled significant advantages for Zambian farmers embracing small-scale fish farming for the first time.
Fish ponds in Mabumba, Zambia.

Fish ponds in Mabumba, Zambia.

Image by Jason Mulikita/University of Stirling.

New research has revealed the crucial role of aquaculture in improving food and nutrition security in rural African farming communities.

The investigation, led by the researchers at the University of Stirling and Worldfish, focused on Zambian smallholder farmers, highlights the role of fish farming in broadening economic activities and boosting food and nutritional security in rural locales.

Study shows for the first time how small-scale aquaculture supports African rural food security

“Showcasing the role of food and nutrition security of rural homesteads in Africa is a relatively difficult thing to prove," said Alexander Kaminski, PhD researcher at the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture, who undertook the research at WorldFish.

"For the first time our study in northern Zambia shows that smallholder aquaculture can be a game-changer for local farmers."

"By integrating fish farming into their agricultural practices, households not only diversified their income sources but also significantly improved their dietary variety and overall food security," Kaminski said, in a University of Stirling press release.

The research found a marked improvement in the way of life for families with fishponds compared to those without, noting that fish farming not only boosts income but also contributes to a healthier diet and a stronger, more diverse agricultural framework.

Fish farming households "twice as likely" to achieve food security

The study also found that households that participated in aquaculture were twice as likely to achieve food security.

“This study provides clear evidence that fish farming is an invaluable component in the fight against food and nutrition insecurity in Africa," said Shakuntala Thilsted, who was CGIAR Director of Nutrition, Health and Food Security and WorldFish Global Lead for Nutrition and Public Health at the time of the research.

“It provides evidence that nutrition-sensitive homestead aquaculture can enrich diets and create sustainable farming systems that benefit entire communities.”

Researchers urge policymakers and NGOs to consider the role of aquaculture in developing countries

The findings underscore the importance for policymakers and development organizations to consider aquaculture as a means to enhance the economies and nutrition of rural areas in developing countries, the researchers say.

Specifically, the study identifies three "pathways" to food and nutrition security from aquaculture: "farmers selling fish for money to afford a better diet, eating fish from ponds to have access to high-quality sources of protein and micronutrients, and using the pond within an integrated farming system that allows for diversification into other crops."

The researchers hope that the findings can help guide policymakers and development agencies looking to improve rural economies and nutrition in developing regions.

The research "underscores the value of looking beyond traditional agricultural methods and embracing more integrated, diversified farming approaches," the University of Stirling said.

The study recommends that while measuring productivity and profits from ponds is useful, measuring the impact on dietary quality and food security is equally important.

The paper, "Smallholder aquaculture diversifies livelihoods and diets thus improving food security status: evidence from northern Zambia," was published in the journal Agriculture and Food Security.

Related Stories

No stories found.