Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Successes and Challenges of Catfish Farming in the Small-Scale Industry in Southern Africa

Written By

Esau Matthews Mbokane, Lucia Matlale Mbokane, Seraku Samuel Motimele and Samkelisiwe Nosipho Hlophe-Ginindza

Submitted: 03 July 2022 Reviewed: 07 July 2022 Published: 02 November 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.106380

From the Edited Volume

Catfish - Advances, Technology, Experiments

Edited by Muhammed Atamanalp

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This chapter summarizes the successes and challenges of catfish farming in the small-scale industry in Southern Africa. Given that capture fisheries have been declining steadily over the years in many countries, aquaculture is generally expected to grow to meet demand. However, catfish production in most Southern African countries is low. This is despite the region having the most suitable temperature for the culture of freshwater fish species. In Southern Africa, catfish farming is one of the most important components of inland aquaculture, and it is mainly dominated by the small-scale sector. Production in the small-scale sector is affected by several constraints, which affect the profitability of the sector. These challenges include, among others, quality of production systems, supply of quality fingerlings, feeds, management of diseases, education and training of farmers, marketing and development of products, access to finance, research capacity, extension services, and, to some extent, regulatory frameworks and policies. The chapter proposes interventions that are needed to improve the production of catfish in Southern Africa. For instance, there is a need for the small-scale sector to move from intensive to advanced culture systems, such as recirculating aquaculture systems and integrated aquaculture systems, such as aquaponics, in order to boost catfish production.


  • freshwater aquaculture
  • diseases
  • production systems
  • integrated aquaculture
  • systems
  • feeds

1. Introduction

Clarias gariepinus (African sharptooth catfish) (Burchell, 1822) is one of the most widely cultured fish species in Southern Africa [1]. Farmers prefer this species because of its favorable characteristics, such as tolerance of adverse environmental conditions, fast growth rates, and resistance to diseases [2]. Its ability to feed on a variety of food items, such as fish, insects, phytoplankton, zooplankton, macrophytes, and detritus, also makes it an attractive species to farm [2, 3]. South Africa is the largest catfish producer in Southern Africa [4]. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ Aquaculture Year Book shows that catfish production in South Africa has been increasing steadily since 2012 [4]. The industry is dominated by the small-scale industry and is projected to create employment for the youth and women. In South Africa, catfish is considered a high-value commodity and is consumed by almost 50% of the rural population.

Zambia is also one of the countries in Southern Africa where catfish culture has been growing rapidly. In Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique, catfish culture has been growing slowly, but it is expected to increase in the future due to donor organizations, and government interventions. However, these countries are doing relatively well in tilapia farming compared to South Africa. There is very low catfish production in Lesotho and eSwatini, which could be attributed to a lack of national aquaculture strategies to drive production in these countries. Catfish culture in Namibia has been at a developmental phase since the 1990s, but there is a potential to grow the industry. Overall, the production data from these countries shows that despite significant investments and the development of favorable policies in the catfish industry, there are still several major challenges hindering the sustainable expansion of this sector. This is despite Southern Africa being one of the most suitable regions for freshwater aquaculture development. Various reports have shown that Southern Africa has high biophysical potential for freshwater aquaculture [5]. These challenges include, among others, types of production systems currently being used, limited supply of quality fingerlings, availability of high-quality feeds, management of diseases, education and training of farmers, marketing and development of products, access to finance, research capacity and extension services, and to some extent regulatory framework and policies. The aim of this chapter is to look at the successes and challenges of catfish farming in the small-scale aquaculture in Southern Africa.


2. Challenges affecting catfish farming in Southern Africa

2.1 Feed inputs

The availability of quality and cheaper feeds is one of the major constraints facing catfish farmers in Southern Africa. The aquaculture industry in Southern Africa largely depends on manufactured feeds, which uses highly priced ingredients, such as fishmeal. This exposes the industry to higher prices due to the scarcity of key ingredients. A recent review by [6] identified quality and costs of feed as one of the major factors limiting aquaculture development in Southern Africa. This affects the small-scale aquaculture sector the most because the majority of farmers are under-resourced and cannot afford commercial diets. Feed costs have been estimated to account for 75–85% of the total operational cost in aquaculture [7]. As a result, many small-scale catfish farmers in Southern Africa resort to using poor-quality feeds, which affects production and profitability.

