Chinese expert helps Djibouti develop marine fishery industry

By Li Kaizhi
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail ChinAfrica, December 31, 2020
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The market of Tadjourah in Djibouti was bustling with customers busy buying seafood in a morning in March 2018. However, the crowd also had some unfamiliar faces. Yang Guoquan, a Chinese fishery expert who had just arrived in the East African country, was conducting a research there with his colleagues, accompanied by Make Mohamed Ahmed, a technician with the Ministry of Agriculture, Water, Fisheries, Animal and Maritime Resources of Djibouti.

They saw a blue grouper weighing about 30 kg at a stall. "Make, is it a male or a female?" Yang asked. Make fiddled with the fish for a while but couldn't figure out. The vendor didn't know either.

Yang picked up a small wooden stick, pointing to the excretory holes in the fish's abdomen. "Ones with three holes are female and with two holes are male," Yang said. "This fish is six years old by the way." After hearing this, the crowd spontaneously applauded him.

"At home, people wouldn't think much of it, but here, such knowledge is little known," Yang told ChinAfrica. According to Yang, Djibouti's marine resources have great potential for development.

Fate and focus

Djibouti is located in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, the gateway of the Suez Canal. Its annual average temperature is 30 degrees Celsius.

Yang, 55, hails from Hainan Province in south China that has a coastline of nearly 2,000 km and abundant marine resources. He has been engaged in marine fishery for more than 30 years. Before coming to Djibouti, he worked at a company mainly focusing on artificial propagation and breeding of marine fishes.

On March 15, 2018, he set foot in Djibouti as part of an expert team dispatched by the Chinese Government to aid the local agricultural development. "To be honest, my family was a little worried when I signed up for this program because of the unfamiliar environment and language. I am glad they respect my decision," Yang said.

Djibouti's agriculture accounts for about only 3 percent of its GDP, and its fresh water resources are extremely scarce. The average annual marine production is less than 2,500 tons due to low productivity and efficiency.

"Djibouti's marine fishery industry is hindered by capital shortage and outdated technologies," Yang said. "Limited by the lack of funds, it has only three fishing terminals with few and relatively simple facilities."

In order to effectively utilize the local marine resource endowment, Yang and his colleagues conducted a preliminary survey and formulated a long-term development plan.

They completed a report on the fishery resources along the Djibouti coastline and proposed a three-dimensional aquacultural development model combining high-level tidal ponds and cages. A total of 10 fish, shrimp and shellfish species suitable for local farming were recommended. The experts also gave suggestions for the planning of the whole industry chain including fish species, breeding, feed, processing and logistics.

In addition, Yang has helped fishery authorities of Djibouti establish contact with some Chinese enterprises to seek their investment and technological cooperation.

Training and pilot

"To give full play to Djibouti's advantages, it's necessary to start from the basic work including appropriate planning and bidding for international fishery development projects," Yang said.

As Djibouti's colleges and universities do not have marine fishery-related majors, its well-trained professionals in this field are inadequate.

Yang organized training sessions, focusing on the basic knowledge. He also visited three fisheries associations and gave lectures on the development of the industry in the world. More than 250 people participated in his training.

"After a training session, Mahmoud Ali, President of the Arta Fisheries Association, told me by phone that his fishermen always couldn't sell their catches before they got rotton," Yang said. This phone call gave him an inspiration to help local people create a sustainable development model of fish farming.

The next day, Yang drove more than 60 km to check the conditions of Arta's equipment. "I suggested them to set up a cage at the depth of 5 meters at the seaside where they live, and later we donated the materials needed to them," Yang said. Not long after, Ali called to thank the Chinese team for their solution, saying it helped increase the monthly income of the fishermen by $56.5.

In Djibouti, China also donated a 2,040-square-meter high-level maricultureal demonstration site. "Production equipment and raw materials such as oxygenerators, power units, diesel pumps, automatic bait throwers and feed were all donated by the Center of International Cooperation Service of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China," Yang said.

The site is a key agricultural cooperation project between China and Djibouti. During its construction, Mohamed Ahmed Awaleh, Minister of Agriculture, Water, Fisheries, Animal and Maritime Resources of Djibouti, and Ahmed Darar Djibril, Director of the Fisheries Department of the ministry, made several visits and gave suggestions. They recognized the contributions of the Chinese expert team.

Before the completion of the site, in order to provide a better training platform, the Chinese experts assembled an indoor recirculating aquaculture system.

They bought plastic buckets, PVC pipes and other materials for water storage, and collected cobblestones from rivers outside the city to make water purifiers. The whole process took only 10 days to complete. Even with the outdoor temperature reaching 38 degrees Celsius, it can still operate normally.

Yang returned to Djibouti in October 2020 after a vacation in China. "Although I miss my family very much, I am very pleased to do my best to help African friends increase their fishing ability," he said, adding that he is proud of being able to contribute to the lofty mission of promoting China-Africa agricultural cooperation and building an even closer China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.

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