The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is characterized by widespread poverty and inadequate governance. Among a collection of development initiatives for Equateur Province in the north, aquaculture has made a significant contribution to household and community livelihoods in the past. During the 1980s, training in fish farming practices was provided by the local Christian community. Extension support and centralized fingerling supply facilitated development of thousands of ponds. Unfortunately, civil unrest during the 1990s brought external assistance largely to a standstill. The destructiveness of war and absence of extension support led to the decline of fish farming in the region.
Nonetheless, some fish farmers persevered, many of them working collaboratively to share labour, tools, and revenue. Pond production is sub-optimal, however, and the farmers have requested assistance through renewed training and subsidization of tools in order to improve on their operations. Even under the current depressed conditions, fish farming contributes sufficient revenue to pay health services, school fees, garden supplies, and even bicycles. Of course, family nutrition is also greatly enhanced. Improved productivity would bring greater prosperity and improved health to hundreds of families in the northeastern region of Equateur Province.
The project described here has three primary objectives which have arisen from conversations with local fish farmers and aquaculture experts:
- Provide full-time salary and operational support for a regional aquaculture coordinator;
- Facilitate twelve training seminars over two years for a total of 600 people;
- Provide those completing a seminar a subsidy for tools used in pond improvements and expansion.
Even though aquaculture is proven to be an effective development tool in this region, the fish farming sector is currently un-supported by government and non-government organizations. The Fish for Hope Project described here seeks to address this issue.