In Tindouf province in southwestern Algeria, refugees from Western Sahara work to develop a tilapia farm in N’khaila, one of five camps in the region. The project aims to provide local sources of protein intake, while building skills and increasing the economic autonomy of Sahrawi refugees, especially women and youth.
Initially launched in 2018, the project is coming to the end of its final phase. The first phase of the project focused on carrying out field analyses, civil engineering works, as well as the purchase and installation of the necessary equipment. This last stage aims to strengthen the technical knowledge and management capacities of the staff and to train the participants in the management of a fish micro-farm project in each of the five camps in the region.
Fish farming is a collaboration between the Sahrawi Center for Agricultural Training and Experimentation (CEFA), the French non-governmental organization Triangle Génération Humanitaire (TGH) and the World Food Program (WFP). The project also secured funding from Andorra and the US Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM).
“These refugees are in five camps in the harsh and isolated desert environment of western Algeria, where opportunities for self-sufficiency are limited, forcing them to depend on humanitarian aid for their survival,” Abderezak Bouhaceine , Head of Partnerships, Communications and Reporting for WFP Algeria, tells Food Tank.
Despite more than 30 years of uninterrupted WFP assistance, the humanitarian organization reports that 30 percent of Sahrawi refugees in Algeria are food insecure and 58 percent are at risk of food insecurity. The prevalence of malnutrition and anemia is also particularly high among women and children, reports the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), due to the limited composition of the food baskets distributed in the camps. refugees.
Several UN member states have described Western Sahara as Africa’s last colony. In return for continued access to Western Sahara’s rich fisheries and a share of the profits from a lucrative phosphate mine, the territory’s former colonizer Spain sold the sparsely populated territory to Morocco and the Mauritania in 1975. The political conflict between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front of Western Sahara over Sahrawi self-determination remains unresolved. Over the past 47 years, the conflict has caused an influx of refugees into Algeria, which currently hosts around 173,600 Sharawi refugees in the Tindouf region, according to the Danish Refugee Council (DRC).
To address these nutrition, action and empowerment challenges for Sahrawi refugees, WFP decided to increase access to fresh, protein-rich food and help create sustainable livelihoods through “ the world’s first fish farm in a refugee camp,” Bouhaceine tells Food Tank.
The tilapia farm project involves 15 refugee technicians, including four women. Each staff member has received training on the control and monitoring of the complete eight-month rearing cycle, enabling them to master the rearing cycle of the fish farm.
“In Sahrawi society, refugee women actively participate in public life. They handle both public and domestic responsibilities, which shows their empowerment,” Bouhaceine told Food Tank.
According to the WFP, the N’khaila fish farm recently celebrated its first harvest, which produced 1.4 tonnes of tilapia. Of this quantity, 80% will be sold for distribution in hospitals and will also be included in food baskets. WFP’s partner, TGH, will distribute the remaining 20 percent to people with disabilities in special education centers in the camps.
By the time of the last WFP-funded harvest in early 2022, the project is expected to produce around seven tonnes of tilapia. In order to further initiate fish farming at the community level in the other refugee camps in the region, 20 young Sahrawi refugees received training in fish farming techniques. This capacity-building aspect of the project aims to expand livelihood opportunities for Sahrawi refugees and provide a reliable source of fresh iron-rich fish.
To ensure long-term food security and stability of tilapia production and distribution to refugee communities, donors and project partners are providing future micro-projects with the necessary equipment and training. Five people are also taking additional courses that will teach them how to manage a micro-fish farm in each of the five Tindouf camps. The ultimate goal is for the Sahrawi refugees to manage the fish farms themselves, thus increasing food security and economic autonomy.
Ahcene Oulmane, head of the fish farming pilot project for TGH, indicates that the organization plans to discuss “the possibility of making the farm built a real training center in aquaculture for young Sahrawis”.
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Photo courtesy of Creab Mcselvin, Unsplash