Case Study: Development of Chicoa Fish Farm in Mozambique (on-going)

Image of the case studyThe Commonwealth Blue Charter is highlighting case studies from the Commonwealth and beyond, as part of a series to spotlight best practice successes and experiences. To share your own case study, please contact us

Download as PDF |  View all case studies

“As the business grows, each iteration becomes less risky. There’s more work to do, but it’s easier. The chance of failure is much less as you move forward and you start building a team.”

– Gerry McCollum, CEO of Chicoa Fish Farm

Summary

A highly experienced management team launched a new project in Cahora Bassa Lake, Mozambique, in 2012 to establish a large-scale, cage-based tilapia farm. The promoters had been involved in setting up the Lake Harvest Fish Farm in Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe, in previous decades, a project that has been the inspiration behind many similar projects in the region.

Chicoa Fish Farm has taken many years to get off the ground as, despite their extensive experience, the promoters found it difficult to find finance for the project and acquire the various permissions. They were eventually supported by the Dutch venture capital organisation Aqua-Spark, and are now in production with 36 cages, a hatchery and associated buildings. They intend to add a feed mill and processing plant, building a vertically integrated fish farm that can also supply inputs, training and possibly finance for other fish farmers in the region.

The project demonstrates the important role that experience plays in setting up a new venture but also the challenges involved in setting the first fish farm of its type in a relatively remote area. Despite these challenges, the project is making good progress thanks to the persistence and vision of the promoters.

The issue

Africa imports around 40 per cent of the fish it consumes and, with increasing pressure on fish stocks, capture fisheries cannot meet the demand. According to the 2018 United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture Report, per capita fish consumption in Africa is expected to decrease by 0.2 per cent per year up to 2030, declining from 9.8 kg in 2016 to 9.6 kg in 2030, as a result of population growth outpacing supply. The decline will be even more significant in sub-Saharan Africa.

Chicoa fish farm is in a sheltered bay in Cahora Bassa Lake

According to a Mozambique fisheries fact file released by the Southern African Development Community (SADC),  more than half of the country’s population of 27 million people are surviving beneath the poverty line, and per capita fish consumption is at 9 kg per person. Meanwhile, the aquaculture sector is badly underdeveloped, mainly producing prawns, along with some tilapia and seaweed.

Chicoa Fish Farm was established by experienced aquaculture developers Gerry McCollum and Damien Legros to create a blueprint of a vertically integrated fish farm that other farmers can emulate in the region to supply much-needed fish and improve the prospects for people in an under-developed region of Southern Africa.

The response

Gerry McCollum and Damien Legros worked together to establish the Lake Harvest Fish Farm in Kariba, Zimbabwe, in the late 1990s. Lake Harvest was the first large-scale cage-based fish farm in Southern Africa. The initial aim was to produce 3,000 tons per year of tilapia for export to Europe in a project supported by the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC). However, as the economic situation in Zimbabwe deteriorated and priorities changed within CDC, the farm was sold to its management team of McCollum, Legros and Patrick Blow, who managed to keep it operating by focusing on European markets. Major new investment came in 2009 through a UK-based venture capital fund, African Century, and the business concentrated on developing regional markets within Africa. Lake Harvest has expanded since then and has been the inspiration behind rapid expansion of cage-based tilapia aquaculture and supporting industries such as aquaculture feed production across sub-Saharan Africa.

Meanwhile, McCollum and Legros moved on from Lake Harvest and in 2012 decided to focus on commercial aquaculture in Mozambique. Chicoa Fish Farm is situated on Cahora Bassa Lake, downstream from Kariba on the Zambezi River. It has good access to Tete’s urban centre and other markets across the region, including Blantyre, Lilongwe, Harare, Maputo and Beira.

The site is in deep water, close to land, which makes it easier and more cost-effective to supervise the cages in a protected bay. It farms Nile tilapia, a fish introduced to the Zambezi catchment in the 1980s that grows rapidly, is easy to breed and can be fed using largely plant-based diets.