In recent years, there have been investigations that tested the use of plant ingredients with high protein content in catfish diets in an effort to replace expensive ingredients, such as fishmeal in aquafeeds [8, 9, 10]. However, the use of plant-based protein sources in aquafeeds is hindered by the presence of high levels of anti-nutritional factors (ANFs). Anti-nutritional factors are known to reduce the digestibility and bio-availability of nutrients [11]. The other disadvantage associated with plant-based protein sources is their unbalanced amino acid profile. A high-quality diet must contain all essential amino acids needed to meet the nutritional requirement of a particular fish. Deficiency in some of the essential amino acids can lead to poor growth rates. Although some studies conducted in South Africa have shown that these limitations can be corrected by the inclusion of exogenous enzymes (to inactivate ANFs) or synthetic amino acids (to improve the amino acid profile) [12], these interventions have been found to be expensive for the small-scale farmers, due to lack of resources. Some studies have investigated the inclusion of insects in aquafeeds as an alternative protein source [13, 14, 15]. Much of this work is at an exploratory level. There is, therefore, a need for researchers to focus on identifying cheap, locally-available ingredients that can be used in aquafeeds. In the meantime, governments should consider temporary interventions, such as subsidized feeds, regulating pricing policies, and increasing access to credit facilities for catfish farmers.

2.2 Fingerling supply

The supply of high-quality fingerling is among the challenges affecting catfish production in Southern Africa. Most catfish farmers in the region do not have access to good-quality fingerlings. There are very few countries in Southern Africa with functional hatcheries that can supply the catfish industry with high-quality seeds. In South Africa, for instance, the government build several catfish hatcheries in the 1960s that were meant to supply fingerlings to catfish fish farmers, but most of these hatcheries have collapsed. The recently refurbished Aquaculture Technology Demonstration Center (ATDC) in Gariep Dam, Free State Province, South Africa, is one of those hatcheries. It is the only hatchery currently supplying fingerlings to local farmers. The long-term objective of this hatchery is to supply catfish fingerlings and train farmers within the South African Development Community (SADC), which covers most of the countries within Southern Africa. However, due to the location of the center in South Africa, it has so far been able to train only local farmers and produce fingerlings for farmers residing in South Africa. In Zambia, the government, in partnership with FAO, set up aquaculture research stations and hatcheries for research, breeding, and training [16]. These efforts are expected to enhance catfish production through training and production of fingerlings for local farmers.

Some universities and research stations offering aquaculture courses have supplied fish farmers with fingerlings in the past, but many are no longer actively involved in the production of catfish fingerlings. Therefore, in many countries, farmers still do not have access to quality fingerlings produced from genetically superior brood stock with known genetic composition. Most fish farmers in Southern Africa have to resort to using poor-quality fingerlings, mainly sourced from their own grow-out ponds or purchased from other farms. These fingerlings are usually of poor quality because of inbreeding and poor fish husbandry practices. Although farmers are also able to purchase fingerlings from private farms, these add to operational costs, as they are expensive to buy. Some farmers rely on fingerlings from the wild to stock their grow-out ponds. The challenge with fingerlings from the wild is that they may introduce diseases from the wild to capture fish, which could result in mortalities. The other challenge is that the collection of fingerlings from the wild is highly unreliable and unsustainable as it is not always feasible to collect sufficient numbers of fingerlings to stock grow-out ponds. Thus, there is urgency in Southern Africa for each country to establish new and modernized state-of-the-art hatcheries in order to produce high-quality fingerlings for the catfish industry.

2.3 Production systems

2.3.1 Earthen ponds

Catfish production in Southern Africa is mainly carried out in extensive and semi-intensive systems (95%), such as earthen ponds and aquadams. There are relatively few catfish farmers (5%) utilizing intensive culture systems (aquaponics, recirculating aquaculture systems - RAS) in the region. However, the majority of fish farmers in the region use ponds that have been constructed poorly, leading to low productivity. Many farmers do not seem to use the help of aquaculture experts when designing and constructing their ponds. This leads to poorly designed ponds with inappropriate volumes, which leads to poor maintenance, poor water quality, and inappropriate stocking densities. It has been suggested that the quality of earthen ponds used for catfish production in the small-scale sector in Southern Africa has a direct impact on the growth of the industry. Poor water quality maintenance usually leads to high total suspended solids and total dissolved solids, which leads to a reduction of primary production in earthen ponds [6]. A reduction of primary production in ponds has a direct impact on fish growth rates, and consequently, requires high feed input. This affects the profitability of farms in the long term.

