(Article disponible en anglais uniquement)
Ensuring Food security in the midst of COVID-19 has become a priority across the Pacific, with limited imports increasing the demand for local staples. However, the instinct for survival and self-sufficiency is resulting in a growing number of individuals looking into the potential of tilapia farming in the Fiji Islands.
The demand for commercial tilapia fish has increased, along with competitive prices and a niche market providing a stable income for many established farmers. In recognition of this change, the Pacific Community’s Aquaculture team has found a solution which ensures low cost feed and innovative farming techniques which has potential to attract more farmers towards this market.
Through SPCs Sustainable Pacific Aquaculture Development Project or PacAqua and with funding support from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), a consultant was engaged to develop new feed formulas which could be locally produced and provide the nutrition required for the fish to grow rapidly.
“We had a consultant come in to develop some new feed formulations and he designed a new formula which is now being produced by a local manufacturer. To ensure that the impact was also measurable under farmer conditions, we conducted field trials in two separate locations and the results were very promising,” stated SPC Aquaculture Officer Avinash Singh.
To share the findings, the PacAqua team took over 20 farmers on a field trip so they could witness first- hand how an investment in proper feed management and pond care can ensure profits and allow the sustainable expansion of their business.
“We wanted to disseminate the analysed data information to the farmers but for them seeing is believing. The research information translated to them has been well absorbed and now we are working with the farmers on what are the next steps to increase production and income generation,” said Mr Singh.
The PacAqua project has also been supporting the Ministry of Fisheries and local farmers on hatcheries which only produce male tilapia which grow bigger and faster, and ensures quick turn around on stocks to meet the local demand.
Ratu Meli Qaidamu, a tilapia farmer for over four years was left astounded by the findings and the impact of using only male cultured fingerlings for production.
“Many of the things I heard today is very new for me. Running a farm all these years I would never have thought how I could increase my business, but now I can see the results myself and it’s time to change the way I have been doing things. This will surely help me and my family business,” said Mr Qaidamu.
For Kata Baleisuva, who operates Kaybees farms, seeing the fruits of her labour was overwhelming. Kaybees farm is a privately owned hatchery producing only all make cultured fingerlings.
The Fiji Ministry of Fisheries Technical officer Prashant Narayan says they are encouraged with the results and the potential for the aquaculture sector.
“We are very supportive of this as the Ministry’s primary concern is food security and one way we can ensure this is through aquaculture. So established farmers had been concerned with feed costs and stock management and SPC came in and we conducted the trials and now we have proof that the new feeds work and this provides evidence for new farmers to venture into aquaculture,” said Mr Narayan.
SPC continues to work with the Ministry of Fisheries and local farmers to yield better results for the farmers and help ensure long term sustainable food security.