The company plans to expand production to around 5,000 tons per year and will build a larger hatchery and feed plant than it needs for its own production with the aim of selling inputs to other farmers in the region. The aim is to supply new farmers with everything they need, from fingerlings, to feed, training and equipment and possibly even financial solutions.

A small settlement called Emboque lies next to the farm. The area is remote and the people are poor. Many do not have schooling and eke out their living as subsistence farmers or fishers. For these people and others across the region, an aquaculture model like Chicoa’s might well offer the chance for a more secure and prosperous life.

Partnerships and support

Chicoa found it difficult to raise finance but was eventually supported by Aqua-Spark, a Netherlandsbased investment fund that focuses exclusively on sustainable aquaculture. However, there was initial hesitation owing to the fund’s internal policy to invest in on-going concerns rather than start-ups. Chicoa used this investment to install the first cages in November 2015.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

The project trains and employs local staff (Image credit: Jon Pilch, Chicoa Fish Farm)

Chicoa now has 36 production cages, with a production capacity of 1,200–1,400 tons, in Cahora Bassa Lake, as well as a breeding set-up on the lake, nursery tanks on
land, offices, a feed store and workshops.

The company is now raising funds to increase its capacity to 3,000 MT per year and intend to build a processing facility. It has a new CFO, Jayson Coomer, and a joint venture partner in Malawi handling sales.

It sells whole tilapia on ice in Mozambique but also exports to Zambia, Malawi and countries in Southern Africa.

The company has over 100 employees on the payroll and will also be training and assisting other entrepreneurs to become out-growers or third-party farmers. Chicoa is training and employing people from the local community and offers internships for Mozambican agricultural students from technical colleges.

Challenges

Chicoa’s first few years were particularly difficult as it was a virgin site and the initial investment time was high. It took two years to secure the land and licences for the farm.

Chicoa also had to deal with poor infrastructure, lowskilled labour, bureaucracy and a lack of supporting industry or institutional framework.

Key lessons learnt

In a relatively remote location, where there are no other similar businesses, vertical integration of a fish farm is essential. It is not possible to depend on others for fingerlings or markets and Chicoa intends to build its own feed mill and processing plant.

The expertise of the Chicoa team has been an important factor in project success.

Chicoa can become a catalyst for growth of the aquaculture industry through supplying high-quality fingerlings, feed and expertise, thus diversifying revenue streams and enabling a positive impact on local communities.

Sources

Antoni, M.L. (2019) ‘Model Tilapia Venture Shows Mettle in Mozambique’. Global Aquaculture Advocate: https://www.aquaculturealliance.org/advocate/model-tilapiaventure-shows-mettle-mozambique/

Lead contact

Damien Legros, Director of Aquaculture, Chicoa Fish Farm, Mozambique

Email: [email protected]

Download as PDF |  View all case studies

Robotic floats give hope for tackling ocean climate change

Close to 4,000 robotic devices deployed in oceans around the world will soon be upgraded to collect a wider range of vital data on ocean health – this will help researchers better understand the impacts of the climate crisis on ocean life and blue economies.

The ocean-monitoring programme, Argo, was highlighted at a webinar co-organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Government of Canada, which champions the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on Ocean Observations.

The event focused on the need for robust ocean observations and scientific data to achieve sustainability goals, providing the basis for accurate weather forecasts, climate change monitoring and sound environmental policies.

Opening the session, Ocean Science National Manager at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Andrew Stewart, said: “Ocean observations are essential to improving our ability to predict and adapt to the increasing pressures facing our oceans, including those that arise from anthropogenic activities.”

He said the webinar helped to advance the work of the Commonwealth’s action group on ocean observation, including sharing data and knowledge, promoting innovation and making ocean science more inclusive.

webinar speakers

Watch the full webinar

Monitoring ocean climate change

In his presentation, ocean scientist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Blair Greenan, who leads Canada’s contribution to the Argo programme, outlined the science behind Argo.

Using a fleet of robotic devices that drift with the ocean currents, Argo collects information on temperature and salinity of the upper 2000m of the global ocean. The data is sent through satellites and made publicly available within 24 hours. The free and open-access data has helped to improve weather and ocean forecast systems around the world.