Many catfish farmers in Southern Africa experience water quality problems quite often in earthen ponds. Farmers usually record low dissolved oxygen levels quite often, which is one of the factors responsible for high mortalities in earthen ponds. In earthen ponds, levels of dissolved oxygen and pH are managed by the balanced relationship between photosynthesis and respiration during the day and night, respectively. Excessive algal growth may reduce oxygen levels at night during respiration and cause fish to suffocate. On the other hand, during algal die-offs, oxygen levels decline drastically due to decomposing matter. Furthermore, excessive production of carbon dioxide (CO2) at night during respiration may increase the pH of pond water, which, in turn, increases ammonia toxicity. High levels of ammonia and nitrite can be detrimental to the health of fish [17, 18]. The African sharptooth catfish can tolerate extreme water quality conditions, such as low dissolved oxygen and high ammonia levels. However, these conditions may create stress and reduce growth rates. It is, therefore, important for catfish farmers to learn to maintain these parameters at optimum levels for faster growth. Generally, farmers struggle to maintain good water quality in earthen ponds because there are no filters or heaters in the ponds. The problem of low dissolved oxygen levels in earthen ponds is exacerbated by the fact that the water is static unlike in RSAs where water circulates, passes through filters, and is aerated. In static ponds, the most common water quality problems are associated with the accumulation of organic by-products, such as uneaten feeds and feces.

Evidently, catfish farmers in Southern Africa have been using earthen ponds for over 60 years, but production has not improved. Although earthen ponds are cheaper to run compared to intensive systems, their profitability is quite low in Southern Africa. Nevertheless, since the majority of catfish farmers utilize earthen ponds, they should consider the installation of wind-powered aerators, especially in rural areas where electricity cost is unaffordable. Farmers in rural areas should also consider using cheap filters, such as Biofishency. The attraction about this filter is that it functions like a small RAS where water trickles from the top and passes through filters before being recycled. This technology is simple to assemble and requires little training to operate. It is known that this type of filtration could improve water quality and allow farmers to stock more fish in the ponds. Indeed, this technology may be suitable for smallholder farmers with medium-sized ponds.

2.3.2 Recirculating aquaculture system

Due to the drive for the commercialization of the catfish industry in Southern Africa, efforts must be made for farmers to use systems with high productivity, such as Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RASs). For instance, semi-intensive production systems are the most widely used in countries, such as Egypt, where aquaculture production is higher [19, 20, 21]. The South African aquaculture industry has largely adopted RAS technology, but it is mainly used for tilapia production. A RAS is an advanced farming technology when compared to some of the widely used semi-intensive systems in catfish farming. In addition, a RAS is water-efficient technology that would be appropriate for use in water-scarce areas. It is a well-known fact that most countries in Southern Africa (i.e., Namibia, Botswana, and some parts of South Africa) are semi-arid and the availability of water is one of the factors affecting the growth of inland aquaculture. The benefit of using RAS is that fish are stocked at high densities under controlled conditions, which maximizes yield and profit. However, RAS technologies are expensive to purchase (high cost of initial capital investment in tanks, and greenhouses), maintain (high cost of electricity required to run the system), and require skilled personnel to operate (modern systems come with sophisticated components requiring training before use). Moreover, fish reared in RASs require a complete and high-quality diet, which results in high operational expenses. Consequently, there is slow adoption of RAS technologies in the small-scale catfish industry. Therefore, significant capital investment is still required from governments to assist farmers to adopt RASs in order to improve catfish production in Southern Africa.

