Public Weighs in on Future Aquaculture Research for USAID
Fisheries and aquaculture are vital sources of food, nutrition, income and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people around the world but have yet to achieve their full potential. Last month, the USAID Bureau for Food Security (BFS) reached out to the public, including the Agrilinks community, to provide input into innovations in the fish sector to help shape future research programming.
More than 100 stakeholders from universities, non-governmental organizations, multilateral institutions and government bodies contributed far-ranging ideas on how research and innovation can best address issues and opportunities facing aquaculture in the developing world.
Here are a few of the diverse points addressed in the feedback:
Innovating Feeds. Research should help people develop more environmentally sustainable, cost-effective feed, including feed alternatives from plants, algae, insects and/or processing waste like bones or by-catch, ideally locally sourced and produced. At the same time, respondents also said more research is also needed on nutrient metabolism and requirements for species of interest to optimize feed formulation.
Selective Breeding. Many thought selective breeding had the highest potential for increasing production, improving fish seed and helping develop strains that can better resist disease and utilize alternative meal diets.
Fighting Disease. Many respondents talked about the need to develop vaccines as well as low-cost methods of diagnosing and detecting disease and supporting overall fish health and biosecurity.
Supporting market systems. Some responses called for better market analysis to best understand and respond to the constraints and opportunities for small-scale fisheries and hatcheries, including the distribution of benefits along the supply chain, and to identify the barriers preventing small-scale fishers from accessing key export markets, startup capital, affordable feed and other business needs.
Improving operations. Many noted that applying what we already know — improving management and operations through training, improved access to finance, etc. — had greater and more immediate potential than any gains to be made through improved genetics or other research. Other areas where respondents thought innovations could improve operations include fish feeding systems that reduce feed wastage and pond management systems that make efficient use of natural pond productivity.
Empowering local communities, particularly youth and women. A cross-cutting key theme was the need for a participatory approach to research and programming, engaging local communities in discussions about potential solutions and uses of resources. Engaging youth and women and addressing the specific issues they face in the aquaculture value chain, whether access to resources or labor exploitation, was also noted a priority.
The responses highlighted the fact that there is insufficient statistical data to describe women’s and men’s roles in small-scale aquaculture. The same is true for the linkages and relative contributions of aquaculture production by gender to small-scale processing and trading in a country’s fish sector. This lack of information makes it difficult to identify gendered barriers and opportunities to sustainable, economically viable aquaculture systems as well as guide research and programming to identify entry points in aquaculture and fisheries to improve women’s economic empowerment.
Resilient Aquaculture. Many respondents touched on emerging issues such as the need to understand how weather variability affects aquaculture and the need for more effective traceability systems.
USAID will take these valuable comments and feedback from the aquaculture community into account in its future investments in research. In the meantime, Agrilinks encourages contributions on the topic.