“This has transformed our capability to monitor ocean climate change,” said Dr Greenan.

Building on its 20-year record of conducting ocean observations, supported by more than 30 countries, Argo is now embarking on a new initiative, Biogeochemical (BGC) Argo, to collect additional data on ocean chemistry and biology. This will enable scientists to improve computer models on fisheries and climate, and to monitor and forecast the effects of ocean warming.

Canada’s BGC Argo lead, Dalhousie University professor Katja Fennel said: “Global warming is, first and foremost, ocean warming. Ocean heat has increased at a staggering rate, equivalent to five Hiroshima-class nuclear explosions every second for the past 25 years.”

Together with the uptake of human CO2 emissions by the ocean, this has led to ocean acidification, declining oxygen levels and diminishing plankton, which negatively impact marine ecosystems.

She stressed that sustained measurement programmes of ocean biology, chemistry and physics together are essential to understand these impacts and take action to address them.

Cooperation with small states

Head of Oceans and Natural Resources at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Nicholas Hardman-Mountford, added that the Commonwealth Blue Charter action groups serve as valuable platforms to encourage science-backed decision-making by governments and institutions.

The Commonwealth Blue Charter – an agreement amongst all 54 member countries to work actively together to solve ocean challenges – is implemented through 10 action groups, led by 15 champion countries, focusing on a range of ocean priorities.

Dr Hardman-Mountford said: “Importantly, the Commonwealth includes the majority of small island – but large ocean – developing states in the world, which are some of the most risk of ocean climate change.

“Through the Action Group on Ocean Observations, we’d really like to see more of these countries equipped to participate in ocean observing. This way they gain the knowledge and scientific capacity to collect and analyse the data needed to manage their marine estate, develop sustainable blue economies and build climate resilience.”

He added that the Argo programme requires partners to deploy floats in deep ocean sites around the world, providing a “great opportunity” for cooperation with island countries, supported by the Commonwealth Blue Charter.

The webinar is the sixth in a series seeking to showcase innovative solutions and best practices being implemented by the Blue Charter Action Groups and their partners.

Commonwealth joins forces with all-women sailing crew to fight plastic pollution

The Commonwealth Secretariat has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with eXXpedition, a non-profit organisation that runs all-women sailing expeditions to research the causes of, and solutions to, marine plastic pollution.

The collaboration will give Commonwealth countries geographic and ecosystem health information related to marine debris and its wider environmental impact, to help them protect oceans and manage plastic pollution.

Healthy oceans

Combining this research with actions taken by the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance (CCOA) Action Group and other Commonwealth platforms will assist in driving science-based policy solutions for healthy oceans across the Commonwealth.

Founded in 2014, eXXpedition runs expeditions all over the world, conducting scientific research and capacity building activities with communities, governments and partners.

Due to COVID-19, this year’s voyage is taking place virtually. Through online workshops the all-female multidisciplinary crew will share their own experiences, support scientific research and collaborate with community groups – providing a unique platform to engage women and youth.

Emily Penn, Founder, eXXpedition says: “It is fantastic to be working with the Commonwealth Secretariat on our Virtual Voyages which have been created in response to COVID19 – at eXXpedition we have always focused on what we can do, rather than what we can’t! We are excited to work together to accelerate the journey towards a healthy ocean using our SHiFT Platform, which scales up support for individuals and businesses to tackle plastic pollution around the world and which we will use as part of this new partnership.”

Plastic pollution

The partnership will contribute to work of the Commonwealth Blue Charter, particularly the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance, a Blue Charter Action Group addressing marine plastic pollution which is co-championed by the UK and Vanuatu.

Other Blue Charter Action Groups such as Ocean and Climate Change, Sustainable Coastal Fisheries and Coral Reef Protection and Restoration will also provide access to common data sets, shared practices, co-learning and marine scientific capacity building, in order to support policy development.