2.3.3 Integrated aquaculture systems

There are few farmers using integrated aquaculture systems in the small-scale catfish aquaculture industry in Southern Africa. Integrated aquaculture systems refer to the utilization of the same water source to culture different types of species. For example, aquaponics is one type of integrated system in which fish and plants are grown together. The waste from the fish serves as fertilizer for the plants and this can help farmers to generate more revenue as they will be able to sell their plants (vegetables) throughout the year. Most aquaponics systems use RASs housed in a greenhouse tunnel, which ensures that farming can be done throughout the year. Since water availability is one of the most limiting constraints in catfish farming, aquaponics can be an ideal system in arid areas. The combination of fish and plants is a promising alternative for the small-scale catfish farming industry due to the economic benefits they can derive from this technology. In Egypt, for example, farming rice and fish together has been in existence since 1984 [22]. In Kenya, most farms use integrated systems with either a crop (vegetables and bananas) or livestock production (goats, cattle, and chicken) [23]. Furthermore, reports indicate that fish farmers in Kenya operating at subsistence level are shifting to commercial intensive culture systems [23, 24]. This should be a strong motivation for the adoption of integrated production systems in the catfish industry in Southern Africa.

2.3.4 Cage culture

Small-scale catfish farmers in Southern Africa can also consider cage culture, especially where resources do not allow for integrated fish farming or the use of RASs. Most countries in Southern Africa have several man-made dams that can be utilized for cage culture. The South African government, through DFFE, has identified several dams located in the Limpopo Province as suitable for cage culture. Although cage culture might be more expensive than pond culture, it is easy to manage water quality in cages because they allow for the maintenance of the desired water quality (dissolved oxygen, temperature, and ammonia removal) through the exchange of waste with the surrounding water. Reports show that cage culture is growing rapidly in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia, although it is mainly tilapia cultured in the cages in these countries [6, 25, 26]. This is an indication that cage culture has a huge potential to increase production in the catfish industry if it were to be adopted by the majority of catfish fish farmers.

2.4 Diseases

Disease outbreaks are also among the major constraints affecting catfish production in Southern Africa. Although C. gariepinus is considered a hardy and resilient species, some of the culture conditions make it susceptible to infections caused by parasites, bacteria, fungi, and viruses [27]. The oomycete fungus Saprolegnia parasitica is one of the most common opportunistic pathogens affecting a number of freshwater fish species [28]. This fungus is considered an opportunistic pathogen because it affects fish with a compromised immune system due to stressful conditions. As stated earlier, the majority of C. gariepinus farmers in Southern Africa use earthen ponds, which are exposed to low temperatures during the winter months. This stresses fish and increases their susceptibility to fungal infections as low water temperatures suppress their immune capacity to resist infections. Saprolegnia infections are also prevalent in fish hatcheries where they target incubated eggs [29]. They are also associated with injuries caused by ectoparasites as their attachment organs open wounds for secondary infections [27]. In addition, the recent outbreak of epizootic ulcerative syndrome (EUS) in Southern Africa has been a major concern for catfish farmers. Epizootic ulcerative syndrome is caused by the invasive oomycete fungus Aphanomyces invadans and it is an OIE-listed disease [30]. Studies indicate that this disease has become endemic in many river systems in Southern African, including Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe [30]. In 2011, significant numbers of the wild population of C. gariepinus died in South Africa due to a EUS outbreak [30]. The rate at which this disease has been spreading poses a serious threat to the catfish farming industry in the region because some use rivers and dams as sources of water for their ponds or systems, which might facilitate the transmissibility of the pathogen to captive fish.

C. gariepinus has also been shown to be affected by freshwater white spot disease caused by Ichthyophthirius multifiliis (“ich”) and trichodinosis caused by ectoparasites of the genus, Trichodina sp. [27]. These pathogens are highly problematic in RASs and can spread rapidly due to their direct life cycle. In South Africa, a few catfish farmers using RAS have encountered ich and trichodinosis. Fish in production ponds are also susceptible to a wide spectrum of bacteria, such as Aeromonas species, Pseudomonas species, Edwardsiella ictaluri, Edwardsiella tarda, Streptococcus spp., Pseudomonas spp., and Flexibacter columnaris [27]. These are well-known opportunistic pathogens of freshwater fish species. These pathogens can be difficult to treat once they infect a pond population because of challenges with pond sterilization. Of all these pathogens, the gram-negative motile bacterium, Aeromonas hydrophila, is one of the most prevalent opportunistic pathogens affecting a number of freshwater fish species in Southern Africa. In South Africa, strains of A. hydrophila have been isolated from diseased C. gariepinus. There are no reports about viral infections in Southern Africa, perhaps due to the lack of disease experts and surveillance programs for monitoring and detecting viral infections in freshwater aquaculture.

