The Zambian fishing industry is a major part of Zambia’s economic transformation through agriculture. This is reflected, in part, by the creation of the Ministry of Fisheries by the Zambian Republican President H.E. Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu in 2015. Prior to this, fisheries and livestock activities were managed by the same ministry in charge of agriculture.
What is the current status of the Zambian fishing industry? This question was the subject of discussion on 27th January 2021 when IAPRI appeared before the Committee on Agriculture Lands & Natural Resources at the request of the Zambian National Assembly.
IAPRI, in its submission to the Committee, mentioned that the fisheries sector had the potential for job creation as it supports about a million people both directly and indirectly along the value chain. In terms of fish consumption, IAPRI submitted that Zambia’s consumption is currently lower than other Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries at 7 kg/person/year compared to 11kg/person within the SADC region. As of 2015, Zambia’s estimated fish consumption demand was 185,000 MT compared to a local production of 100,000 MT which meant that the deficit was being imported.
The Committee was informed that the fisheries sector in Zambia consists of two production systems, namely; capture fisheries and aquaculture. Capture fisheries involves the harvesting of naturally occurring fish resources in the naturally occurring water bodies whereas is aquaculture is breeding, raising, and harvesting fish. Capture fisheries accounts for 70% of Zambia’s fish production. However, the scope of expansion on the capture fisheries side was limited due to declining natural fisheries stocks. Aquaculture, on the other hand, had been growing rapidly from just over 5,000 MT in 2005 to just over 30,000 MT in 2017. The increase in fish production from aquaculture has led to some reduction in the quantity of fish being imported, the Committee learned.
IAPRI submitted that the fisheries sector has several challenges. On the production side there was low productivity in both aquaculture and capture fish sectors. Fish pond productivity was around 2.8 tons per hectare, far below the expected yield of 6-8 tons per hectare. In addition to that the capture fisheries were overexploited as an increasing number of fishers was reported. For example, in the lake Bangweulu Complex alone, there were 7,696 fishers in 1976 against 18,150 fishers in 2013. Other production challenges mentioned were the use of destructive methods, climate change leading reduced water availability, limited access to supplies of high-quality feed and fingerlings especially for small-scale fish farmers. This was made worse by unstable access to reliable water for ponds and cages. Inadequate knowledge and technical skills required in fish farming was also a major challenge with most farmers interviewed by IAPRI reporting that they had received very little training and had limited access to extension services.
On the marketing side, IAPRI reported that storing fresh fish has remained a challenge, especially among the small-scale fishers and fish farmers. As most of the fish areas are not connected to electricity, refrigeration is highly limited. As a result, most of the fish from the small-scale fishers and fish farmers ended up supplying local communities, thereby fetching lower prices for their fish, which negatively impacted their incomes. This combined with low productivity meant that fish supply by most small-scale farmers was not consistent, and, as such, establishing market linkages with local food stores was a challenge.
IAPRI reported that the sector also had institutional challenges such as the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock receiving very little funding. For example, the fisheries budget allocation was only 5% of the total agriculture budget in 2018. The actual budget releases were erratic, inconsistent for effective program implementation. Access to finance by small-holders fish farmers remained a critical challenge.
There was also an inadequate policy framework to guide the aquaculture sub-sector. Although the Government had developed a strategic aquaculture plan, this plan has not been fully implemented to facilitate the sector’s management. Weak enforcement of fisheries regulations due to inadequate financial and human resources which encouraged inappropriate fishing methods was a major problem. Civil service’s inefficiencies and administrative delays in the issuance of and renewal of import permits were reported as major challenges by private sector participants in the fisheries sector.
IAPRI mentioned that the Zambian Government was trying to address some of the challenges in the fisheries sector through specialized vehicles such as the Zambia Aquaculture Enterprise Development Project (ZAEDP) which had a seed fund administered by the Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC). ZAEDP, which was funded by the African Development Bank, was valued at $ 29 million and would benefit 3,000 entrepreneurs across the fisheries value chain from 2017 to 2022.
In concluding the submission, IAPRI recommended the following:
- Building capacity of small-scale fish farmers production and best management practices.
- Creating an enabling environment for private sector input providers.
- Training farmers in on-farm feed formulation that are cost-effective.
- Sensitizing small-scale farmers to utilize the e-voucher for aquaculture production.
- Investment in hammer mills for fish feed production.
- More funding to the Department of Fisheries to improve its operations, especially fish hatcheries and production centers countrywide.
- Promotion of community-based aquaculture projects to benefit from economies of scale when dealing with inputs and marketing.
- Private commercial fish firms to establish out-grower schemes to address the input supply challenges of the small-scale farmers.
IAPRI was represented by the Outreach Director, Mr Ballard A.M. Zulu, the Research Fellow, Dr Mary Lubungu, the Communications Specialist Mrs Christabel Chabwela and the Librarian Mr Cardinal Hachikona. The meeting was chaired by the late Honourable Maxas Ngonga who was the Chairperson for the Committee.