Aquaculture for the native African prawn Macrobrachium vollenhovenii has never been tried at a commercial scale. But this technology development is critical to bring back the prawns to the upper reaches of the Senegal River, after they were excluded by the Diama Dam in 1986. After they were excluded, snail populations climbed, leading to outbreaks of schistosomiasis, a parasite carried by the tiny snails. By consuming schistosomiasis-infected snails in the environment and lowering the parasite's transmission to people, prawns are a natural and safe way to fight the disease. Senegalese entrepreneurs, scientists, and aquaculture specialists are eager to bring the latest prawn-rearing technology to Senegal and put prawns back on the table, literally.
During May 2015, the Upstream Alliance kicked off the development of a prawn hatchery business plan in Senegal. Upstream Alliance aquaculture and ecology experts joined forces with Espoir Pour La Sante (EPLS) team-members in Senegal to site the future prawn hatchery. The team visited the Diama Dam, and attended one of the government's ongoing praziquantel drug administration programs, led by EPLS, in a local school.
Upstream Alliance ecologists and malacologists also started to test field protocols to accurately assess snail numbers and measure their parasite prevalence.