Real people, real impact

Real people, real impact

Often times donor agencies come to Africa, invest money in programmes, and when they leave – everything linked to the programmes stops, or so it often seems. Some have argued that such aid does more harm than good. It is often said that it is better to teach a person to fish than to give them fish – and indeed in many cases this is true: giving handouts can result in a dependency culture. However, of late, many donor agencies emphasize capacity building and training but, it seems that, more often than not, people are trained for training’s sake – just so that the correct boxes are ticked to reach specified programme targets – but assessing the people’s actual needs is often neglected.

Fortunately it’s not a gloomy picture everywhere. One example, something of a rare jewel standing in the midst of many failed projects, was started by the government of Malawi when the government invested money in fresh water fish research. Following this investment, the institution applied for funding and was selected as one of the centers of excellence in the SADC region under the Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBio), the NEPAD flagship programme to facilitate research, development and innovation in biosciences. The institution in question, LUANAR, was later funded by the BioFISA I (a Finnish – Southern Africa funded programme) to develop and expand their fish programme. During recent years, the institution has managed to attract substantial amounts of additional funding from multiple sources to ramp up their activities. At the start of the programme, only a few farmers were involved in fish aquaculture but now, to date, the technology developed has been transferred to at least 150 fish farmers. Here we have real cases where a family moved from a thatched roof house to a brick and iron sheet home with a solar panel, TV and radio. Good, lasting results with actual impact – that is what matters.

Malawi also faces challenges regarding river system degradation and this should be taken into account at both practical and policy level. In addition, there is need to include entrepreneurship and value addition to fish farming in order for the farmers to obtain more from each fish farmed. These issues, including the need to get the youth more involved in fish farming are key to the sustainability of the fish farming industry in Malawi. Fortunately, the Fish node is working to address some of these issues and for youth involvement, and they are actively engaging them in the Youth for Fish Programme.

After all is said and done, some important questions remain: how can we make such efforts regional? How can we help our people in the region to use the tailor-made regional technologies in order to change their livelihoods? Share your stories with us on Facebook, Twitter or by email ( and tell us what you think could be an innovative approach to tackling this situation.

For more information regarding the NEPAD/SANBio Fish node, visit their website at: