Ensuring sustainable fish farming
Farmers review past problems before restarting
Pidie, Indonesia – On tsunami-battered fish-farming land on Sumatra’s eastern shore, FAO experts and a local NGO are training farmers to form self-management groups to restore the previously prosperous aquaculture sector.
In the sun-baked coastal village of Koulam, 20 kilometres from the town of Pidie, about 50 farmers gathered recently in a prayer house to listen to FAO agronomist Arun Padiyar.
"We understand all of your troubles and how the people are suffering here," Arun tells the throng of villagers sitting on mats, immediately capturing their attention. "We are here to bring a cash-for-work programme for rehabilitating your tambaks (fish ponds)."
"To revive your ventures, you will have to think of all of the problems that you were facing before the tsunami, maybe diseases affecting the fish, the health of the mangrove around the tambaks, the market forces ..." Arun continues. "Our focus now is to make the tambaks and this area very sustainable for the long term."
"The concept here is that we work together to form farmer groups pooling resources for self-management," he says.
A vote by show of hands is called for, to see if participants accept FAO’s conditions. Every farmer raises his hand in favour of the programme.
Each farmer will receive enough fingerlings and other inputs for one pond of about one-half hectare, plus invaluable technical advice.
Arun cautions that miracles cannot happen overnight.
"The expectation from you farmers is that
immediately, tomorrow, you will start working. But we have to plan a lot. It may take one to two months."
Afterwards, farmers form working groups, studying maps of the canals linking the tambaks to decide how to start.
Among them is Ibrahim, 30, owner of only one pond, which was destroyed by the tsunami.
Before the disaster he earned enough from selling milkfish and small crabs to support his wife, Miriam, and their two-year-old daughter, Miskalia.
Afterwards, he turned to growing chili. "But it is not enough," he says. Ibrahim is enthusiastic after the meeting, which was organized together with a local NGO, the Forum Banda Aceh. "I really hope that FAO can help me rebuild my tambak," he says.
Aquaculture in Thailand
In Thailand, FAO is helping with a similar project, providing fish cages and fingerlings to tsunami-traumatized fishers to rebuild aquaculture businesses in the coastal estuary area near the Maenang Kao mountains.
Suleyman Tchidchewa, 48, works on the project.
"After the tsunami we felt that we had nothing. We had no hope," he says. "Now my courage is back, not fully, but 70 to 80 percent."
Fish cages were provided for 38 fishers, including three women, in April. By May they had begun breeding sea bass and grouper in the project, one of many organized by FAO for fishing communities near Phuket.
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