Fish cultured in outdoor ponds are also susceptible to infections by metazoan parasites with indirect life cycles because of the presence of intermediate hosts (snails or copepods) and definitive (birds), which allows for the life cycle of the parasites to be completed. These parasites include digeneans, myxozoa, nematodes, and cestodes and they are mainly found in internal organs in fish [27]. Internal parasites are difficult to treat because they live inside the fish. Infections caused by these parasites can be easily managed by spreading nets over the ponds to prevent aquatic birds from preying on fish carrying the developmental stage of the parasites. However, several farmers disregard this simple technique, probably because of a lack of resources and lack of training on disease management in pond culture. On the other hand, parasites with direct life cycles (e.g., egg-laying monogeneans) are more common in RASs, where they spread rapidly because fish in RASs are kept in high densities, which results in closer fish-to-fish contact.

2.4.1 Management of diseases

The prevention and management of diseases in aquaculture is an important aspect that determines the economic viability of an enterprise. However, data on the prevalence of diseases in the small-scale sector is not well documented. The majority of fish farmers in the small-scale sector do not keep fish health records of disease outbreaks or mortalities and this makes it difficult for investigators to establish the cause of fish deaths and make proper recommendations. Generally, there are few specialized fish veterinary laboratories in Southern Africa. In South Africa and other few countries (e.g., Zimbabwe) diagnoses of fish diseases are mainly done at those universities, government departments, and stations that conduct research on aquaculture and fisheries. It is important to establish more centers with the capacity for fish disease diagnosis in Southern Africa.

In the small-scale sector, the majority of fish farmers struggle to prevent and control diseases on farms mainly due to poor adherence to biosecurity measures or quarantine protocols, and this is a significant contributor to disease outbreaks on fish farms. Therefore, farmers in the catfish industry must develop and implement farm-level biosecurity measures. This can be achieved through the application of a combination of protocols, such as quarantine measures, disinfection of equipment, water treatments, use of uncontaminated feed, removal of sick fish, and appropriate disposal of dead fish. In South Africa, DFFE has developed an aquatic health plan or policy for the marine aquaculture industry, which allows the department to conduct surveillance regularly in order to reduce the risk of spreading pathogens. Regular surveillance is a useful protocol for the early detection of emerging and problematic diseases. Such programs should also be an integral part of disease monitoring programs in the freshwater aquaculture sector and other countries can develop similar surveillance programs. Scientists working on freshwater aquaculture projects must conduct regular farm visits to collect samples from farmers.

The other challenge associated with diseases in fish farming is that antibiotics and synthetic chemicals are no longer effective in treating some of the most persistent pathogens. It has been reported that most of the disease-causing agents in cultured fish have developed resistance to the commonly used antibiotics or synthetic chemicals [31, 32]. Therefore, farmers in the small-scale sector can benefit from the use of plant-based products to control diseases. The application of plant products to control diseases in aquaculture has been shown to be one of the most promising alternatives to antimicrobials. They have been reported to stimulate the immune system of fish and their active compounds act as antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic agents [33]. Medicinal plants can easily be administered on fish farms through oral administration, injection, and immersion or baths. All that is required is to train farmers to prepare diets containing plant material, injections, and baths. Studies undertaken in South Africa have shown that commonly used medicinal plants, namely, Artemisia afra and Moringa oleifera, improved immunity and disease resistance in Oreochromis mossambicus and C. gariepinus [34, 35]. These studies showed that dietary supplementation with these plants improved immunity in C. gariepinus and increased resistance against A. hydrophila, which is one of the most problematic pathogens in catfish culture. It is, therefore, important to advise catfish farmers on the use of medicinal plants to control diseases in catfish farming in Southern Africa. These two medicinal plants are common in Southern Africa and farmers can readily access them. This will be the cheapest way to reduce mortalities on fish farms, as most antimicrobials are expensive for the majority of fish farmers on the small scale.

