Innovative data services for aquaculture, seismic resilience and drought adaptation in East Africa

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Research and Enterprise Development


In this GCTA we propose three projects to tackle significant environmental challenges; earthquakes, droughts and food security in DAC countries in the East African region.

Project 1 will focus on seismic risk mitigation in Malawi. In DAC countries, the lack of resources hinders effective seismic mitigation strategies and as a result, earthquakes can result in devastating human and school infrastructure loss. Malawi is one of the countries in the East African region that suffer greatly from this challenge. This is because traditional masonry structures are unreinforced and seismically vulnerable, there is rapid population growth and urbanization, and large earthquakes of M7.0 or greater can occur in the East African Rift (EAR). In Malawi Schools are often the only community buildings in a village and are used as refuges post-disaster. In addition to that, Malawi lack the means to predict seismic risk. To tackle this challenge, we will employ a two-pronged approach. First, we will deploy the seismic risk assessment tools developed as part of the PREPARE project in Malawi. This will enable the reliable assessment of seismic hazard (i.e., the probability that an earthquake will occur in a given geographic area, within a given window of time, and with certain ground motion intensity). Second, we will translate and contextualise the simple, low cost, easy to use tool developed as part of the SAFER project in Nepal for the pre-earthquake assessment of school buildings and the informed prioritization of school strengthening in Malawi.

PROJECT 2 will focus on adaptation to droughts in Kenya. Severe water shortage is one of the most pressing development challenges in the East African region, having been struck by 10 droughts since 2000 which led to three severe famines affecting millions of East Africans. As such there is a pressing need for relevant, timely, and practical information about water resources, particularly for rural agro-pastoral populations which are distant from decision-making centres. We propose to develop an App for this purpose. The App will provide users with seasonal forecasts of water scarcity (in the soil and groundwater) with uncertainty estimates at their location, allowing farmers to take appropriate decisions about crop variety for that season for example.

PROJECT 3 will focus on improving aquaculture production in Tanzania. The population of Tanzania is projected to increase from 56 million in 2018 to 129 million by 2050, resulting in unprecedented demand for fish protein. Tilapia aquaculture is proposed as an important solution to meet the increased demand. However, it has not yet expanded in line with demand, with access to appropriate broodstock and education cited as key concerns limiting expansion. A key issue is the widespread contamination of ponds by an invasive small-bodied tilapia species (the blue-spotted tilapia), which is indistinguishable as young fish from large bodied species (e.g. Nile tilapia). Elimination of this contamination has been recognised by the Tanzanian Government as a critical step to improve food production as the industry expands. This project will provide environmental DNA-based surveillance information to focus the developing aquaculture sector on large-bodied, high-yielding species, in addition to providing advice and information on where to obtain pure stock and appropriate feed and rearing conditions for favoured large-bodied species.

Planned Impact

Primary beneficiaries of the seismic risk ranking and retrofit prioritization App are schools, teachers, children and communities in Malawi followed by expanding to any geographical context. Infrastructure and emergency development organisations will also benefit.
- Schools can be prioritised for retrospective strengthening pre-earthquake based on building fragility, seismic hazard and population exposure saving children's and teachers lives and minimising educational disruption. Educational communities outcomes, social mobility and resilience to cope with both physical and mental challenges will be improved.
- The tool and underlying methodology can also be applied to residential and critical facilities such as hospitals, fire stations, power stations, and administrative building quality thereby saving lives and benefiting the economy.
- Science capacity can be increased through training stakeholders in the App promoting sound scientific and engineering approaches aiding understanding of earthquake hazard and vulnerability and expanding and embedding local capacity to deal with disasters.
- Government and international aid agencies can integrate seismic hazard and risk into policies for long-term infrastructure development and short-term emergency management enabling the prioritisation of their investments and value for money.

Project 2: Mobile phone App Development for Drought Adaptation in Drylands (MAD DAD)
Beneficiaries of the Swahili MAD DAD App will initially be remote, rural agro-pastoral drought-affected communities in Kenya's drylands followed by expansion to the rest of the East African countries. The App will also benefit humanitarian organisations.
- Agro-pastoralists can input into and use a free app transforming decision-making on and drought adaptation to the short- and long-term, improving crop yields, livelihoods, economics and resilience. Designing the app with an understanding of gendered behavioural norms will promote equitable access and empower female agro-pastoralists.
- Humanitarian organisations will be better able to respond to drought-related water scarcity and famine crises, as their interventions will be more accepted by the communities that have access to the relevant information.
- Kenyan ICT for development research capability will be increased enabling sustainable technology solutions to pressing development challenges. Community partnering on the App development helps feed in vital local knowledge, the App's acceptability, and capability for future ICT solutions.

Project 3: Environmental DNA Surveillance for Improved Aquaculture Production
Beneficiaries of the new diagnostic tests to increase Tilapia production are small-scale fish farmers in Tanzania (circa 19,000), hatchery workers, the Government, and the whole population of Tanzania.
Tanzanian Fish farmers will receive written, mobile and face to face communication about their stocks species status. This will encourage them to restock contaminated aquaculture ponds with higher quality fingerlings of high-yielding species from certified sources thereby increasing confidence and fish production.
Tanzanian Government environmental policy can be informed about a sustainable alternative to arable farming and livestock farming. In turn, informing agricultural policy with an aim to exploring further funding with donors.
Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute's (TAFIRI) gender-balanced team will be trained creating in-country infrastructure enhancing national capability for tilapia identification and capacity to use robust DNA monitoring methods for detecting the small-bodied invasive species.
The whole population's food supply will benefit as sustainable Aquaculture expansion is central to Tanzania. The population will increase from 53 million in 2015 to 138 million by 2050 (UN 2017), and smallholders restocking aquaculture ponds will supply sustainable fish protein to the growing population.


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