Paulo Kautoke, Senior Director, Trade, Oceans and Natural Resources Directorate, Commonwealth Secretariat, says: “We are proud to join this partnership with eXXpedition, which will greatly assist the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Groups in developing broader capacity building and data collection capabilities across the Commonwealth. It will contribute to empowering girls and women, as well as create opportunities for innovative solutions to marine plastics and practical action for healthy oceans throughout the Commonwealth.”

Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to our oceans and marine ecosystems. More than 12 million tonnes of plastic waste pollute our sea each year, choking wildlife above and below the waterline. Around one million sea birds and an unknown number of sea turtles die each year from plastic debris. The effects of plastics carrying toxicity through the marine food chain is also still being researched, including the implications for human health.

New Caribbean centre for oceanography, blue economy welcomed

The Commonwealth Secretary-General has welcomed plans to establish a new Centre of Excellence in Oceanography and the Blue Economy at the University of West Indies Five Islands Campus in Antigua and Barbuda.

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda, which co-chairs the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on Sustainable Blue Economy, the University of the West Indies and the Association of Commonwealth Universities agreed to work together towards this goal, with a memorandum of understanding signed today.

The Centre will aim to advance intellectual progress and strengthen institutional capacity in the areas of marine science and the blue economy for the Caribbean region.

Signed by Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies Hilary Beckles and Chair of the Association of Commonwealth Universities Ed Byrne, the MoU also allows the three parties to develop joint research, training and capacity-building programmes, as well as share academic and educational content.

Hailing the initiative, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “The Government of Antigua and Barbuda is co-champion of the Action Group on Sustainable Blue Economy, and the bold initiative of developing a Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and the Blue Economy…will build in new ways on this commendable commitment.

“This new Centre of Excellence will be a fresh expression of our longstanding Commonwealth concern for the environment, including our ocean, and the clarion call to action made in the Langkawi Declaration on the Environment from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting as long ago as 1989.”

She stressed the Commonwealth Secretariat’s “wholehearted support”, adding: “I welcome the new opportunities for Commonwealth cooperation which the Centre will open up and mobilise – particularly for our young people.”

As part of the Commonwealth Blue Charter, Antigua and Barbuda (alongside Kenya) co-champions member-driven actions that encourage better stewardship of the ocean’s ‘blue resources’ and marine environment.

Launched in 2018, the Commonwealth Blue Charter is a commitment by leaders of the organisation’s 54 member countries to actively collaborate on solving ocean-related challenges.

Opportunity to join eXXpedition Virtual Voyage

Commonwealth Blue Charter is working with eXXpedition, a UK-based company that runs all-female sailing voyages investigating ocean plastic pollution, to offer a bursary place for the next stage of eXXpedition’s Virtual Voyage programme.

For the past five years these missions have been at sea, but given the pandemic the experience is now being offered virtually. This means eXXpedition can continue to support a community of changemakers in taking action against plastic pollution.

From live scientific analysis to collaborative problem solving, the immersive leadership experience is designed to equip and support participants in enacting change in their own country. By bringing the best parts of the journeys at sea to life online, the chosen crew have a unique opportunity to network with talented women from across sectors, deep dive into the cause of and solutions to plastic pollution, and receive one-on-one mentorship from mission leaders to find their unique role in helping solve one of the world’s most pressing issues.

Each Virtual Voyage has a 12-person crew of women from all over the world who will be connecting through an online platform. The full programme involves six interactive sessions and some independent research. The condensed programme will be delivered over the course of a weekend.

Applicants – who must live in or be connected to Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu or Australia – are invited to complete an application form here.

PAST EVENT: Argo – A Global Fleet of Robotic Floats to Monitor Ocean Climate Change and Health

Thursday, January 21, 2021 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM GMT

Watch the full webinar

Argo is a key component of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) that collects information from inside the ocean using a fleet of robotic instruments that drift with the ocean currents, and move up and down between the deep ocean and the surface.

Over the past 20 years, Argo has collected more than 2 million temperature and salinity profiles of the upper 2000 m of the global ocean. This has transformed our capability to monitor ocean climate change.