2.5 Water quality

The source and quantity of water are the most important factors to consider when a farmer chooses a site for an aquaculture facility. Very few farmers send their water samples to laboratories for analyses prior to commencing with farming. This should be one of the most important considerations for establishing a fish farm. For example, in many towns and rural areas in Southern Africa, the quality of water from dams and rivers has been declining due to increasing anthropogenic activities (mining, agriculture, and industries) and the discharge of water contaminated with sewage. Even water sources (rural rivers and streams) that were once considered pristine are now contaminated with some form of pollution. Such water sources might contain high levels of pathogenic bacteria, which can affect fish health, especially that of younger fish. Therefore, the practice of using water directly from streams as is the case on some catfish farms is an indication of a lack of training on water quality, which should be addressed immediately. It is, therefore, preferable for farmers to use protected water sources, such as boreholes, deep wells, and aged municipal water, as these are free from contaminants and pathogens.

2.6 Education and training

The majority of the small-scale catfish farmers do not have the requisite skills to operate a fish farm, even at a low level. These are among the major weaknesses that are hindering the success of the catfish industry in Southern Africa. Aquaculture is a highly specialized and evolving field where new developments are discovered often. In many countries, there are no programs designed to educate fish farmers on the latest developments in the field. There is thus a need for countries to design programs that could assist in the transfer of knowledge to farmers. This can be easily done through the establishment of demonstration centers at the country level that focus on skills training for catfish farmers. In South Africa, for example, ATDC has been tasked with the responsibility of training fish farmers and disseminate technology developments to farmers. In addition, some countries, such as South Africa, have well-established universities and research institutions undertaking research and offering degrees in aquaculture. These institutions must be encouraged to develop tailor-made training courses and manuals for the catfish industry. They should also offer training workshops regularly to promote technology transfer and attach their students to some of the local fish farms. In this way, the industry will produce hands-on aquaculturists that are familiar with the most pressing challenges facing catfish farmers in the region. It is also important for countries to initiate exchange programs in order to share skills, research, and technological advances. The Aquaculture Association of Southern Africa (AASA) is responsible for organizing annual conferences on aquaculture for farmers, academics, and researchers. This association should play a key role in the transfer of information, knowledge exchange, and facilitation of aquaculture workshops in Southern Africa.

2.7 Extension services

As stated previously, aquaculture is a highly specialized and evolving field and a competent fish farmer needs to possess a set of key technical skills required to successfully operate a fish farm. This requires that a fish farmer be adequately trained in all aspects of fish farming, such as basic fish husbandry practices: feeding, water quality testing and monitoring, identification, and management of diseases. Extension services have been identified as one of the most critical supporting structures needed by small-scale farmers to succeed in fish farming. In the small-scale aquaculture industry, extension services are generally inadequate and there are no sufficient communication channels between researchers or extension services and fish farmers. This leads to poor usage of knowledge needed to improve aquaculture in the sector. There is, therefore, an urgent need to develop and maintain links between researchers or extension services and fish farmers in the catfish industry. New research should look at developing online technologies, such as apps, that can bring different stakeholders together, that is, researchers, extension services, and farmers. This can be particularly useful because most catfish farms are located in remote areas where it may take time to reach farmers in person. Furthermore, the establishment of cluster groups of fish farmers can contribute immensely toward sharing of knowledge between them and extension officers or among themselves.

2.8 Research and development

Based on some of the limitations identified in this chapter, there is a pressing need for more research to be conducted in the catfish farming industry. This research should focus on the development of low-cost intensive production systems and improvement of the quality of broodstock and fingerlings. Scientists attached to the Aquaculture Research and Development component of DFFE in South Africa are currently undertaking research on the viability cryopreservation of sperm cells from C. gariepinus. These scientists are also conducting research on the development of polyploidy broodstock that can be used to produce sterile offspring. Sterile fish cannot reproduce, but use their energy for growth. The successful completion of the cryopreservation project will ensure that fingerlings can be produced in large numbers throughout the year. Meanwhile, the successful development of polyploidy brood stock will help farmers to produce fish that grow faster, thus increasing the profitability of fish farms. This project will also allow the farming of catfish where legislation does not permit it because of the invasiveness of the species. Some conservation laws prohibit catfish farming in places where it does not occur naturally. These are critical steps required for the catfish industry to eventually reach commercial production and ensure that fingerlings are available year-round. There is also a need to intensify research efforts on selective breeding and the development of cheaper and high-quality diets. Recent research conducted in South Africa has shown that the replacement of fishmeal with acid-fermented chicken silage can improve growth performance in Mozambique tilapia (O. mossambicus) [36]. Unpublished findings from these studies also show that the same diets improved growth performance in C. gariepinus. It is therefore highly recommended for catfish farmers in the small-scale sector to use these diets because they are cheaper and readily available. Furthermore, these diets are suitable alternatives because, unlike plant-based and insect diets that have been investigated in the past, they have increased digestibility due to the absence of inhibitory factors (antinutrients).

