Mali has a high potential for continental fish farming. It shares continental fisheries with some of its neighboring countries (Burkina Faso, Niger, and Senegal). Artisanal fishing is practiced on all bodies of water (rivers, lakes, ponds). Production is distributed around three main areas: the Inner Niger Delta, the Gao area and the Sikasso area. According to the National Fisheries Directorate, the Inner Niger Delta, with an area of about 30,000 km², produces more than 50% of the national production. Aquaculture is elementary and estimates at around 1% of production (2020).
In Mali, fishing is a key sub-sector of the national economy. With a production of 80,000 to 100,000 tons of fish per year, fishing will contribute 3.9% of the gross domestic income (GDP) in 2020, according to the national statistics institute (INSTAT). The sub-sector has the potential to create more than 500,000 jobs for young people and women in the production, processing and marketing of fish.
On another level, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries believes that the sub-sector is an important vector of Malian culture and know-how. Since Mali's migrant fishermen have extended their technical skills beyond the national borders. They are present in various countries south of the Sahara and their activities generate important financial resources that are the source of considerable monetary transfers.
In 2020, total fish production is 117,690 tons, with 7,670 of fish farmed. There are about 73,000 fishermen grouped in 33,000 households; employment is in the range of 285,000 to 500,000 or 7.2% of the working population.
Despite the remarkable potential, the outcomes of fishing and aquaculture are still not very effective in view of the numerous constraints that weigh on its development. According to the Secretary General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Mr. Lassine Dembele, the constraints identified are, among others: "climatic hazards, the isolation of production areas, the inadequacy of conservation and processing infrastructures and equipment, land tenure insecurity, the low capacity of human resources dedicated to the development of fisheries and aquaculture, and low investment in the field of fisheries and aquaculture”.
The president of the regional chamber of fish farmers and aquaculture producers in Sikasso, Karim Traoré, also explained the challenges they face. "With climate change, there is the early drying up of ponds which prevents the development of aquaculture in Sikasso. We also deplore the high illiteracy rate and the limited knowledge of our supervisors, which hinders the development of our aquaculture activities”.
This is the case of Mrs. SIREBARA Fatoumata DIALLO. She is a rural woman, an agricultural producer who works in the fish sector in Mali. Born in Koulikoro, the second region of Mali, she joined the fishermen's organizations out of love for her mother. Trained as an accountant, she has now become the promoter of the company Fatoumata Diallo “The Rural Woman ".
Her main motivation, she explains, is to help fishermen see the opportunities available to them, to help them see the end of the tunnel and live in the city like others. "We started to organize them into associations so that they could speak with one voice, express themselves and defend their interests”.
In her work space, they train in practice, fish farming, (the Clarias) and sell them. Once the cycle is closed," says Ms. SIREBARA, "we sell them alive. People come here and catch what they want. And if they want us to smoke them, they indicate the number of kilograms and we sell them at the city centre price”.
Fatoumata's aquaculture activities are not only about production and marketing. She has a sense of innovation. They already process the fish produced on site. Also, the fish farmers provide them with fish that they process thanks to the smoking ovens. Fatoumata says: "The mother activity that gave birth to all these activities is the processing of dried fish, fermented into fish broth”. It has earned us many honorary prizes," she adds.
As with any activity, Fatoumata's work also faces difficulties. These are: funding, scarcity of resources and illiteracy.
However, this does not hold her back. Her ambition is to add value to fish. She believes that fish has a value that is still unexploited in terms of food, nutrition and finance.
Fish remains Fatoumata DIALLO's main ally. She says: "Fish has opened the world to me. It allowed me to meet personalities that I never expected to meet in my entire life. Thanks to fish, I have met many presidents in Africa and great personalities in Europe. I represented the rural world in Rome thanks to fish. It opened all the doors for me. Thanks to fish, my family and I are living today. All my children are landlords. I supported them and paid for their studies with fish. In short, I have had everything thanks to fish and I don't regret it.
Nowadays, in Mali, in view of the increasing demand for fish, and because of its economic, social and nutritional role, the development of fisheries and aquaculture is a sustainable alternative that makes it possible to increase fish production, ensure food and nutritional security, and create a source of income and sustainable employment in economically deprived areas while protecting the environment.