Resilient Aquatic Foods for Healthy People and Planet


Aquatic foods—animals and plants grown or harvested from water for food or feed—provide micronutrient-rich foods for 3.3 billion people and support the livelihoods of over 120 million. However, access to food for low-income consumers and to food and income for more than 90% of small-scale actors in wild-caught aquatic food systems is threatened by inadequate management and competing demands for aquatic foods by wealthier consumers. Climate change impacts aquatic food system productivity, viability, and resilience. Aquatic animal diseases threaten production, and treating them can cause antimicrobial resistance that threatens human health. Reducing loss, waste, and environmental impacts are imperatives throughout aquatic food systems.

Productivity, biodiversity and carbon-sequestering functions of aquatic ecosystems are threatened by competing water demands, pollution, infrastructure development, land use change, and competition for space and resources. Aquatic food systems-dependent communities risk being excluded from these food environments, traditionally managed as commons. And underinvestment in breeding aquatic animals for improved growth, feed conversion efficiency, and climate resilience and disease resistance constrains environmental performance and productivity, particularly for smaller-scale farmers.


This Initiative aims to ensure that the projected 160 million diverse aquatic food systems actors and their dependents in 11 target countries improve their access to income and nutrition from aquatic foods, and that CGIAR contributions to sustainable management of aquatic foodscapes and aquaculture prevent up to 500 million people from becoming malnourished.

The Initiative seeks to accelerate the transition towards an aquatic food system that is regenerative rather than extractive, so that by 2024, in 11 target countries, 30% of aquatic food systems production will come from sustainable and efficient use of biodiverse inland freshwater systems and coastal wild and farm production environments. These aquatic food systems will evidence improvement in social equity, climate-preparedness, and micronutrient yields. They will offer desirable employment for youth, and contribute to a 10% increase in per capita aquatic food consumption for the 3.6 billion fish-consuming people in the target countries.

This will be achieved through scaling up CGIAR innovations and application of CGIAR’s co-created knowledge base to influence policy and market behavior in aquatic food systems and the broader global food system.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. Guidelines on managing aquatic foods in multi-functional land/water spaces rolled out in two countries in Asia (Cambodia and Myanmar) and two countries in Africa (Zambia and Ghana) by 2024.
  2. Existing partnerships with 15 coastal communities transformed to provide on-demand research in Odisha (India), Timor Leste, and the Solomon Islands serving food producers’ autonomous efforts to sustainably govern aquatic resources and pursue new opportunities in the “blue economy.”
  3. Four aquatic food system hubs established in the Solomon Islands, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Kenya or Zambia to identify, evaluate, and scale socio-technical innovations around aquatic food systems waste and loss recovery and novel aquatic foods and feeds, and to promote diverse, nutritious, safe, and affordable diets.
  4. At least two tilapia and carp strains with improved performance demonstrate increased efficiency/resilience, productivity, and profitability in the farming systems in Africa and Asia to which they were supplied, together with management practices that address yield gaps and novel institutional partnerships that demonstrate increased scale of supply to farmers.
  5. Improved aquatic food systems data availability and access, including missing data on demographics of aquatic food systems actors, the role of aquatic foods in diets, and life-cycle analysis of aquatic food systems.



Aquatic food systems’ transformation to sustainability increases availability and consumption of safe and nutritious aquatic food systems for 3.6 billion people (50% women) and leads to reduced micronutrient deficiencies in 11 countries in Africa and Asia, especially for women, children, and other vulnerable groups.


70 million small-scale producers and fishers (50% women) increase and stabilize their income, and 15 million inclusive and sustainable jobs and resilient livelihood opportunities are created in aquatic food systems.


Applying a gender transformative and intersectional approach leads to improved gender equality, youth, and social inclusion: 40 million women, youth, and other vulnerable groups are empowered through aquatic food systems.


The adoption of improved and more sustainable production and management practices for aquatic food systems leads to a 20% decrease in CO2 emissions and a 10% increase in water- and nutrient-use efficiency in 11 countries in Africa and Asia.


The adoption of improved and more sustainable production and management practices for aquatic food systems leads to restoration of 5 million hectares of degraded multifunctional land and water systems in 11 countries in Asia and Africa.


For more details, view the full preliminary outline


Header photo: Fishermen netting a stretch of a weed-choked irrigation channel in the Ayeyarwady Delta, Myanmar. Photo by M. Akester/WorldFish.