The objectives of the Aquaculture for Food Security, Poverty Alleviation and Nutrition (AFSPAN) project were to strengthen the knowledge base and develop new and more rigorous methodologies of quantifying the contribution of aquaculture to combat hunger and poverty, thus providing the evidence upon which sound strategies, policies and research programs can be developed to support the sustainable expansion of aquaculture to maximise its impact on food and nutrition security and poverty alleviation.
The three-year project was implemented by eighteen partners in eleven Asian, African and South American developing and Low Income, Food Deficit Countries (LIFDCs), encompassing the spectrum of development conditions and role of aquaculture in national economies. The partnership also included EU partners and international organisations.
A theory of change was elaborated and range of analytical frameworks, economic models and indicators, complemented by surveys and case studies developed. The contribution of aquaculture to national GDP, excluding multiplier effects, was found to vary from negligible in countries with emergent aquaculture sectors up to 5% or more of national GDP in countries where the sector is very dynamic. Aquaculture was shown to have helped lower global fish prices, increasing economic access for all but the very poorest consumers. Although households engaging in aquaculture were found less likely to be poor than those that did not, poor households too benefitted from engaging in fish farming, irrespective of scale of operation. Fish consumption rates of households engaged in fish farming were typically higher than national averages.
Both immanent (e.g. economic growth) and interventionist (the implementation of policies promoting aquaculture development, improving governance and capacity) factors, as well as institutional arrangements, public-private partnerships and pioneering companies and individuals, were found to be capable of creating enabling conditions for aquaculture growth. Socio-cultural factors, especially gender and ethnicity, were also important: interventions tailored to match given specific socio-cultural contexts were most likely to lead to successful adoption and retention and delivery of equitable development outcomes, thereby producing lasting impact on livelihoods.
The volumes of seafood exported from developing to developed countries were found to approximate those of seafood imported by developing from developed countries. While expensive seafood may be being exchanged for cheaper but not necessarily less nutritious seafood, thereby minimising threats to food security, there remains a lack of supporting evidence that this is the case. With the exception of Bangladesh no policies or interventions linking fish, aquaculture and nutrition were found in study countries and little is included in nutrition education on aquatic animal foods.
Project outputs are being disseminated among the development community to help improve efficiency and coordination of development initiatives focused on aquaculture that promotes food and nutrition security and alleviates poverty and helps focus research on addressing researchable gaps. The development of science outputs has also begun.
The third and final annual workshop of the AFSPAN project will be held in Nairobi, Kenya from the 9th to 11th September. The workshop will bring together partners from twenty institutions from across the globe with key expertise in research, development and dissemination to discuss the role of aquaculture in food security, poverty alleviation and nutrition.
The workshop will provide a venue for the research teams and country partners to discuss their findings and the outcomes and lessons learned from the project as a whole.
While aquaculture is often advocated as a tool for rural development, large gaps exist in the research base and many issues such as the contribution of aquaculture to human health, nutrition and micronutrients critical to child development are poorly understood. As a result, aquaculture is often overlooked as a possible development assistance intervention, or conversely, may be introduced in inappropriate circumstances.
The AFSPAN Project is the first attempt to develop comprehensive information on the direct and indirect socio-economic impacts of aquaculture in developing countries. The project’s goal has been to develop methodologies that can be applied to understand this ‘big picture’ role of aquaculture in a development context, building an inter-disciplinary framework for assessment of aquaculture across a broad range of indicators that include food security, poverty alleviation and nutrition.
The highlight of the workshop will be discussions on preparation of a synthesis and policy guidance, drawing on the multi-disciplinary research that has been conducted under the project, including case studies from eleven countries throughout Asia, Africa and South America. It is anticipated that the tools and guidance to emerge from the project will permit more effective targeting of aquaculture as a development intervention in future.
The outcomes of the workshop, research publications, tools, synthesis and policy guidance will be made available from the website in due course.
This report addresses a frequently overlooked but extremely important part of world food and nutrition security: the role and importance of fish in seeking food and nutrition security for all. Fisheries and aquaculture have often been arbitrarily separated from other parts of the food and agricultural systems in food security studies, debates and policy-making.
The report presents a synthesis of existing evidence regarding the complex pathways between fisheries and aquaculture and food and nutrition security, including the environmental, economic and social dimensions, as well as issues related to governance. It provides insights on what needs to be done to achieve sustainable fisheries and aquaculture in order to strengthen their positive impact on food and nutrition security.
The ambition of this compact yet comprehensive report is to help the international community to share and understand the wide spectrum of issues that make fisheries and aquaculture such an important part of efforts to assure food security for all.
The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) was created in 2010 to provide the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security (CFS) with evidence-based and policy-oriented analysis to underpin policy debates and policy formulation. While specific policy interventions should be based on context-specific understanding, HLPE reports provide evidence relevant to the diversity of contexts, with recommendations aiming to be useful to guide context-specific policy interventions.
The HLPE works on topics identified by the CFS. This is the seventh HLPE report to date. Past reports have covered six topics related to food security and nutrition considered by the CFS for their importance in relation to the world policy agenda, including price volatility, land tenure and international investments in agriculture, climate change, social protection, biofuels, and investment in smallholder agriculture. A report on Food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems will be published this year. Work is underway for an HLPE report on water and food security to feed into CFS’s policy debates in 2015.
The Livestock and Fish research program works on meat, milk and fish by and for the poor. One of its target countries is Bangladesh where program partnerWorldFish leads work contributing to the CGIAR Research Programs on Aquatic Agricultural Systems and Livestock and Fish.
A new article by Kazi Ali Toufique from the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies and Ben Belton, a WorldFish scientist, provides proof of the long suspected link between aquaculture and poverty reduction.
By analysing changes in fish consumption in Bangladesh between 2000 and 2010, the report proves conclusively that growth in aquaculture has led to greater fish consumption among the poorest consumers in Bangladesh.
While it had previously been considered that the benefits of the growth in aquaculture were derived mainly from increased employment, the study demonstrates a stronger link to the health benefits of eating more fish.
Photo: Woman showing fish caught from her pond in Khulna, Bangladesh (image: WorldFish).