A new report shines a light on the skills that are essential to the growth of the sub-Saharan Africa aquaculture sector. Critically, it provides specific recommendations to support human resources across this sector. Growth in the aquaculture sector will support improvements to food security across the region.

This evidence-based report was created through a partnership between the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling (UK), Machakos University (Kenya), Water Research Institute (Ghana), and Imani Development (Malawi), thanks to funding aimed at boosting collaborations, from the AgriFood Africa Connect Innovation Awards. 

The need

The aquaculture sector in Africa is small, but growing quickly. From 2000 to 2018, the number of people directly employed in the aquaculture sector in Africa tripled from 100,000 to 386,000. Recently, exponential growth has been a result of increased large-scale investment, particularly in Egypt, Nigeria, Uganda, and Ghana

The skills and competencies of job-seekers in sub-Saharan Africa are often mismatched with the needs of the aquaculture sector. Understanding and greater awareness of the vast range of training and education needs are key to supporting the development of the sector across sub-Saharan Africa. Critically, these specific needs must first be identified and defined by those actually involved and impacted at the grassroots level. Giving voice to their concerns and needs will help inform and guide a wide range of policy-makers, educators, and employers to make more impactful decisions around training and education. This will support the workforce and the sub-Saharan African aquaculture sector to grow towards its undoubted future potential. 

Amplifying Voices from the Sector 

The Institute of Aquaculture received funding through the AgriFood Africa Connect Innovation Awards in 2020 to help address this. The AgriFood Africa Innovation Awards fund collaborations between UK research organisations and African organisations to address key AgriFood challenges, encouraging powerful connections.

The Institute of Aquaculture partnered with three organisations: Machakos University in Kenya, The Water Research Institute in Ghana, Imani Development in Malawi.

The Needs Assessment for developing Capacity for improved Aquatic Resource Development in Africa (NACARDA) project was born. Through the voices of stakeholders across the industry, the NACARDA team conducted the first in-depth human resources capacity assessment of the dynamic sub-Saharan aquaculture sector, enabling the sector to describe its needs and skills gaps. 

Having a range of partners in the project was instrumental in enabling the right people across sub-Saharan Africa to be reached. This ensured that the subsequent report accurately represents the needs of the private sector, government, NGOs, and research sector employers and employees. Together the partners identified and communicated with stakeholders who were involved in designing the survey and promoting it throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

“The NACARDA project has provided a valuable insight into the views of aquaculture stakeholders in Malawi – from college and university students to actors from the private, public and NGO sectors. A key strength of the project was its highly inclusive methodology. As such, the outputs are demand-driven and reflect the thoughts, research and human resource needs of companies working throughout the sector. We are hopeful that this study will guide decision makers and educators, benefiting future students and building the capacity of those involved in Malawi’s aquaculture value-chain.” – David Bargh, Imani Development, Malawi

The impact 

This work has given voice to people working in the sub-Saharan aquaculture sector at all levels, from fish farm workers, technicians and students, to professors and CEOs. The report highlights their needs, perspectives, and opinions. Key areas identified include the need for hands-on experience for vocational and graduate students, and for more curricula focused on business, entrepreneurship, and farm management. The report also highlights the challenge some women face in the sector, where despite proven suitability for certain jobs over males, and high academic achievement, many end up with fewer employment opportunities.

A key finding of the survey was the importance of mentorship, with over 60% of respondents reporting that mentorship had a significant impact on their careers in the aquaculture sector. A follow-on project is currently underway in order to characterise mentorship in this sector, which will provide evidence for mentorship support programmes in the future. 

The report provides practical recommendations for NGOs, government, higher education, and private industry to help the aquaculture sector grow[WL8] . These recommendations are specific, measurable, realistic, achievable, budgeted, time-framed, and implementable by each of the four stakeholder groups. The report has already been downloaded over 430 times since launching in March 2020, with the website receiving visits from 32 countries, showing the global interest and relevance of this work.

“We hope that this is the first step in further developing human resources in the sub-Saharan Africa aquaculture sector, leading to greater industry growth and food security. Working as a team and bringing together a range of African partners was instrumental in this project.” – Alexandra Pounds, Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling 

“The AgriFood Africa Connect Innovation Awards are all about bringing innovative people together to solve key AgriFood challenges across Africa. With a rapidly growing population, increasing food security is essential in Africa. And the work that NACARDA is doing by highlighting skills gaps in the aquaculture sector is supporting the continued growth of the sector.” – Dr Joanna Scales, AgriFood Africa Connect Project Lead, KTN 

Building on the report, NACARDA is now going to explore success factors for supportive mentorship relationships in the sector through a second survey. The organisations will keep collaborating to define the sample for the next research survey, identify key success stories, and carry out interviews and media recording.

For further details on the project or to share your feedback, views, and experiences on this important area of sub-Saharan African aquaculture with us, please feel welcome to contact the team through the NACARDA website

If you would like support in finding partners to collaborate with in Africa, get in touch with Joanna, who leads AgriFood Africa Connect.

Find out more about the AgriFood Africa Connect Innovation Awards. 

Find out more about AgriFood Africa Connect.