ANALYSIS - Aquaculture in Liberia is currently practiced as a way to contribute to food security in terms of increased food production, improved household access to food and improved utilisation of farmland for food production, said Zizi Kpadeh, speaking to TheFishSite.
Fish farming is a convenient source of fish supply to the rural part of Liberia, most especially the six non-coastal counties. It also provides better quality fish as, most often, fish is caught in the sea, is frozen and then sold in rural areas, but it is of poor quality due to bad handling.
Importance for the Economy
Fisheries in general contributed to 12 per cent of agricultural GDP and 3.2 per cent of national GDP in 2002. The contribution of aquaculture as an independent sector is unknown or perhaps negligible at the moment (FAO 2010).
Fish farmers are the primary stakeholders of the aquaculture sector. There are about 1050 part-time, subsistence fish farmers. Approximately 2500 people are involved in fish farming activities overall, including pond construction and management, extension services and fish harvesting.
There is no detailed information on the gender ratio and the level of education of fish farmers, however, it can be assumed that 80 per cent of fish farmers are illiterate (BNF 2007).
Aquaculture in Liberia is still in its infancy. A typical aquaculture farm has only one or two ponds ranging from 200 m2 to 400 m2 or even less, depending on land availability.
The production is usually extensive to semi-intensive with the use of very low inputs. Fingerlings left over during harvest are usually what the farmers use to stock their fish ponds with.
The stocking density practiced by most fish farmers is 2-3 fish per m2. Fish ponds are fertilized with poultry, goat and cattle manure. Fish are also fed with leftover food from livestock and agricultural by-products (BNF 2007).
Integrating aquaculture with other agricultural activities is widely practised in all parts of the country. In 2009 floating cages were introduced in the St. Paul river through the initiative of Mr Jonan Tarley, a private farmer (BNF 2007)
Five main species are commonly cultured in Liberia: Nile tilapia, African catfish, Sampa, Mango tilapia and Red belly tilapia.
Nile tilapia, Tilapia zili and other tilapia varieties accounts for 95 per cent of production while African catfish and Heterobranchus spp account for the remaining five per cent.
The use of exotic species is restricted to some extends despite the lack of formal law regarding its introduction into fish farming in Liberia. The Bureau of National Fisheries execute the restriction of the importation of exotic species in order to protect Liberia’s fish biodiversity.
In 2009, the Bureau of National Fisheries put a halt to the introduction of the African Bony tongue (Heterotis niloticus) by APDRA, a French NGO implementing inland fish farming project In Liberia. However, in 2010 the introduction of the species was allowed in Liberia after thoroughly researching its biology and impacts in other neighbouring countries where it is being cultured (BNF 2010b).
The Liberian Bureau of National Fisheries has recently received a grant from FAO-Rome to create a National Aquaculture Strategy and Development plan (NAS).
Both International and National Consultants have been recruited to begin the development of the NAS document.
Mr Kpadeh is serving as guidance to the both consultants in the collection of data and information about the sector.
In order to help with the training of farmers and the improvement of farming techniques, from 30 September to 12 October 2013, FAO-Rome will be hosting a national training for fish farmers, extension workers, and stakeholders in various aspects of aquaculture. Some of the topics to be covered are:
- pond construction
- fish pond fertilizing
- fish feed production
- fish predators and competitors prevention
- good fingerlings production
- monitoring, record keeping and marketing, etc
The training is the first step towards the capacity building initiative, which has previously been highlighted as an important issue to be addressed in the future to promote the sustainable development of the aquaculture sector of Liberia.