Can fish farming sustainably support livelihoods in Lake Malawi?

Is Fish Farming an Illusion for Lake Malawi Riparian Communities under Environmental Changes?

Abstract: Global environmental changes have negatively affected many food systems while the demand for food has continued to rise. An urgent need exists to identify other sustainable means of producing food. This is a case in Malawi, where capture fisheries and agriculture are not supplying sufficient food. Fish farming food systems by communities who rely on inland fisheries have not been evaluated. Therefore, a study was conducted in two phases: January 2016 to May 2016 and in July 2017 to evaluate if fish farming could sustainably support livelihoods of Lake Malawi riparian communities. We used mixed methods to collect and analyze data. The data collection methods included explorative surveys, household survey interviews, focus group discussion and key informant interviews. Qualitative data was analyzed using content analysis for themes. This identified themes that were quantitatively analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics. We observed that fish farming was dominated by men and also not the main occupation for the respondents despite owning fishponds. The respondents have water and land, which are prerequisite for any farming. The study also observed fish farming production challenges related to quality fingerlings, formulated diets, and extension services. Cases of food insecurity amongst the respondents were also prevalent due to lack of food to cover the entire year. Weak synergies existed between fish farming and agriculture restricting bio-resource flow and water usage between these two food systems, meaning the outcomes of the food systems provide unsustainable diets. Furthermore, water availability, money spent on food, and cassava cropping increased fish farming participation. Whereas operating a bicycle taxi, casual labor, former fish farming, as well as application of agricultural wastes negatively affected fish farming. On the other hand, extreme weather events (increased incidences of droughts and floods) attributed to inter annual rainfall variation also negatively affected fish farming. The responses from Lake Malawi riparian communities indicate that they merely look upon fish farming as an alternative to capture fisheries than as an illusion. Nonetheless, the research provides a theoretical platform to explore the potential to develop sustainable fish farming food system adapted to such changes. Therefore, we have brought new evidence that progress of fish farming in Malawi is being made, but there is a long way to go before it can be considered successful and sustainable.

Keywords: food system; sustainable diets; agriculture; global environmental changes; fish farming; fisheries; food security; Malawi

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Published 16. July 2018 - 13:41 - Updated 16. July 2018 - 13:41