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Shellfish Farming in Coastal East Africa


The objectives of this project are to increase seafood protein production and improve economic opportunities for women shellfish growers and their families in coastal villages of East Africa through sustainable hatchery-based production of local shellfish species.  In the short term, we are developing a pilot project to demonstrate this concept in Zanzibar, Tanzania.  The current stage of this work focuses on the construction of a shellfish hatchery on the campus of the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA), and training of local technicians and students in shellfish hatchery operations in collaboration with SUZA.


This project addresses two main problems: the need for additional protein for both local people and tourists in coastal regions of East Africa, and the need for more economic development opportunities for women in coastal villages of East Africa.  Our pilot efforts are based in Zanzibar, Tanzania, because the island has a marine science laboratories (the Institute of Marine Science, part of the University of Dar es Salaam; and the Tropical Research Center of the State University of Zanzibar) that provides an established operating base and strong connections to local village communities.

As in much of coastal East Africa, seafood is a primary source of protein on Zanzibar; and wild capture fisheries around the island are overexploited and in decline.  Shellfish farming is an ecologically sound way to increase the yield of seafood protein from coastal waters.

Women in Zanzibar’s coastal villages have limited opportunities for economic development.  Seaweed farming has been carried out on the island, primarily by women, since the late 1980s, and has provided a significant economic boost to women in coastal villages.  It is less lucrative today due to depressed global prices and strong international competition in the seaweed market.  Shellfish farming is a natural extension of seaweed farming; and since it targets a local market, it is less susceptible to external economic forces.

The near-term goals of this project are to establish shellfish hatchery capability in Zanzibar and then to engage several hundred women farmers across five coastal villages in generating collectively some 50,000 to 100,000 kg of shellfish meats and TSh50-100 million in annual revenue (more than $100 per farmer per year).  This activity will provide a sustained and improved income stream for these women, in a setting where most people live on less than $1/day.  Once the concept is proven in this location, it can easily be replicated throughout the East African coastal region.


Institute of Marine Science, University of Dar es Salaam
State University of Zanzibar