Experts from five west African countries gathered Tuesday in Ivory Coast to discuss a plan to introduce tilapia, or the Nile carp, into waters of the Volta basin for fish farming.
"We need to take precautions before undertaking such a large enterprise," Ivory Coast's Minister of Animal Production and Fisheries Alphonse Douati said on the sidelines of the meeting.Douati said that if successfully managed in line with a fish farming scheme drawn up by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the "TIVO project" could deliver a fivefold increase in freshwater fish supplies in the region.
The nations involved in the project are Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali and Togo. The three-day Abidjan meeting was to assess studies of the environmental and biodiversity risks of introducing the carp into the Volta.
Spain has offered a million euros (1.3 million dollars) in funding for the TIVO project.
"The interest is economic and will give breeders stocks that grow faster to put a more interesting product on to the market," Christopher Nugent, the FAO official responsible for the TIVO scheme, said.
Aquaculture accounts for 50 percent of fish food production in the world but Douati pointed out that the majority comes from Asia.
"Africa has been slow to take off in spite of its rich potential," he added.