Argo floats provide data through satellites when they are at the ocean surface, and this information is made publicly available within 24 hours. The free and open access to data is a critical element of the Argo program, which has facilitated significant improvements of many weather and ocean forecast systems.

Argo float network design

The Argo program is now embarking on a new initiative, Biogeochemical Argo, which will collect observations of ocean chemistry and biology. This will enable scientists to pursue fundamental questions about ocean ecosystems, observe ecosystem health and productivity, and monitor the elemental cycles of carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen in the ocean through all seasons of the year.

Such essential data are needed to improve computer models of ocean fisheries and climate, and to monitor and forecast the effects of ocean warming.

Join us on January 21 to hear from speakers:

  • Dr. Blair Greenan, Research Scientist, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Prof. Katja Fennel, Killam Professor, Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, Canada
  • Dr. Nicholas Hardman-Mountford, Head of Oceans & Natural Resources, Commonwealth Secretariat
  • Moderator – Ms. Kacie Conrad, Science Program and Policy Advisor, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

webinar speakers

Maldives to co-champion action on coastal fisheries for Commonwealth

Maldives has stepped forward to co-champion the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on sustainable coastal fisheries alongside the current champion country, Kiribati.

The country made the announcement at a virtual seminar, hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

As a new co-champion, Maldives will work with Kiribati, as well as the other members of the action group, to develop strategies on the sustainable use of coastal marine resources across the Commonwealth, covering a third of the world’s national waters.

Resilient fisheries

Nearly 90 per cent of the world’s fisheries have been fully exploited, depleted, or are in a state of collapse, signalling a threat to food security, fishing-dependent livelihoods and marine ecosystem.

Research has found that if the world’s fisheries were sustainably managed, they could provide six times more food than current levels while creating more than 12 million new jobs.

Against this backdrop, the purpose is to ramp up coordinated action and advocacy for a resilient coastal fisheries industry, which benefits both the present and future generations in the face of threats like climate change and overfishing.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “We are delighted that Maldives, a large ocean state, will co-champion our Action Group on sustainable governance of fisheries, which has long been the bedrock of the Maldivian economy.

“Their announcement signifies Maldives’ strong commitment to modernising the fisheries sector in a smart, sustainable and responsible way, which works for the people, economy and the ocean.

“This is the primary mandate of our Commonwealth Blue Charter, which brings together our member countries to co-operate and collaborate on national strategies to address shared issues affecting the health and sustainable use of our ocean, while building a global momentum for more ambitious ocean action.”

Ocean sustainability

The fisheries industry is of particular significance for the Commonwealth, particularly for its 24 small island states, including Maldives, which depend heavily on the ocean for sustenance.

Maldives’ Minister of State for Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture Hassan Rasheed said: “As the Commonwealth’s newest member, we remain steadfast in our shared goal of securing the ocean bounty for future generations.

“Fisheries are an integral part of Maldivian identity. The work being done under the Blue Charter is critical, especially for countries like ours, which is extremely dependent on the ocean for fisheries, food security, employment and foreign income.

“We are proud to co-champion the Action Group on sustainable coastal fisheries and take part in an endeavour that contributes towards ocean sustainability at a global level.”

The Blue Charter was agreed by Commonwealth heads of government in April 2018, as a vehicle to drive active co-operation on ocean governance and sustainability.

As of January 2021, 15 countries have stepped forward as ‘champions’ of 10 action groups, each focusing on a different ocean issue, from marine pollution to climate change. Forty-four countries have joined one or more of the 10 action groups.

Common benefits for all

Kiribati’s Secretary for the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resource Development, Dr Agnes Yeeting said: “As a champion, Kiribati looks forward to working with interested members to ensure all activities are supported to address issues encountered by coastal fisheries for a common benefit of all.

“Kiribati cannot progress on sustainable coastal fisheries alone but counts on collaborative efforts from members. Therefore, Kiribati is delighted to have Maldives on board for this common goal.”

The Action Group on Sustainable Coastal Fisheries encourages better stewardship of coastal marine resources through sharing of best practices, promoting sustainable management, and mobilising funding for joint initiatives to develop improved fisheries solutions.