Photo Caption: Wendy Sealey at Pierre Kawita fish pond at the harvesting, May 2015
Profession: Physiologist, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Current Hometown: Bozeman, MT
Areas of Expertise: Fish farming
Education: PhD from Texas A&M
Name of project: Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) in DRC, Training on Fish Feed and Nutrition
Location of the project: Mbankana, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Duration of the assignment: Three weeks
Organization that sent the volunteer: ACDI/VOCA
Core Implementer of this project on behalf of USAID: ACDI/VOCA
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of the most challenging places served by the USAID-supported Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program. Millions of Congolese men, women, and children face extreme food insecurity due to years of war and corruption. Fish farming, or aquaculture, has the potential to help Congolese people add much-needed protein and nutrients to their diets.
Fish farming was introduced to the western DRC town of Mbankana in the early 1980s. For years, farmers with minimal skill and knowledge of fish farming practiced it on a subsistence basis. Thanks to technical training in fish pond fertilization provided to the farmers by local NGO Centre d’Appui au Développement Intégral de Mbankana (CADIM) in 1996, fish production in the area increased from about 300 kg per hectare at harvest to about 700 kg per hectare. Fertilizing a fish pond nourishes the phytoplankton, zooplankton, and planktonic algae that fish eat. The pond yields of the older farmers who were trained by CADIM in fertilization exceeded those of younger farmers who didn’t receive training. These discrepancies prompted the young farmers to falsely accuse the older farmers of using witchcraft to stifle the growth of the younger farmers’ fish ponds.
In 2015, CADIM requested Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer assistance for two Mbankana-based fish farmer associations: the Association Nzakimwena and the Association Federation des Exploitants du Système d’Interdépendance Complémentaire. In May 2015, F2F volunteer Wendy Sealey, a fish physiologist from Montana, provided training on fish feed and nutrition. During the training, Ms. Sealey explained the impact that feed and nutrition have on fish growth, disease, and production, including the negative consequences of poor feed and nutrition.
Through the volunteer-led training, the young farmers learned that the poor performance of their ponds was not caused by witchcraft, but was due to the absence of well-balanced feed and good nutrition. Since the training, young fish farmers no longer accuse the older farmers of witchcraft, and all farmers now understand the role of feed and nutrition in fish production. The farmers are working together to conduct a trial with feed they produced from local ingredients. They will review the results in September 2016 when they harvest the pond.
Thanks to F2F volunteer Ms. Sealey and their own efforts, Congolese farmers like Pierre Kawita and Michel Nzamba are raising bigger, healthier, more nutritious fish. Their muddy ponds are investments in DRC’s future.