A new project, funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the European Commission ( EC) and led by WorldFish, aims to use selective breeding to make improved fish strains more accessible to poor people.
The three-year project, Improving the technological foundations for sustainable aquaculture , focuses on Bangladesh, Egypt, Kenya and Mozambique, where small-scale aquaculture is important for rural livelihoods. The aim of the research is to ensure that improved strains of tilapia, Indian carp and African catfish – important species of food fish that are also easy to farm – become more widely available, are farmed sustainably and are distributed equitably.
Developing a new strain of fish can take five to 10 years of research. The project therefore builds on WorldFish’s extensive knowledge and experience in genetic improvement and dissemination activities across Africa and Asia over the last three decades. WorldFish has developed and maintained the Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT) and Abbassa strains, which are more productive and grow faster than other local strains and have made important contributions to aquaculture worldwide.
These improved strains are already available in at least 14 countries, including Bangladesh (GIFT) and Egypt (Abbassa), and likewise have potential to assist Kenya and Mozambique increase their aquaculture production. The project aims to further develop the improved strains and make high quality seed more accessible to farmers in the target countries.
WorldFish is also working in Bangladesh to develop an improved strain of Indian carp, which represents a large proportion of the country’s aquaculture production, and in Egypt to develop an improved strain of African catfish, the second-most farmed fish in Africa after tilapia.
Michael Phillips, Director, Aquaculture and Fisheries Sciences, WorldFish: “In agriculture, improved strains of crops and livestock have made a tremendous impact on productivity and incomes for farmers. The potential to replicate this success for fish has huge implications for global food and nutrition security. By developing and disseminating improved strains, WorldFish can help the poor attain nutritious, affordable food and an income through small-scale aquaculture.”
Malu Ndavi, Lead Technical Specialist Office of Associate Vice President, Programme Management Department IFAD: “Aquaculture is the fastest-growing food-production sector in the world, with the majority of production occurring in low-income or food-deficit countries by small-scale fish farmers. The project has been designed to address household food and nutrition security and, household incomes. Thus, through IFAD support, farmers will access quality seed of improved varieties to boost their yields and increase access to nutrients that are needed for a healthy life but are often lacking from their diets.”
The improved strains will be developed at WorldFish sites in Bangladesh, Egypt and Malaysia, and disseminated with the assistance of national government departments and the private sector. The project, which ends in September 2019, is expected to improve food security, increase fish production and productivity of aquatic systems, and improve the nutritional status of women and children.
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