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Title: Hydrology, Water Harvesting, and Watershed Management for Food Security, Income, and Health: Small Impoundments for Aquaculture and Other Community Uses
Theme: Income Generation for Small-Scale Fish Farmers and Fishers
Lead US University: Auburn University
Host Country & Partner Institutions:
Our vision is to provide research results that increase the knowledge base on water resource uses that work in the African context. The studies identify best practices in water use, enterprise development, and fish culture and contribute a legacy of trained individuals capable of leading and guiding aquacultural development as part of watershed management. Four studies address a broad range of water management, production, credit, and extension issues in Uganda and South Africa with intent and potential to extend findings and training to other countries. In Uganda, we build on a three-year intensive USAID-funded effort to build an aquaculture industry that brings to the project an extensive network of contacts and institutional knowledge. We have a strong network of women scientists and extension professionals as Host Country Partners. Some host country partners have a sustained record of meaningful impact in the aquacultural sector in their own and neighboring countries whereas others are new to aquaculture by bring other disciplines and approaches to the broader context of watershed management.
Much research on small-holder aquaculture in developing nations has focused on integration of aquaculture with other activities on small farms. Our approach was to consider how to integrate aquaculture into watershed management schemes that focus on capturing overland flow in one or more small impoundments for multiple use, e.g., community water supply, aquaculture, livestock watering, small-scale irrigation, etc. We acknowledge the fundamental resilience that women lend to small-scale aquaculture through their labor, vigilance, and interest in the activity. The proposed study would use climatic and hydrological variables, as well as topographic and geologic features to develop a procedure for identifying sites where such schemes could be installed. This study would provide basic data on precipitation, evaporation from water surfaces, temperature, and evapotranspiration needed in modeling and engineering efforts, complemented by case studies of water use and management for fish farming. Other work refines hydrologic models and proposes appropriate layout and engineering guidelines for designing and constructing small impoundments and water conveyance systems. In addition, watershed management practices for protecting the quality and quantity of the water source are delineated. The other components consider how aquaculture could be interwoven with other uses in environmentally and socially sound ways. Finally, there would be a component dedicated to considerations of how stakeholders could organize themselves to guide multiple land uses and land owners, to develop reasonable procedures for allocating water for different uses, and to optimize benefits to surrounding communities.
We draw our broader view of small-holder aquacultural development from the FAO Limbé Declaration that asserts a number of principled conclusions (Moehl et al. 2005). The statement concludes that aquaculture development in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is at a crossroads. Burgeoning population growth and declining natural sources of fish make it imperative that aquaculture contributes as substantially to continental fish supply as possible. The region is the only one in the world where per capita fish consumption is declining and is projected to decline further. Reasons for this situation include civil conflict, weak management structures, low levels of investment in rural economies, and lack of economic growth. At the same time, however, new opportunities exist that brighten the prospects for aquaculture development. In particular, we see women as key practitioners of small-scale aquaculture as a source of income and food security for rural households.
The FAO document asserts that small- and medium-scale commercial enterprises are the most efficacious engines of economic growth (Moehl et al. 2005). Researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute found that "... even small increments to rural incomes that are widely distributed can make large net additions to growth and improve food security." The CGIAR has identified interventions that lead to improved incomes at the level of the rural farmer and resource manager as "having a larger impact on countrywide income than increases in any other sector." To increase the benefits accruing from aquaculture, development planners should consider how to move from the current situation of dominance of small-holder artisanal/large- scale commercial investors, to one where there are many small- and medium-scale commercial investors, without losing the benefits currently being generated by aquaculture.
The project addresses a number of constraints to the development of aquaculture, which includes basic insights into water availability and hydrological context, seed and feed production, as well as inefficient extension and outreach. Such considerations are vital for protecting wetlands and promoting biodiversity. It addresses women directly and recognizes their role in sustaining small- scale aquaculture. We endeavor to clarify how public/private partnerships between investors and knowledge delivery structures can facilitate sectoral growth by providing farmers with the highest quality of technological, managerial and marketing information available (Moehl et al. 2005).
While appreciating the need to address major constraints identified (water, seed, feed, extension), there is a need to examine other areas, such as market development, access to capital and other policy issues (Moehl et al. 2005). There is a clear need for cost-effective financial and institutional arrangements that can complement government and donor resources to deliver a limited number of critical research, advisory and technical services to high-potential farmers. Aquaculture can provide high quality food for rural and urban consumers, generate employment and general commercial activities in otherwise impoverished local economies, make sense in the land and water context, and contribute to national wealth through increased revenue from markets and trade. The growth and expansion of fish farming must take account of the soil and water systems that provide a sustainable context for this productive enterprise. Our vision is to provide research results and visible examples that increase the knowledge base on developmental production paths that work in the African context, that guides aquaculture development in ways that protect wetlands and enhance biodiversity, that identify best practices based on successful experiences, and to contribute to a legacy of trained men and women capable of leading and guiding aquacultural development in the long term. The insights and approaches developed in Africa also have parallels and implications for problems confronting communities and watersheds in the U.S. (Boyd et al. in press). The next step for this project if future funding became available would be to expand the geographic scope of the project in Uganda, enhance training for Ugandan farmers and technical personnel, and conduct research to ameliorate the malleable constraints to aquacultural development. Our exit strategy is to leave behind a trained cadre of business- sensitive technical personnel with functioning feed suppliers who can work with capable farmers to advance the aquaculture industry in Uganda.