2.9 Legislation and policies

In most Southern African countries, a farmer needs a permit and must comply with all relevant laws (environment, water, and nature conservation) before setting up a fish farm. In this regard, governments play a critical role in the development of the catfish industry by rendering institutional support through the development of legislation and policies that create a conducive environment for the sector to thrive. Almost all governments in Southern Africa have developed policies and strategic frameworks aligned with the objectives of enhancing aquaculture production. This is intended to stimulate and boost the production of aquaculture products.

2.10 Funding and investment

Lack of funding is among the most limiting factors affecting the growth and development of the catfish industry in Southern Africa. As stated at the outset of this chapter, a number of governments and donors have invested substantially in aquaculture in Southern Africa. However, this is mainly for government-run projects, such as hatcheries and feed processing plants. Farmers still struggle to access funding from financial institutions. Generally, there is very little private sector investment in the catfish industry. The lack of adequate funding in this sector might be the reason it has remained largely small-scale. Some researchers have noted that the numerous challenges facing the sector led to low private investor confidence. In addition, very few governments provide soft credits and incentives to fish farmers in the small-scale sector. In South Africa, for instance, the Department of Trade and Industry has a reimbursable grant infrastructure program where fish farmers must spend between R1 million and R20 million in machinery, systems, and equipment, and then claim for reimbursement. The challenge with this program is that most farmers cannot afford to spend that money in order to qualify for this incentive. Furthermore, DFFE has introduced an Aquaculture Development Fund through a program called Operation Phakisa, a South African version of the blue economy initiative. This program was launched to provide financial support to struggling marine aquaculture farmers. It is critically important for a similar initiative to be put in place to provide financial assistance to freshwater aquaculture farmers. It is thus necessary for governments and the private sector to explore feasible ways in which the industry can be assisted with funding.

2.11 Marketing and trade

Generally, the marketing of fish remains a challenge in the small-scale sector. Most of what is harvested is for household consumption and the rest is sold to neighbors or informal markets. In most cases, the fish is sold fresh, which means it cannot be kept for long, as it will start spoiling. There is a need for farmers to consider using some of the processing methods, such as smoking, drying, and freezing, to increase the shelf life of their catfish products. These are simple and widely used processing methods, which help to inhibit microbial spoilage [22]. On the other hand, commercial catfish producers in South Africa are now starting to develop new methods of processing catfish meat to improve its marketability. These producers are now able to produce a variety of catfish products, such as mince, wors, sausages, burger meat, and fish cakes. Karoo Catch in South Africa is one of the catfish companies that has successfully developed various products from catfish meat. In fact, it is one of the most successful community-based empowerment enterprises in South Africa.


3. Conclusions and recommendations

It is clear from this chapter that there is a huge potential for catfish farming to grow rapidly in Southern Africa, but it has been facing many multifaceted constraints, which require radical and urgent interventions at research, farm, and government level. For instance, there is a need to focus on the adoption of advanced production systems in order to improve the growth of the sector. There is also a need to focus on the development of advanced breeding technologies to develop improved strains and high-quality fingerlings. More breeding centers are required in the region to address the shortage of fingerlings. It is therefore recommended that research projects such as the cryopreservation of sperm cells and the development of polyploidy broodstock be expedited. Governments should look at ways of increasing funding in the sector to enable farmers to adopt the latest farming technologies needed to enhance production. Efforts must be made to arrange regular training workshops on basic animal husbandry (i.e., feeding, disease management, and water quality monitoring) to help farmers successfully run their farms.


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Written By

Esau Matthews Mbokane, Lucia Matlale Mbokane, Seraku Samuel Motimele and Samkelisiwe Nosipho Hlophe-Ginindza

Submitted: 03 July 2022 Reviewed: 07 July 2022 Published: 02 November 2022