Pisciculture in the Belgian Congo

Sustainable Development Avant la Lettre?


  • Patricia Van Schuylenbergh Royal Museum for Central Africa




After the Second World War, an ambitious fish farming project was set up in the Congo by the Belgian colonial government on the basis of scientific reports indicating the state of fish resources. The aim was to feed the indigenous population, especially in rural areas considered to be the poorest, and to make economic production profitable, which could contribute to the well-being of the Congolese workers. By placing this project in the long history of sustainability, this article presents the main economic and socio-environmental issues regarding food and the use of fish resources that drove this project, as well as the measures put in place by the authorities associated with the experts to respond to them. The last part provides and discusses arguments that allow for the evaluation of the extent to which the fish farming project met the conditions of interconnected economic, social and environmental sustainability, as defined by the concept of sustainable development.

Na de Tweede Wereldoorlog ontwikkelde de Belgische koloniale overheid in Congo een ambitieus viskweekproject op basis van wetenschappelijke rapporten over het welzijn van de visbestanden. Het doel was de lokale bevolking van met name de arme plattelandsgebieden te voeden, de economie rendabel te maken en het welzijn van de Congolese arbeiders te verhogen. Door dit project in de lange geschiedenis van duurzaamheid te plaatsen, presenteert dit artikel de belangrijkste economische, sociale en ecologische problemen die aan de basis van dit project lagen en de maatregelen die experts en autoriteiten hiervoor voorstelden en namen. In de laatste paragraaf wordt beoordeeld in welke mate het viskweekproject voldeed aan het ideaal van duurzame ontwikkeling, waarbinnen economische, sociale en ecologische dimensies van duurzaamheid als onderling samenhangend worden gedefinieerd.


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Author Biography

Patricia Van Schuylenbergh, Royal Museum for Central Africa

Patricia Van Schuylenbergh holds a PhD in History (2006) and a Master of Arts (Development) (1989) from the Université Catholique de Louvain. She is Senior Researcher at the Unit History & Politics, Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. She authored numerous contributions exploring the link between colonial and environmental history in Central Africa, with a focus on nature protection, natural resources, colonial sciences and zoological collections. Her publications include: Faune sauvage et colonisation. Une histoire de destruction et de protection de la nature congolaise (1885-1960) (Peter Lang 2019), DOI: https://doi.org/10.3726/b16159, and ‘To live, work, and die for Kasaï rubber: Confession of a Belgian trader (1900-1914)’, in: Mathilde Leduc-Grimaldi and Patricia Van Schuylenbergh (eds.), The Congo Free State: What Could Archives Tell Us? New light and research perspective (Peter Lang 2022) 357-404, DOI: https://doi.org/10.3726/b19048.
E-mail: patricia.van.schuylenbergh@africamuseum.be.




How to Cite

Van Schuylenbergh, P. (2022). Pisciculture in the Belgian Congo: Sustainable Development Avant la Lettre?. BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review, 137(4), 65–86. https://doi.org/10.51769/bmgn-lchr.11689