Improving livelihoods

Reviving the aquaculture value chain in Democratic Republic of Congo

  • October 16, 2020

In DR Congo, the fishery and aquaculture sector constitutes an essential source of economic activity, surpassing livestock, accounting for 12% of agricultural GDP. The industry contributes to 40% of total animal protein intake in the country. The annual average per capita fish consumption is about 5.9 kg—very low compared to the continental average of approximately 9.4 kg. Most fish consumed in the country is imported from neighboring countries and China. However, DRC has vast environmental resources to produce what is required for home consumption and could even become a net exporter of fish. A survey between 2018 and 2019 showed an influx of 20 MT imported fish per week entering the city of Bukavu in South Kivu. A large portion of this is by a group of nine women who import about 54 tonnes of fish every two months from China to Bukavu. The two types of fish imported are Tilapia and Pacifique.

Several challenges prevent the country from realizing its potential. Among these are the challenges of having consistent access to quantity and quality broodstock, feed, and access to the market. These are worsened by decades of political instability and civil war. Broodstocks and feed, which constitute more than 80% of the production cost and are expensive, are not locally available and have to be imported. Some farmers are trying to make their feed, but struggle to find the right quality ingredients and the best formulation.

With the return to political stability in recent years, efforts are being put in place to revive the sector and develop the fish value chain. A three-year aquaculture project is implemented by IITA in collaboration with WorldFish and funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Another project, Tilapia fish production in cages in South-Kivu (PPTC-SK) implemented by IITA with the High Institute of Pedagogy (ISP) and the Higher Institute of Rural Development (ISDR) aims at developing the tilapia value chain from feed production, fingerlings, production to market access facilitation by promoting youth engagement in aquaculture. The tilapia project is funded by the Fund of Industrial Development (FPI) under the 100 days emergency program of DRC President Felix Tshisekedi.

The projects aim to:

(1) Improve the productivity of aquaculture by developing good quality broodstocks and farming systems

(2) Identify and support the development of fish value chains while enhancing the benefits for women, youth, and vulnerable groups

(3) Provide a knowledge base on best practices and policy that supports future public and private investments and the expansion of sustainable aquaculture and value chains in all DRC provinces, starting within Kinshasa and South Kivu.

Fish products from the project.

The ultimate goal is a self-sufficient Bukavu that produces fish, gives direct and indirect employment to 1,500 young people and 4,000 others, respectively.


Four modern hatcheries have been built and are now operational in Kalambo (Photograph 1) and Kinshasa, with a combined output capacity of 2 million fingerlings of both tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and catfish (Clarias gariepenus).

Inside IITA – Kalambo hatcheries. Hatching equipment for tilapia and catfish fingerling production.


Sixteen representatives of fish producers’ associations have been trained on the proper establishment of earth ponds in South Kivu (Ruzizi plain, Walungu, and Kabare) and Kinshasa hinterland. In rural Kinshasa watershed, eight fish farming associations were established in Mongata, Mitsudi, Mampu, Mbankana, CADIM, Menkao, Kimpoko/Maluku, Ndjili Brasserie, and Kimwenza. Six training events on best management practices related to fish pond management, pond creation, fish feed manufacturing, fish nutrition, fish broodstock management, and fish reproduction have been conducted in South Kivu Province in both highland and lowland regions.

The project has distributed 65,000 tilapia fingerlings to fish farmers’ associations throughout the low altitude (Kamanyola) locations and 30,000 fingerlings of catfish fry distributed to fish farmers in the high altitude (Walungu) sites. These fingerlings are the first products from the first two modern hatcheries installed in South Kivu. Twelve thousand fingerlings, lime, mineral fertilizers (NPK), and various tools (spades, rakes, axes, machetes, measuring tapes, etc.) and accessories (plastic containers, etc.) were given to eight fish farmers’ associations of the broader Kinshasa watershed.

A local fish feed formulation was developed and used to produce local fish feeds. The use of IITA agro-technologies and crops such as soybean, maize, and cassava flour as local ingredients mixed with fish meal, mineral, and vitamin premix and dried cow blood has yielded a noticeable weight increase among both tilapia and catfish  grown in Kinshasa.

Fourteen youth groups with a total membership of 420 received 50 cages and over 300,000 fingerlings.

After distributing the planned 150 cages to youth groups engaged in the fishery value chain, it is expected that the PPTC-SK project will contribute to reversing the trend of importation of fish in the South-Kivu province by producing on average an expected  20 tons of fish per week by the end of 2020.

Table 1. Calculated profit margins per earth pond (20 m x 20 m) around Kinshasa for tilapia, catfish, and other local fish mixed.

Reported/surveyed/calculated for earth pond production Tilapia Catfish Local endemic fish mixture*
Average total annual production (kg) 264 1057 1,,975
Current market price (US$ per kg) 4.6 8.6 10.9
Total annual earnings (US$) 1,214 9,092 21,528
Reported / calculated cost of production (US$) 735 735 735
Calculated profit margins (US$) 480 8,356 20,793
Calculated benefit-cost ratio 1.7 12.4 29.3

*The local endemic mixture comprises the following fish species: Mabundu (Sparus aurata), Monganza (Triglochin striate Cenchrus), Mungusu (Parachanna obscurus), Nzombo (Protopterus dolloi), Mpoka (Labeobarbus), Mopongo (Gonimbrasia belina), and Mboto (Distichodus fasciolatus).

IITA’s main contribution in this value chain is the facilitation of the production of relatively cheap fish feed using local ingredients (cassava, maize, soybean). This undertaking will drastically reduce the cost of fish feed that accounts for 40-80% of the overall production cost.


IITA, 2017-18. Baseline surveys, Freshwater fish farming in Kinshasa and South Kivu Provinces.

IITA. 2018. Fishes market studies, Kinshasa, and South Kivu.

DFID. 2019. The Aquaculture Sector in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. DFID.

FAO. 2014a. Fisheries in the ESA-IO Region: Profile and Trends. The Country Review-Smart Fish Program-Democratic Republic of Congo. Rome: FAO.

FAO. 2014b. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2014. Rome: FAO.

FAO. 2009. Profils des pêches et de l’aquaculture par pays: La République Démocratique Du Congo. Rome: FAO.


Authors: Paul Kande Matungulu, IITA-DR Congo (Kinshasa); Paul M. Dontsop Nguezet, Samy Bacigale, IITA-DR Congo (Kalambo);
Janvier Mushagalusa, IITA-DR Congo (Kinshasa); and Bernard Vanlauwe, IITA-Kenya (Nairobi, Central Africa).



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Fields marked with * are required