WorldFish has signed an agreement with Premium Aquaculture Limited (PAL), to transfer genetically improved farmed tilapia (GIFT) fry to Nigeria.
The GIFT transfer will kick-start a new domestic industry in Nigeria for tilapia farming leading to improved livelihoods as well as food and nutrition security among the Nigerian population.
This agreement will augur the establishment of a GIFT-based aquaculture industry in Nigeria.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), are collaborating with WorldFish and PAL on this endeavour, aimed to have GIFT tilapia in Nigerian fish markets by late 2023.
Elaborating on the agreement, WorldFish project leader for the Bill and Melinda Gates Project, Dr Colin Shelley, said: “this agreement reflects WorldFish’s ambitions for future growth and investment in the African continent and its confidence to impact at scale to support small-scale aquaculture producers charter their pathway out of poverty.”
Tilapia is one of the most important groups of aquaculture species in the world. In 2018, of the 82.1 million metric tonnes (MMT) of aquaculture food-fish production, 5.5 MMT came from tilapia of which 81% was Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus).
The main bottleneck to expanding tilapia aquaculture and production – including through smallholder-based farming – is the lack of a systematically managed and maintained breeding population to produce high-quality seed in required quantities that are accessible to farmers year-round.
On the importance of fish to Nigeria, WorldFish project advisor, Dr Rohana Subasinghe, said: “Fish is critically important to Nigeria for food and nutritional security, foreign exchange, employment and livelihoods. Yet, a steep change in supplies and distribution is necessary over the next 20 years to realise its full potential.”
Recognising the importance of using an improved variety of tilapia to support the necessary growth of the tilapia sector, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development recently made an official request to WorldFish.
The request was to transfer GIFT – a Nile tilapia variety genetically improved through decades of selective breeding by WorldFish – from Malaysia to Nigeria and to assist in creating a GIFT seed industry in the country.
Fish is critically important to Nigeria for food and nutritional security, foreign exchange, employment and livelihoods. Yet, a steep change in supplies and distribution is necessary over the next 20 years to realise its full potential.
WorldFish’s GIFT has been distributed to many developing nations. Several studies have identified socio-economic benefits arising from farming GIFT, including improved rural income and employment.
According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the economic internal rate of return on investments in GIFT development and dissemination was more than 70% over a period from 1988 to 2010, with an estimated net present value of $368 million in constant 2001 prices.
It has been estimated that nearly 50% of global Nile tilapia aquaculture production is now GIFT and GIFT-derived. About 75% of tilapia consumed in developing countries appear to be GIFT, confirming that the strain has the greatest potential for alleviating global poverty and hunger and improving nutrition.
In general, tilapia is a food commodity with a low-carbon footprint in terms of greenhouse gas emissions that can improve the resilience of both small-scale farms and the overall food system.
WorldFish believes that transferring GIFT will kickstart a new domestic industry in Nigeria for tilapia farming. It would increase smallholder income and employment, deliver significant quantities of new fish products to narrow the fish supply-demand gap and lead to better nutrition and health among the Nigerian population.
Small-scale producer GIFT farming would create an industry that will increase the availability of a low-carbon food commodity in the Nigerian markets.
On the purpose of the research and development (R&D) programme, WorldFish Nigeria Country Manager, Dr Sunil Siriwardena, explained, “in partnership with BMGF and USAID, WorldFish is investing in an R&D programme that will provide the foundation for establishing a sustainable private sector-based GIFT seed and grow-out industry in Nigeria. (The Fish Site)